mind over matter,

How to get startup ideas

2 mins read
Share this

Startups are in the business of changing the world. They solve problems. They produce something meaningful.

I saw a great video called “How to get startup ideas” by Jared of YCombinator. Below are some of my notes from the video. Honestly, if you had the time, you can skip reading the content below and instead watch the video.

Four most common mistakes founds make with startup ideas

  1. Believing you need an amazing idea.
  2. Jumping into an idea without evaluating if it’s a good one.
  3. Starting with a solution instead of a problem
  4. Believing good ideas are hard to find.

How to evaluate startup ideas


  • How big is the idea? How big could it be? (1-10)
  • Founder/market fit (1-10)
  • How sure are you that this is solving an acute problem? (1-10)
  • Have a new insight? (1-10)

Overall score: 1-10

Filters: Bad reasons to reject startup ideas

  1. Hard to get started.
    Example: Stripe. Many developers knew about the problem, but it was hard to get started.
  2. Boring space.
    Gusto for payroll software
  3. Seems too ambitious.
    Check the blog post by Sam Altman called Hard startups
  4. Too many competitors.
    if there are no competitors, probably nobody wants the product. e.g. Dropbox. So many competitors were already there.

How to generate startup ideas

It is possible to sit down and generate startup ideas, but that’s not the best way.

The best startup ideas are noticed organically.

Having startup ideas organically

Step 1:

  • Know what a good startup idea looks like
  • Notice what’s missing.

Step 2:

  • Become an expert on something valuable
  • Work at a startup.

7 recipes for generating startup ideas

1. Start with what your team is especially good at.

Go through every job you’ve had:

  • What are unique skills you learned? Example: SnapDocs
  • What seemed broken? Example: Lattice
  • What did you develop in-house? Example: Mixpanel?

2. Think of things you wish someone would build for you

Example: Doordash

3. What would you be excited work on for 10 years?

Example: Boom, which is making a supersonic airplane.

4. Looks for things that have changed in the world recently

For example, a new technology, a new developer platform, a new regulation, a new problem in the world. What are waves that you could ride?

5. Find companies that have been successful recently, and look for new variants of them

Example: Standard cognition. Since Amazon created Amazon Go, SC realized every grocery store will need this idea.

6. Ask people you know for problems they want solved

Works well if you ask other startup founders, because most others are really bad at finding good startup ideas.

7. Look for industries that seem broken

Example: LendUp which is a replacement for payday lending.