How do you brainstorm for new startup idea?

Many would think startup journey starts when you have already come up with a great idea to solve a real problem. For me, startup is all about fun time. You might just wake up one day and feel sick of working for a 9-5 pointless job and say, “Why can’t I have my own product and work on what I am passionate about?”. Your startup journey starts right at the moment that you decide to get another step forward and start figuring out what you’re going to do.  It starts getting fun because you get to throw ideas around, you get to dream, and nothing feels like work. However, brainstorming can be painful because you are really trying to come up something from nothing. You have no direction of what you should build and what problem you should tackle. If you are a professional dreamer, you might even come up with 50 ideas in one day but don’t even know which one you should start with. While throwing around ideas in an early stage, it is important to keep few things in mind so you can keep motivated and focused.

1. Solve your own problem

Sure you know you are here to solve problem. But it is stupid if you are not aiming to solve a problem that you care or randomly pick an idea and start your business just because you hate your job and want to be a CEO. The idea doesn’t have to be rocket science. It can be some small problems you deal with every single day or some inconvenience in your life. But the keyword here is “yours”. Even though you might be able to come up with more possible ideas by thinking of what problem other people are facing when it comes to business opportunity and market scale, I still prefer to start by tackling the problems I am facing. The reason is simple. You are trying to validate your idea and solve your problem so if unfortunately your idea doesn’t work out (which very likely to happen for the first few tries) or no one buys in your idea, at least you understand yourself a bit more and your life is getting a little better and easier. You are also passionate about what you are doing because you are helping yourself to solve your own problem rather than working extremely hard to help other people to solve their problems. I am not saying that solving other’s problem is pointless and in fact, it definitely can be a great accomplishment. But what is better than having your own problem solved? Let yourself be the first loyal user and solving your problem. (here is a great post on “Finding and developing an Idea” by Susan Jones)

2. Don’t let the fire die

Brainstorming takes time but shouldn’t take too long. I agree that you should spend time to sit down and think what your business is going to be. But then it is very easy to get discouraged when you don’t see yourself moving any forward by letting the endless brainstorming session going on and on without a clear do or not do conclusion.  To move things forward, it is important to keep the brainstorming discussion within certain period of time so everyone who participates in the brainstorming session understands that it is not an everlasting discussion and they have to be prepared beforehand. Brainstorming is also about throwing out random idea and getting immediate feedback without thinking too much in details. The involvement of participant to give feedback becomes a huge part of the brainstorming discussion. Participant is responsible for voicing out what they think once they first hear about the idea in order to keep the conversation continue and fire up others.

3. Organize you idea

You might come up a super creative idea when you hear a stupid joke from your friends or when you are watching a TV shows. However, ideas and inspiration always come and go and you really need to grab it by its tail. There is nothing high tech here but instead, you will just have to pick up a pen and a piece of paper and write/ draw it down. After getting more and more ideas or diagrams on paper, it is essential to organize everything you got into something readable and understandable. I like putting things into different category columns like problems, solutions, and reference case so I can better clear my mind by identifying the chemistry between the “unmet need” and “disruptive new technology and helping me to focus on the actual problem and eliminating many unrealistic ideas.

4. Pitch your friends, your mum and more people

Now you have your idealist nice and organized. It is time to tell the story. The reason why I think it is good to start “pitching” so early is because it is a good way to build up your confidence and get yourself passionate and enthusiastic to the idea. If you don’t feel like sharing your idea to other people because you are afraid of other people laughing at your idea, only 2 possible reasons I can think of, 1) your idea really sucks which there is no need to share at all or 2) you can’t take on failure even before you build anything which means you should really go back to your 9-5 pointless job because you cannot avoid risks and failure during the startup journey. Some people might think it is risky to share your brilliant idea with so many people who will possibly steal it and claim for their own.  One of my favorite bloggers and founders from Bufferapp, Joel, has written a post on this and it pretty much covered everything I want to say on this point.

“Here is his post and feel free to reply and follow him from here”

so who to pitch? Your mum is definitely a good starting point. Because she is probably the only one who is always available to listen to you (Especially if you brainstorm at your homeoffice!) and most of the mums do not have much technical background so you will have to explain your idea in a very simple context in order to get her engaged. Even though you are not really pitching your mum like you pitch VCs, it is very important to be able to describe your idea in 1 simple sentence with understandable USP.

Are you thinking to build something to make your life easier? How do you brainstorm idea? What are your tips?

Photo credit: CubaGallery

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