Updated: Aug 30, 2020
Finding a new business idea could be challenging but the current landscape of business means there are so many opportunities out there.
You just need to know where to look!
Not every idea needs to be the next Facebook or Uber, it just needs to solve a problem or satisfy a need people have. This stage of business development often trips aspiring entrepreneurs up as they don’t know where to start but there are many ways to unearth a great start-up idea.
The world is awash with change and change creates opportunities. Let’s take a look at sources of new ideas, how to ask the right questions of a market and maybe even shake a new business venture loose.
Leveraging Your Expertise
Working in any industry for long enough should make you somewhat of an expert. You know the good, the bad and the ugly of your day to day work. You are exposed to what the industry does well and what it does poorly on a daily basis.
What are the problem areas that your company currently has? What slows down the processes? Can you develop a solution to any area of friction within your business or industry?
The beauty of having expertise in your industry is that you know what creates roadblocks for people and what they are tolerating when they shouldn’t. Similarly, if you can solve an industry problem, you can easily shift into a sub-contractors role delivering solutions to your current employer and competitors.
It helps to keep a list of answers to the following questions when you are surveying your current company and industry for a business idea:
- What do I dislike about my current role?
- What slows down our processes or consistently creates friction?
- What do our customers complain about?
- What works but could be drastically improved?
- What do competitors do better?
- Where do we lose money on projects?
Survey Your Desired Industry and Analyse Competitors
Coasting through in the 9-5 job allows a good deal of time for daydreaming. In doing so, we often find ourselves imagining working in a completely different industry on projects we are passionate about.
While we dream up a perfect job in our favourite industries, we overlook the fact that these industries experience many of the same issues others do. They have areas that can be improved.
Many bigger companies compete over specific products and services as those may be their main earners. This can often leave other product lines behind in development which creates an opportunity to capture some of this market.
Can you think of industries you would like to work in and what areas are currently underserved by the competitors? What are they not doing and are there areas that can be improved? What current or future needs do customers have that you could potentially serve?
Customers will always have a variety of needs and love the best fit for them.
Take the Zoom example. Skype started in 2003 but Zoom came in and scooped up a huge share of their market suddenly. Why? Because they were a slightly better fit.
Take Ideas from Different Locations and Implement Them Locally
This concept has been the bedrock of many innovations and company expansions. The world is unique and diverse but often the people of Europe need the exact same solutions as the people of North America.
However, maybe they have already solved it and it hasn’t yet reached the US.
Between the ease of travel, the internet and increased international trade, we are regularly exposed to solutions and services outside our localities. Exposing yourself to different areas can spark numerous ideas that you could potentially take home to implement.
Innovative cities such as Tokyo, Stockholm, Vancouver and San Francisco are wealthy enough to invest and problem solve in areas that other cities haven’t even considered.
Recognizing unique things done in regions outside of your own can offer you a chance to develop these innovations in your locality.
Government Funded Projects
Pitching for a government contract or funding as your sole source of income is not always the wisest move as there are politics also at play.
However, being strategic and learning the types of contracts that are put out to tender gives you a good awareness of what the government is interested in.
New technology and eco-friendly companies are drawing much more attention now as pressure grows to enact environmentally sound practices. In fact the Environmental Protection Agency and US Small Business Administration both offer a host loans and grants to start-ups in these areas.
Doing the research will undoubtedly dig up way more funding sources for these areas.
On the other side of this spectrum are the areas that are underfunded or underserved. Many communities suffer with different social issues that need to be attended to.
Developing a not for profit in these areas can often allow you to serve the need of a community while also attracting tax exempt public or private funding contributions. It can help to investigate areas where funding has been decreased to see who is in the greatest need.
Anticipating Future Needs
If we told you last year that the market for hand sanitizers, face masks and video conferencing software was about to explode into demand at an unprecedented rate in 2020, you would have been concerned but also surprised.
Obviously, we’re not suggesting that you invent a time travelling machine to tell what 2021 needs but you can predict certain change. Whether you look at particular events or developing needs, change is coming.
For example, the November presidential election has two very different candidates. Without offering any political allegiance, what changes could you foresee happening in the event of each candidate’s election? Will the public's focus shift to something new, creating new demands?
Beyond politics, various workplaces have pledged to stay remote until 2021. What does that mean for employees? What do they need to succeed?
Thinking of even the most basic needs like office chairs, noise cancellation, better lighting or wall mounted standing desks may help.
Our dependence on online purchasing platforms and delivery services has skyrocketed. Can you create easier methods in either of these areas? Furthering the reach of delivery services beyond online shopping and food or helping traditional businesses set up an online component could be potential avenues?
Being Creative, Inventive and Opportunistic
It’s a crazy world out there right now and often unique solutions are exactly what are required. Practice creativity with others and see what you can come up with.
Figuratively dismantle and question various household items and rebuild them in different ways, with different materials and serving different needs.
Create lists of things you see in your everyday life or the news that should have evolved by now or maybe shouldn’t have happened.
What takes more space, time, money, effort or resources than it should. Could you make it better?
On my phone, I have a note of various small things I think could be changed or improved. They may be weird or wacky but it is just an exercise. To give you an example, “Why don’t umbrellas have lights?” or “Could shopping carts have small locators to help you find items you're looking for?”
Who knows what you could come up with and eventually you could strike on something that everyone needs.
It is my firm belief that every should have a little notepad or space on their phones to jot down ideas you have, problems you see or solutions you think of. The world is adamantly looking for solutions to problems whether they have recognized that need yet or not.
As things remain up in the air and a high degree of uncertainty continues, providing peace of mind and answers will be to the very forefront of demand. Being that problem solver could very easily catapult you into operating a very successful start-up.