The Seed Of A Startup

The seed of this entry is How to find startup ideas on Matt Cutts’ blog where he coins the “hotspot” approach, namely walk around your home and look for areas “of high information density”, in other words, clusters of stuff. These cluttered clusters of content should be the spark for your ideas. He riffs off ideas centred on music, books, playing music, reading books, and other esoterica you have stuffed in between the couch cushions.

It’s true that many ideas come from our own experiences, and that institutional investors also consider ideas’ merit on the basis of the problems they themselves encounter. But, how can you be sure that your hotspots are like other people’s hotspots?

I like the Chris Dixon tip of keeping a spreadsheet of all your ideas (including the sources of inspiration). Like all things creative, once you start you will find that your creativity and insight increases. His next tip is to

“Then take the spreadsheet and show it to every smart person you can get a meeting with and walk through each idea.  Talk to VCs, entrepreneurs, potential customers, and people working at big companies in relevant industries.”

Mr. Dixon, I don’t know you and we’ve never met, but please, PLEASE, introduce me to any VCs who would be willing to spend 3-4 hours with me going over my spreadsheet of ideas.

Or you could listen to Paul Graham of Y Combinator – here is someone smart with money, and invests it, and he’s telling you point blank what he wants. I like #7: Something your company needs that doesn’t exist. Quite simply if you are experiencing this point of pain then others are as well. Keep in mind that he published this list in July 2008 – see if you can match some of today’s hottest startups with his vision.

There is this one item on the boilerplate Executive Summary sheet, or on many investment pitches, called “Problem Solved”. I think far too many investors are fixated on “What problem are you solving”? Here are two examples of companies that are doing very well, yet I wonder what problem it is they’re solving:
Facebook – “I’m having trouble locating old boyfriends/girlfriends from high-school”
Twitter – “It’s difficult to express myself with so much room to write. Maybe something shorter?”

I don’t think that we as entrepreneurs should continually view the world through the lens of “it’s broke, let’s fix it”. Instead try “wouldn’t it be neat if…?”


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