And How To Evaluate The Best Startup Opportunities
It’s usually best to search for problems worth solving when exploring ideas for a new startup. Paul Graham once said, “Finding startup ideas is a subtle business, and that’s why most people who try fail so miserably.” Simply thinking of startup ideas won’t help you actually bring a startup into existence. One icon who was always ready to adopt and systematically evaluate new ideas was American entrepreneur, Walt Disney.
When no one thought talking cartoons would be popular, Disney added sound and changed the industry forever. Disney embraced new technologies and created innovative movies by sharing ideas and using creative methods. According to How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life, Disney artist Webb Smith, spread out a series of cartoon drawings on a floor in an untidy fashion. Disney was visibly disturbed by the mess, so Smith began pinning the series of cartoons on pinboards on the office wall. Other artists took notice including Disney himself and the storyboard was born. Disney and staff would use storyboards to evaluate every project going forward. Ideas posted on storyboards introduced historic developments in animation history like Bambi, Cinderella and Disneyland which opened in 1955.
Sharing ideas and seeking inspiration is one thing, but systematic action is what brings an idea to life. Below are three creative methods for cultivating new ideas and evaluating the best startup opportunities:
Developed by Jake Knapp at GV, the sprint is a five-day process for answering critical business questions through ideation, prototyping, and testing ideas with your target market. This method can be useful for teams of any size in any industry. A sprint relies on detailed ideas from individuals as opposed to a group brainstorm. With a sprint, your team can also compress time cycles before making expensive investments. The five steps include:
- Map out problem
- Sketch solutions
- Turn ideas into testable hypothesis
- Build realistic prototype
- Test with humans
The sprint gives teams a shortcut to learning without actually building and launching an MVP. Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, stated about sprints, “Within five days, you’ll move from idea to prototype to decision, saving you and your team countless hours and countless dollars.” Learn more about how this process was used at Google in Jake Knapp’s book, Sprint.
Ash Maurya, creator of Lean Canvas, has developed a framework so startups can spend more time building versus planning the business. This template enables you to capture your idea in 20 minutes versus 20 weeks. It focuses on problems, solutions, key metrics and competitive advantages.
Compared to writing a business plan which can take several weeks or months, you can outline multiple possible business models on a Lean Canvas in one afternoon. More important, a single page business model is much easier to share with others which means it will be read by more people and also more frequently updated.
Brainstorming is a structured, team-based method of rapid idea generation. When searching for a good startup idea, it’s important to incorporate a customers unmet need and a disruptive new technology. The below chart showcases companies who used new technology and business models to solve customers’ pain.
Decide on an opportunity space, search for an unmet need, and conduct sufficient observation and primary market research (minimum of 50 direct interviews — not family and friends) and sufficient secondary market research to fully vet and validate your opportunity.
IDEO, an international design and consulting firm for product innovation, has run thousands of brainstorms both internally and externally with clients. IDEO values teamwork, utilizing each team members idea. You should always follow the observation and brainstorming process as a team. IDEO abides by seven rules for every brainstorming session:
- Go for quantity
- Encourage wild ideas
- Be visual
- Defer judgement
- One conversation at a time
- Stay focused on the topic
- Build on the ideas of others
These are just three creative methods you can use to help your startup generate more innovative ideas. Although different approaches, all three refer to Disney’s storyboard process — A sequence of ideas. Whether a startup uses a whiteboard, spreadsheet or post-it notes, visualization and the sharing of ideas in a systematic operation will expedite results. However, you’ll never accomplish goals unless you truly care, surround yourself with the right team and have a clear mindset before a strategy rollout. So make sure you’re not just thinking of startup ideas. Use informed data to build solutions for problems worth solving.