To Generate Great Startup Ideas, Look at What People Really Need
If you think about it, it’s not very hard to come up with great startup ideas, as long as you follow a few simple rules. First, it is important to focus on a need and not a want. Wants can always be put aside when times are tough, whereas needs are always there. For example, having a beard is a want, while getting a haircut is a need. For example, do you think that Dollar Shave Club would have sold for $1B to Unilever if it was Dollar Beard Cream Club? No, we men need to shave almost every day (well, if we wish to mingle in polite society, plus our significant others may wish us to be hairless more often than not). Once you have that, the next thing you are looking for is incumbents, providing a poor and/or expensive service. Then you have both a need and an opportunity.
Once you have those, then it’s pretty easy to clump life needs into five major categories, roughly mapping the circle of life:
We are born. We date, mate, and procreate, and then we die.
Life happens in between these moments. Let’s break this down. All of these moments are needed. Most of us go through these moments. Everything that we do, everything that drives us, takes us through these moments. You’ve addressed a need if you can come up with startup ideas that help someone through these moments.
All humans were born (so far). We all have parents, and those parents need products for their children. The “baby and child” industry is huge and always growing since there are always more babies and children. Your products are purchased by the parents for themselves or for their children. This market is so huge it ranges from baby bibs to Disney Vacations. What can you develop for this market? For example, I was a part of a startup that developed baby warmers for third-world countries, where incubators were too expensive, hard to operate, or available at all. You don’t even have to build a product here; even being a mommy blogger or daddy blogger (or trans parent blogger) can get you far. Just look into your own experience, mash up a few categories and go to town. What products and services overlap your life and the baby and child market? Maybe you had a toy you were fond of as a kid and would like to bring it back to the next generation.
As the Blue Brothers song goes, “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” dating is a huge market, and despite the huge number of apps and services in this space, it’s still a problem that needs to be cracked. Due to the direction of our increasingly disconnected society, technology is becoming the first line of contact for all dating (if not all human contact), not just an option. Accurately being able to put two people together, matching them along anything from a few to hundreds of different parameters, is still not an easy task. There are hundreds of general dating sites and apps, hookup sites and apps, vertical sites and apps (everything from libertarian dating to naturist dating), but still, people have trouble finding “the one,” or at least the one right now, but the space is still open to more. How about music dating, cupcake dating, or paleo dating? Again, reach into your past – how did you meet your significant other? Or your parents? How did that work/not work for you or them? What could be better? Could others meet this way?
If you think about it, all personal care (weight loss, grooming, motivation, success chatter) and anything that makes money live here. What is personal care but making us presentable to ourselves and any possible mates? What is money but yet another facet of our “package” (she/he’s the total package, hot, rich, and sexy)? If you think about it, the dating space is the biggest there is.
Once you’ve met, you mate, right. Whether couples are in a monogamous relationship or not, they may or may not need help in the bedroom. Now, if you have more ethical or moral issues assisting people in having sex, then this is a great space that has barely been touched, but we are seeing all sorts of interesting innovations here, especially in the remote, VR/AR, and teledildonics space. AS I mentioned earlier, we are trending toward becoming a more and more “disconnected” species – while we are social creatures, we also are becoming more introverted. We want to control our interactions with others, and there has been a recent trend of less person-to-person contact being preferred. There is plenty of room to innovate in the sex space, and if you have an ethical issue with it, focus your marketing efforts on married couples. Which leads to the next crop of startup ideas.
Most people want to have babies. Assisting in the procreation process leads us back to the born space. As couples wish to wait longer and longer in order to have children, fertility is another space to explore. This can be everything from an app to track cycles, to a blogger assisting couples who are attempting to adopt, to a medical device to assist in the process. While this space may require more tech and subject matter expertise, it’s still ripe. What if you invented the standalone womb? That would be a pretty big “dent-in-the-universe,” don’t you think?
It may sound morbid, but the health and death space is another huge space to work in. As your potential customer’s age, they are more and more focused on health issues and tackling this younger and younger. Everyone (as far as I know) wants to live forever (or at least as long as they can), so what kinds of products and services can you bring to that space? There’s plenty to be done in the health space which does not require being an expert in health (Tim Ferris made his initial money in the supplement space, and he’s no doctor); there are plenty of diets, supplements, blogs on longevity you can start, there really is no limit. Even though we don’t want to think about death, it is there, and it’s not going away. When it comes, what can you do to help?
Somewhere in there is your next billion-dollar startup. You take a need, find an underserved, poorly served market, bootstrap a startup in that space, and build your own unicorn. All you need is the idea and the drive to make it happen.
Let’s make it so.