entrepreneurship

On Finding New Business Ideas- Seven Ideation Tips

                                                              Photo by  rawpixel.com  on  Unsplash

                                                              Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Where do you find new business ideas? That's a question that comes up often when I am chatting with friends and family looking to explore entrepreneurship. The second most common statement I hear in this discussion is something along the line of how everything has already been done/built and there is not many good ideas left. In this post I will go over five places/ways to find new business ideas. I will also touch on why finding something similar to what you want to build already exists in the market is actually a good thing. In my opinion there is no shortage of business ideas. Ideas matter but what matters more is successful execution. 

Let me begin with a disclaimer, I am by no means an expert in coming up with good ideas or in no way this list a complete list. These are merely my observations. The ideas listed below are just to provide a framework to start thinking and not a list of ideas. You can spend these frameworks to come up with dozens of ideas pretty quick. I will provide examples where possible to get you thinking, but it is ultimately up to you to spend time to come up with the ideas.


- Build something with open data

Data.gov is an excellent resource of free government data that you can use to build a product or service. Sites/Apps like realtor.com, Zillow, Zocdoc, Product Recalls rely heavily on open data for their platform. You can find data about everything from Finance to Science & Research. 

-Search the APP store

Spend some time on the app store to see trending and popular apps in a category you are interested in. Next, go through the  reviews to see what are five most common complaints or five most requested feature . Do some research into the feasibility of those features. If you can solve the problem for enough people there is an opportunity to build a product around it. You will also notice that there are usually more than a handful of apps providing a very similar service. The marketplace is huge. The audience is diverse, this means there is usually room for more than one big player. Don't let competition discourage you.

 

- Geographic translation/adaptation

Build a service/app that is popular in location A but has not gained popularity in location B. For example, my home country of Nepal does not have a lot of products and apps that are popular in US. Build a local version where it makes sense. Keep the local culture and infrastructure in mind. It does not make much sense to try to build a Facebook for Nepal. But building a Nepali version of Yelp or Uber might make more sense. Of course do your research, but look at the ideas that way. Within the US, Microbrewery culture is big in states are like Colorado and Oregon. Think of other geographic clusters with similar demographics what might welcome similar ideas. There is no shortage of companies building services similar to Uber and Airbnb in their home market. 

- Adaptation from one industry to others

For example in health care, see if there are ideas/tools/apps that are popular in human medicine that can be taken to veterinary medicine and vice versa. When the wearables market took off in human fitness, it took no time for companies to start creating similar product for dogs and cats. Look at the example of Fitbit to Fitbark. Technology penetration happens at varying speed for different industries. Most schools still make their students purchase textbooks that cost close to $200 when free to cheap options are available from OpenStax. Textbooks are no new idea, but offering digital versions at a low cost is revolutionary for educating the future generation. With how long it has taken teachers to move away  from traditional books, the room for innovation and expansion is endless. Finance, Legal, Real estate, education, health care are all in different stages of technology adaptation in their respective fields. 

- Build an existing service/product to target a niche market

There is no shortage of calendar apps out there, and most are one size fits all. However, a dentist, a real estate agent, and college student might have different needs and ways how they use their calendar. Solving a problem for specific niche and marketing to that niche is a great way to create a an existing product for a new market. For example, when we started Kduo Production, there were no shortage of international radio apps. When I built an app for Nepal, I learned that users enjoy a customized experience, they like having a product catered directly to the niche. We took this learning and started creating radio apps for lot of other smaller countries, most were not in anyone's radar. The users could have easily listened to their home country's radio from any number of radio aggregator apps, but most still chose to use the one that was specific to their country. 

-Scratch your own itch

Fulfill your own curiosity or solve a problem for yourself. If there is a a problem that you have been looking a solution for, chances are there are others with similar problems. Do some research and see if there is demand. 

