Every few days we find ourselves on calls with exceptional people who are in-between roles and taking time to evaluate new ventures they might start (oh yes, quite the luxury). We brainstorm ideas, often in categories I’m very familiar with such as consumer, fintech or Edtech, etc. and we share ideas that are trending.
While an important ingredient, passion is not always sufficient. Over time, we’ve realized many successful founders methodically chose their target markets. They chose to be a founder before they had an idea. Top at Calendly evaluated several ideas before landing on Calendy. The DoorDash founders interviewed scores of business founders for their Startup Garage class at Stanford before landing on the concept.
There is a segment of the startup ecosystem that believes entrepreneurship cannot be taught. We disagree. Are some people more natural storytellers or hustlers? Yes. Are some people more natural leaders or better at 0 to 1? Yes. Despite this, we believe many people can learn entrepreneurial skills, including evaluating and picking an idea to work on.
This is often a personal problem or an area where you have an especially unique insight. Remember many successful startups’ journeys are 7–8 years long before exit, so even ideas that begin as burning passions may dim over time.
And where you feel you can have an impact. Many mission-driven founders choose to work in Edtech, Healthtech, and other categories where they can drive a double bottom line.
That has a proven track record of high valuations and revenue multiples within a given category (b2b saas and marketplaces). Also, consider categories that have generally produced many valuable companies (fintech). That said, don’t be afraid to go for small markets with low competition — others may not have identified the potential for you to increase the market size.
This is especially important if you’re interested in starting a consumer-focused company. You must deeply understand your customer’s motivations and desires to the extent that you see consumer shifts happening before others.
Note of caution: if this is an area that VCs are interested in investing in, that can help to fundraise so you may want to check, but at the same time, beware of jumping on the bandwagon and tackling the obvious trends if you don’t have an unfair advantage. Obvious trends often have high competition. High competition makes acquiring customers and key partners more difficult.
As Reid Hoffman is fond of saying, distribution has to be part of the product strategy. So much so that you should ask what distribution channels do I have an unnatural advantage in, and then what product should I build given that?
This often occurs when you have past work experience alignment (many enterprise founders worked at a similar company for many years) or your life choices/passions make it an obvious choice. You’ll know it if you can weave a story that makes any listener say “well of course you had to start that company” or “I couldn’t see anyone but you launching this.”
*Note this is not a post on how to generate ideas
A few other good references of articles on generating and evaluating startup ideas:
Facing any kind of issues? Want to start a Startup? If you’re a founder working on an interesting idea, feel free as always to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or Whatsapp at +91 97800 88660.