On Finding New Business Ideas- Seven Ideation Tips

                                                              Photo by  on  Unsplash

                                                              Photo by 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 is an excellent resource of free government data that you can use to build a product or service. Sites/Apps like, 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!



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Idea generation tools


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


  • 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.


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.