-Get out of your comfort zone/Outsider view

It is often easy to get used to the way of doing things when you become so ingrained in what you do. Getting outside of your comfort zone helps you see things from different perspective. For example, as a Chemist if all i do is hang around other chemist, read about chemistry and only go to chemistry conferences, I will miss out on the technology advances in other industry that might help with workflow in a chemistry lab. When I see numerous timer apps in the app store, I think of how a simple modification of one of those apps with pre built set of timers can be incorporated into a protocol. We often hear do not bring problems without solutions but we need to hear about problems without solutions to get the outsider view. An accountant might not know how to fix an issue in the chemistry lab but he/she might notice something that has become second nature to me. Getting outside of our comfort zone to become an outsider is a great way to find new ideas. 

Of course, before you begin, do some market research. Talk to to friends and family, do online research, create a minimal viable product and get feedback. There is no shortage of ideas out there!

 

 


Similar Articles

Productivity?

About a year ago this time, I was working a full time job with over an hour commute each way. I was in the middle of my MBA program and was doing all the day to day activities for our mobile app business. A year later now, I have quit my job to turn all my focus to growing the business. My classes are not as demanding as last year and we have three part time help to help with a lot of day to day activities of the Business. With all that extra time, I was hoping to be at the peak of my productivity and get a lot more done than what I was able to a year ago. However, the truth is that I feel like I was more productive and getting more done when I hardly had a spare minute. I have less focus and feel as if I am constantly achieving less than what I was a year ago .

I am starting to realize that my brain is more productive when there is a time crunch and a deadline. Even though, I am not a  big fan of structure, It seems that I cant do away with all the structure and minimal structure  might just be what I need to restore my productivity. I recently, read the book "Flow" by Mihali Chikcent Mihaly, and his definition of Flow hit close to home for me. Mihali defines Flow as a state of mind

Wikipedia Flow

In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

Flow theory postulates three conditions that have to be met to achieve a flow state:

  1. One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress. This adds direction and structure to the task.
  2. The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows them to adjust their performance to maintain the flow state.
  3. One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and their own perceived skills. One must have confidence in one's ability to complete the task at hand.

It seems I was having easier time achieving state of flow last year. With limited time, my goals were clear and I could not afford to be scattered very often. I had that good balance between stress and productivity.

I have been going through a lot of blog posts about productivity and habits lately and been trying to implement few small changes in my daily habits. Two changes that have made the most impact so far are:

  1. Use of the App productive to create a routine and build habit.
  2. Setting concrete deadlines with tasks and subtasks.

Idea generation tools

DSC05639.jpg

We often hear that there is nothing else to do, or we think we are not creative enough. I am one of those people as well. I dont consider myself creative and am always looking for ways to be more creative. After having quit my job recently to focus full time on our app business, I am struggling even more with creativity, focus and idea generation. Couple weeks ago in my Marketing strategy class, we spent some time talking about idea generation tools and techniques that is helpful to teams and individuals. This made me think a little more about techniques I had been using for idea generation and not realizing that is what I was doing. I wanted to spend a little time going over some of the idea generation tools and few tips that I believe are useful in getting the creative juices flow.

Idea generation  tools and techniques

Brain Purge idea generation technique-

Setup  a timer for 2-5 minutes

Group:

  • 1.Give each participant a stack of 3 x 5 cards or large sized Post-It notes
  • 2.Write one idea on a card – pass it to person on your right
  • 3.Read the idea from the person on your left, improve the idea (on a new card), or develop a new idea and keep passing cards to your right.  .
  • 4.Continue the process until time is up.
  • 5.Categorize ideas into groups – on a flip chart, table, or wall

Note:  works well as a first activity in an idea generation session.  Gets ruminating ideas out on the table.

Individual:

You can also do this on your own. Set up the timer as before and grab a stack of  post it notes or index cards to write. Write any ideas related to to the topic on one note card each and keep writing until you are out of ideas. Next, start reading all the ideas out loud. Continue improving the ideas you like and move the ones you no longer thing important to a separate pile. Continue this process until you have significantly narrowed down the ideas. It is helpful to do this without internet connection as it will let your creativity flow without any barriers you might impose by looking up the idea.

