12 Keys to a Great Startup Idea

No matter what you heard - ideas do matter, it's not just about the execution.

Hundreds of thousands of coders had the technical skills to build Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Uber, Airbnb, ConvertKit. They were one good idea away from building a huge business.

How do you choose an idea that will maximize your chances of success?

The basic requirements for a valid startup idea

  • Solving a problem people actually have.
  • You have a good distribution channel in mind.
  • Your solution is valuable enough for people to pay money for.
  • A monetization strategy you can use to capture the value you've created.
  • You care enough about the idea to work on it for a long time.

The most promising startup ideas

To improve your chances even further, you want to check as many of the following boxes as you can:

  • A problem is acute, and people are desperate about solving it urgently
    Sell "painkillers", not "vitamins". It's better to have a few people who deeply care about solving the problem than a large audience who's only mildly interested in it.
  • The solution that makes people money or saves them time
    These are the two easiest things to justify paying for, anyone will spend money if it makes them more money.
  • A problem you're deeply familiar with
    You have it yourself, your friends have it, or you've dealt with it on your job.
  • You have an unfair advantage
    Like a deep expertise in the area, good connections, or access to an existing audience.
  • The target audience has the budget to buy your solution
    That usually means selling to rich people or companies.
  • Your customers are a clearly defined group of people
    Like "developers", "teachers", "lawyers", etc. You know where they hang out online (so you can market to them), and they all know each other (so your product can spread via word of mouth).
  • A small but rapidly growing niche
    The market is small so there are no big competitors yet. But more and more people have this problem every year, so you can capture the market early, and grow along with it.
  • Or a proven market where you can compete
    A big market with successful competitors whose products people hate (so that you know for sure you can do better).

In other words, if you don't know anything else about the startup you want to build, a good place to start looking for ideas is:

Help rich people or companies make more money by solving a problem you're deeply familiar with.

It's very difficult to hit all these points, and you're not supposed to have all the answers when you're just getting started. But at least now you know what to optimize for.

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