On Startup Ideas

Don't think of startup ideas, solve your own problems.

November 22, 2022

“By far the most common mistake startups make is to solve problems no one has.“ — Paul Graham

Paul Graham, one of the most influential minds in the space of startups, has written a remarkable article about startup ideas. After now working on startup ideas for some years, I am steadily realising how accurate his advise is.

The essence is this: you don’t come up with startup ideas by thinking of startup ideas, but by solving the problems you have in your life.

The problem with trying to come up with startup ideas is that there is a high likelihood that no one actually wants the thing you are building. Yes, if you speak with people everyone is quickly inspired and shares that they absolutely believe that this is a great startup idea and that they would totally use your product once its out. But if you follow this path, the outcome is most likely that you are building something that no one really wants in the end. People want to be nice to you, give compliments, and all of those are well-intended. But unfortunately, rarely do they depict reality as it is.

The biggest challenge and primary responsibility of a founder is to cut through the noise and find truth. And as you, yourself, are the easiest person to fool, this is tremendously hard. To avoid all sorts of wrong, it’s best to start with problems you have. This ensures that you are working on something that people actually need.

So if you are thinking about starting a startup or are trying to come up with ideas, don’t try to be smart and think of ideas that could be great. Instead, look at the problems you have and solve them in new ways. This is perhaps the best advise for anyone embarking on their startup journey: solving your own problems.