What IF idea generation technique

This one is pretty self explanatory. For a problem you are trying to solve, start with what if .......

This can be what if I wanted to create XYZ or what if X was done instead of Y.

--> Next, grab a piece of paper and write down everything that comes to mind for that situation in what if format. For example, if you started with what if I wanted to write a new york times best seller.

--> Next continue with what if solutions:

What if I was amazing at writing. What if I was great at marketing a book. What if I had time to write a book. What if I was willing to wait couple year to finish a book. What if I started writing a page everyday.

The idea is to have no boundaries on this thought process, you start with something big or crazy and as you continue with the what if, you start channeling your ideas to ways that can actually help you achieve your goal. You might realize that you are not great at writing but you can learn. You cannot have a new York times bestseller book next month but if you started writing one page a day you would be able to write a book in  a year. Do not let impossibility stop your ideas, writing down the ideas no matter how far fetched it is, will help you continue asking the question and eventually get you to tasks that are achievable.

Grab bag forced association idea generation tools

Get a brown bag and put random items into the bag. Do not over think what goes into the bag, coins, pens, soap, food item, headphones are all fair game. You can just go around the room and put whatever you find in the bag. With your topic in mind, for example, how do I launch a killer app, or how do we double our user base, etc:

  • 1.Reach into the bag without looking – pull one item from the bag
  • 2.If doing in  a group, each group member should take a turn describing the characteristics and traits of the item you just grabbed.
  • 3.Next, using index cards of post it notes, write down all ideas about your topic and  toss it to middle of table. The idea doe not need to have any association with the item you grabbed in step 1. This is just to get the thinking process started. If working alone, just grab the item, describe characteristics and traits and write ideas on the paper as they come to mind.
  • 4.Pull another item from the bag and repeat the process.
  • 5. Continue the process until your timer is done.

The process explained here is unrelated forced association technique but one can also do this as a related forced association by using items that are related to topic of discussion.

SCAMPER idea generation technique

SCAMPER is an idea generation tool developed by Bob Eberie. This idea generation technique utilizes action verbs as stimuli to generate new ideas. This technique can help come up with  ideas either for modifications of a current product or service or a new product based on current product that can be utilized in a different market or put to a different use. SCAMPER is an acronym which stands for:

  • S – Substitute. What can you substitute current product with. For example, stevia is a substitute for sugar. Biofuels started as looking for alternative fuels to traditional petroleum fuels
  • C – Combine. Can you combine two products or features to create a new product?
  • A – Adapt. Can you adapt the current product to create something new?
  • M – Modify. Similarly, can you make any modifications to current product or service to create something new?
  • P – Put to another use. Can you put this product to a different use? This a helpful exercise in creativity. if you start making  a list of various ways an item can be used, it will help your brain to always be thinking of new ideas.
  • E – Eliminate. What can you eliminate in a current product or process?
  • R – Reverse. Lastly, in reverse thinking you ask the reverse of what you are trying to achieve. If your goal is to double your sales, the question you'd ask is What can reduce my sales in half. You can then focus on improving on these items in order to get to your original goal.

 

Idea generation tips:

  • Do not limit yourself by boundaries. We often tend to discard something by saying " that will be too expensive"or " someone else is already doing that". Those are valid questions to ask before selecting and implementing an idea but at the generation phase it is helpful to set no boundaries.
  • Think like a child. This builds on the first point. As a kid everyone is creative, because we are not scared of failing  or being judged. If we can keep that in mind adopt a way of thinking that takes the fear factor out, the potential is limitless
  • Daydream. Day dreaming is one of the fundamental ways of getting creative juices flowing and generate ideas. Stop worrying about being judged, and dream!
  • Avoid patterned thinking. View things from new perspectives. Try new things including new idea generation tools.

Idea generation Resources:

Mycoted- Creativity resources Helpful Wiki style site with creativity and idea generation tools, Books and puzzles.

