Did you know wild deer are free to roam the forest, yet they seldom roam “free”?
Instead, they walk the same route day after day. So much so, they create a visible deer path on the forest floor!
We do that same thing with our thought patterns. The technical term is cognitive bias. When someone tells us an idea and we shut it down, it’s most likely our pre-conceived notions that squash it. The idea is trying to push us off our familiar path, and we’re not having it.
This is not the optimal way to evaluate the merits of a startup idea.
I invite you to challenge yourself to think about startup ideas you see in new ways. Here are some examples:
Think About The Business Domain
Often times, an idea that seems stale in one business domain can translate to another and become fresh and relevant.
In Nugget we have a classic example of this. The CRM. You may think there is no reason in the world to build a new CRM. It’s stale. It’s been done. It’s owned by SalesForce, right?
Well, as it turns out, our most common idea submission is for a niche-specific CRM. We’ve had a request for CRMs that cater to makeup artists, estate agents, church pastors, educational trainers, party services providers, to name just a few.
In this same way, you can try to translate any idea you hear to a new business domain. You might come up with something pretty great.
Think About The Market
When you hear an idea, think about the market behind it. Perhaps the idea is not to your liking, but the group of people it serves is.
For example, one Nugget member kept gravitating towards nuggets that served authors. He was not consciously aware he was doing this. When I pointed it out to him, it was a revelation. This prompted him to start moving beyond the ideas in Nugget, and reaching out directly to authors, and asking them “What can I build for you?”
Think About The Value Chain
Each business idea is part of a larger ecosystem. The idea you hear might not interest you, but perhaps there are interesting possibilities up, or down, the value chain.
For example, let’s say someone told you they had a great idea to build a video platform for dog walkers.
There are many layers to the value chain behind this idea.
Dog breeders breed the dogs, dog trainers train the dogs, dog walkers walk the dogs, streaming services stream the video, domain services handle the DNS, etc.
If you think about the full value chain, top to bottom, you might come up with another idea that is far more compelling than the original one.
Think About The Little Snowball
Many times ideas we hear are sprawling and gigantic. It’s a classic rookie mistake to start building something too big. A much better approach is to try to find a single aspect of the idea that is productizable.
Just about every part of growing your business becomes easier if the foundational idea is do-one-thing-well.
I learned this lesson the hard way. I launched my tool Pluggio, a tool that buffers social content, at the same time as Buffer. Buffer focused on doing one-thing-well while I built Pluggio out to become a social media dashboard. Ironically, no matter how many features I added, Pluggio’s main selling point continued to be social buffering.
So, while I was adding 100k lines of code to make a really slick single page web app, buffer was marketing and integrating their very simple app. Due to my “high product surface area,” my time was sucked up by support requests. Sales were harder because the product was harder to explain. Integrations were a non-starter because the product was too complex.
After 3 years Pluggio’s yearly revenue was $50k and Buffer’s was $1m.
Think Optimistically, Even About Stupid Ideas
One of Elon Musk’s super powers is he thinks optimistically about any idea that comes into his head. He forces himself to think it through and try to solve all the problems it might present.
For example, if someone told you they had a great idea to ease traffic congestion by building hundreds of tunnels under cities, you would probably think, “That’s stupid, don’t waste any time thinking about that!”
Not so for Elon. He lets his mind go there. He optimistically tries to solve even the most outrageous sounding problems.
Next time you hear an idea that sounds stupid, try to think about it optimistically and see if that presents you with anything interesting.
These are just a few ways you can re-imagine and bring new life to any idea you hear. There are many more, and I’d love to hear your take on this too.
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I’m creator of Nugget, an online incubator & community. We help founders start and grow profitable side projects.