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Where Good Ideas Come From

You are your best customer. This is the truth for both individuals as well as for companies. Some of the best products in human history came forth into the world because the creator wanted them badly enough that they dedicated their lives to bringing them to life.

This is true for companies as well. Products like AWS or Slack are the result of teams wanting a product that does not exist in the market.

Where good ideas come from is a common question everywhere, be it in business or art. The right answer is you. Make what you need. Write the book that you want to read. Start the company that wants to buy from. That’s the silver bullet.

The common theme that runs across the board is to look for problems. Not solutions. The best kind of problems is the ones you have yourself.

“The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It's to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself, writes Paul Graham, Founder of Y Combinator. “The very best startup ideas tend to have three things in common: they're something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing. Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Facebook all began this way.”

There are several reasons why starting with you is the best idea. Often ideas need to be validated. But validation is not easy. Yes, there are models for validating your idea. That you have to go out and meet customers and get their thoughts and feedback and so on.

But the easiest way is if you yourself are using the product or service. If you see value in it, it means there probably are more people like you who have the same pain points.

You will eventually have to go out and meet real users but this initial validation is strong enough to get you to the next step. The important question to ask at this stage is whether you could do it at scale.

The second reason, when you think of starting a company and then trying to come up with an idea to build a business, the best you could do is to start with some assumptions. Assumptions that are not essentially tested or proven. You might develop a logic for a product using some hypothesis but that could be a false positive and people could behave very differently in reality than what you might think.


People look for hot trends and shortcuts when it comes to finding startup ideas. Consequently, most people end up starting vitamin companies than painkiller companies. Vitamin is convenient, and painkiller is necessary.

Instead of looking at the hot trends and what everyone is running after, you should look at things that are underrated, broken, or missing and that you could help improve with your product or services.

Best and tips

The Law of attraction says instead of trying to acquire wealth or anything for that matter, one should try to become the person who attracts wealth or whatever that you’re trying to achieve.

Paul Graham says it well, “finding startup ideas is a subtle business, and that's why most people who try fail so miserably. It doesn't work well simply to try to think of startup ideas. If you do that, you get bad ones that sound dangerously plausible. The best approach is more indirect: if you have the right sort of background, good startup ideas will seem obvious to you. But even then, not immediately. It takes time to come across situations where you notice something missing.”

You can work on developing habits and abilities that would enable you to identify broken systems, and missing things.

You can maintain a problem notebook where you take notes of issues you come across, develop a deliberate observation skill, meet tons of people, and most important be interested and curious.

It may sound simple and non-specific, but that’s the recipe.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Mohammad Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based entrepreneur and writer. He founded Future Startup, a digital publication covering the startup and technology scene in Dhaka with an ambition to transform Bangladesh through entrepreneurship and innovation. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, and society. He is the author of Rethinking Failure. His writings have been published in almost all major national dailies in Bangladesh including DT, FE, etc. Prior to FS, he worked for a local conglomerate where he helped start a social enterprise. Ruhul is a 2022 winner of Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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