 

 

7 tools in my toolbox

10.png

In this post I am going over few tools in my toolbox I use everyday.

1. Canva

I recently stumbled upon this amazing site. Even though i love good designs, my personal design skills are lackluster. I have been looking for simple and affordable design tools for a very long time. I was ecstatic when I found Canva. Their tagline of Amazingly simple graphic design is spot on. With a large collection of design templates and elements, this site makes design accesible to everyone for free or a very low cost

2. Trello

It took me a while to get used to Trello but has been a tool I use everyday now. I use Trello for project planning, to-do lists, and overall project management . With simple cards that can be moved from one bucket to another, it gives me an ability to visually manage projects I am working on school, work, or business.

3. Hootsuite/ Buffer

I try to keep my social profiles active but often struggle with posting regularly. I use both hootsuite and buffer to schedule tweets/ Facebook posts for up to a week. I will still post throughout the week that is time sensitive or new information but these tools let me schedule posts as I am reading and have articles I am interested in sharing.

4. Spotify

Music feeds the brain and soul and Spotify gives me an unlimited option for every mood. I subscribe to Spotify premium, so I can enjoy uninterrupted music and have the ability to forward songs.

5. App Annie

I have been using App Annie since its Infancy, and have always been impressed with the product. Annie lets me quickly see key statistics like downloads, revenue, percentage change, and many other key aspects of my apps in a snapshot. They make it super easy to connect all my accounts.

6. Launch Kit

Launchkit's Screenshot builder lets me create screenshots for all iOS devices at once from one image. This is a huge time saving as I am getting ready to submit new app to the app store.

7. Momentum extension for chrome

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 2.21.22 PM
Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 2.21.22 PM

This simple extension has made a huge impact in my productivity. Momentum is a simple plugin that will display a beautiful image any time you open a new tab. The tab will show time and what my focus is for the day along with my task list. This helps by hiding the recently visited site and reminding me to get back to work.

6 Mobile App Builders you can use to build Apps without Programming

apps.png
1394704303_Desktop
1394704303_Desktop

When my girlfriend got me an iPod touch for my birthday in 2009 , I was fascinated with the device. Being a native of Nepal, the first thing I looked for was apps about Nepal and was disappointed to find none. I was looking for a simple application that was tailored to Nepal. Since, I had always been a technology enthusiast, I started looking at what developing an app for iPhone/iPod touch entailed( The iPad was not in the market yet). However, there was one small problem. As you can see from my background and education, I am a Chemist with no formal knowledge of Programming or mobile app development. I looked around to learn how to code but while working a demanding full time job, I could never find the time or motivation to learn. So, I started looking for options on how I could use mobile app builders to create mobile  apps without programming. I get a lot of questions from people regarding how I build mobile apps without programming  and how I got into this area to start with. In this post, I intend to provide a brief overview of how I started on mobile app development and go into some detail of how I have been successfully building iOS and android apps without programming for years now. Over the years, I have over hundred applications in my portfolio between iOS and Android. I have been focussing mostly on creating simple applications for underrepresented countries and educational apps in Chemistry and Biology, where I can leverage my formal education to provide some value.

The first simple solution I came across was a DIY mobile app builder called Appmakr. Appmakr(Now part of infinite monkey) is a simple drag and drop solution for apps and I could build an app in minutes with RSS feeds.( It also used to be completely free back then). SO, I went out and looked for RSS feeds for different sources for Nepal, put it all together , made an icon and splash screen and by the end of the day I had myself a functioning iPhone app running on my iPod touch. That feeling of creating something was just amazing. Even though this was very simple and had not been polished, I decided to go ahead an get an apple developer license and submit the app to the app store.

After few back and forth with the app reviewer about missing icons and copyrighted materials, etc everything was straightened out and I had  successfully published my first app without programming. Boy oh boy, that was an amazing feeling and the feeling got even better when I started getting hundreds of downloads and emails from people thanking for the app. This gave me the motivation to start building more and this is how the whole process started. Enough of my history, now onto the good stuff.

