Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How to Get Startup Ideas

How to Get Startup Ideas:
"Most programmers wish they could start a startup by just writing some brilliant code, pushing it to a server, and having users pay them lots of money. They'd prefer not to deal with tedious problems or get involved in messy ways with the real world. Which is a reasonable preference, because such things slow you down. But this preference is so widespread that the space of convenient startup ideas has been stripped pretty clean. If you let your mind wander a few blocks down the street to the messy, tedious ideas, you'll find valuable ones just sitting there waiting to be implemented."

Terrific article by Paul Graham on How to Get Startup Ideas. One of the smaller, but most important points he makes is how embracing messy or tedious solutions for an unsolved problem is a great way to have a startup. This is the very essence of Ben's Friends Patient Support Groups. No one in their right mind would build something for people with rare diseases. It's unprofitable, the space is super fragmented so you can't get scale anywhere, and it involves a lot of people who are in bad shape and who need extra attention.

However, that's the very essence of the opportunity, and it's why so many people support us financially and why so many patients become Moderators. They clearly see the hurdles that we are overcoming. And once we overcame those hurdles on the first few support groups, we proved to our sponsors and the members of the sites that with a lot of help, we could make a huge impact in the lives of thousands of people.

And that is where the emotional payback comes in. Solving a problem that is too difficult for anyone else to even try has a huge emotional payback. And getting 30 thank you notes a day from members who without Ben's Friends, had no other option, has huge emotional payback.

You can analyze a startup's "market opportunity" and "profit potential" and "where this business could go in five years", but the most meaningful projects solve something messy, and the people involved are usually doing it for emotional payback first. They want to right something wrong in the world. If they make money along the way, like many entrepreneurs do, that's great. But if you ask them, it's that emotional payback that's most important to them.