Over the years, I have tried nearly every single app building tools out there that requires to little to no programming and are free or economically viable.

Tools to build apps without programming

1. Andromo for Android

Andromo is my absolute favorite mobile app builder tool when it comes to creating android apps without programming. You can use their quick and easy tool to create a gamut of apps ranging from music, photo-based, location based to HTML5 apps if you want to build something in html5 or Phonegap and bring it to Andromo. There are few things I really like about them.

  •  Price: They are very affordable with prices ranging from $25 per month to 119/year for unlimited publishing
  • Easy UI/UX setup with pre-built menu types
  • Easy Monetization with good choices of banner and interstitial ads
  • They are constantly improving the product

Andromo promotes their service saying:

With Andromo, anyone can make a pro quality Android app.There's no programming required, plus Andromo generates 100% pure native code apps. Use your app to promote your business, share events and news, or launch your million dollar idea. It's quick, easy and your first app is free!

The one thing I do not like about them is that there is no option to sign the package file with your own signing certificate, which makes it impossible to replace the app with a one that you custom create or with  different service in future of any reason.

Here is an example of Android app I built using Andromo.

2.Red Foundry

Red Foundry started out with drag and drop template based mobile app builder like many others but has transitioned into a blocks based engine called fusion builder based on XML style markup language. According to their site

Red Foundry is a complete solution for building and managing mobile apps. Without coding, our unified platform enables everything from stunning content based mobile apps to powerful enterprise solutions, while reducing the mobile app development cycle from months to days.

Here is what I like about them:

  • Price: Free for both Android and iOS; cant beat that price
  • One design/setup , build for iOS and Android
  • Extensive customization and design capability

It does take a little longer than a simple drag and drop services to get used to but if you are looking to build customizable high quality applications, Red foundry is definitely a premium mobile app builder. You do not have to deal with xcode or Eclipse but still have the opportunity to sign your android application with your own signing certification so if you decide to natively build it or build using other services in future you can easily update the existing application with the new improved one. iOS applications are always signed with the certificate created using the publishing account so its not an issue.

Here is an example of an app I built with Red foundry.

3. Buzztouch

Buzztouch is one of the mobile app builders I have been using and keeping an eye for a long time. It has evolved very well over time and  buzztouch community has grown over time as well. This powerful tool lets you create iPhone and Android apps without programming.

Here are somethings I really like about Buzztouch:

  • Free to start playing around with and publish up to three apps
  • You actually receive the code after the app is compiled so you can make any changes/additions
  • One build for both android and iOS
  • Very active developers community
  • Plugin market for additional features and hopefully leads to rapid addition of features

However, if you are looking  to not want to do anything in Xcode or Eclipse, this might not be your cup of tea. You will get the raw code and will have to sign and package the app for submission. The bright side is you have an opportunity learn more about native development environments plus the android app will be signed with your own signing certificate which gives you the freedom to update it any way you want in future.

Buzztouch site advertises their service as:

Build iOS and Android apps like the Pros
An open source project + an amazing community helping people make better apps

Here is an example of an application I built using Buzztouch.

4. Goodbarber

Beautiful design, packed with features but little more expensive than the others

Of Course, there are a ton more mobile app builders out there. You will have to look at each one to see what fits your interest the most. Some other that I have tried and liked are:

  • Game salad  (perfect for simple to complex games, one build for multiple platform, iOS Free, premium for rest, supports multiple ad networks)
  • Conduit app builder( great designs but pricing might not be ideal for all, limited monetization options
  • Seattle Clouds( Cheap, easy, many customization options, good choice of ad networks, not the most bug free system though)
  • Appsmoment( Reseller of Seattle cloud, so same features for fraction of cost, limitation is that apps ahve to be manually approved by them before publishing)
  • iBuildapp( Good builder, steep pricing if you are interested in creating multiple free apps)

If there are other tools to build apps without programming, that you have found particularly useful, please share in the comments section.

By- Bikul Koirala