How To Find Startup Ideas

First Source: Yourself

  • Facebook (initially: online yearbook to score looks and find dates)
  • Craigslist (initially: personal list of links)
  • Khan Academy (initially: video classes to help the children of friends)
Salman Khan started posting videos in 2006. His channel is now nearing 2 billion views.
  • The rise of mobile apps (when app stores launched)
  • The rise of crypto / blockchain
  • The rise of machine learning, computer vision, etc.

Second Source: Market Observation

  • Tinder (craigslist hookup)
  • Redfin (craigslist real estate)
  • Upwork (craigslist jobs)
  • Signal (chat for privacy)
  • Slack (chat for business)
  • Snapchat (chat for teens)
  • Facebook used real name when Friendster and MySpace used nicknames.
  • Tinder focused on fast, picture-based casual dating.
  • The Wii targeted casual gamers with simpler graphics and movement
  • Unity (3d / gaming engine)
  • Cloudflare (content delivery + security)
  • Among smaller companies: AppAnnie (app ranking / marketing data) and OpenTrons (pipetting robot for biologists, now used for Covid testing at scale in NYC). Disclosure: SOSV is an investor, and I’m an early backer of the company.
  • Lyft (improved on Uber with better services and deals for drivers)
  • Ninebot (remade Segway for 1/10 of the price, then acquired Segway)
  • Xiaomi (reinvented how smartphones are made and sold)
  • Airtable (from Google Docs)
  • Twitch (from JustinTV)
  • Discord (from various messaging and voice services used by gamers)
The humble beginnings of Twitch
  • Quickbooks (accounting software)
  • Coinbase (digital currency exchange)
  • WebMD (health information)
  • Rocket internet (foreign taxi/food apps for non-US markets)
  • Didi/Grab (Asia’s Uber(s))
  • Taobao (China’s ‘improved’ Amazon)

Third Source: Shifts

  • New smartphone sensors (GPS, accelerometer, TOF sensors, etc.)
  • Smart Fitness Equipment (Fitbit, Apple Watch)
  • CRISPR (low-cost gene editing, fueling a food and health revolution)
  • The Climate Corporation (track weather for crop insurance)
  • MyFitnesspal (track fitness and diet data)
  • CreditKarma (track credit)
  • De-regulation(e.g. of the telecom and energy markets enabled new players to jump in, sometimes by borrowing infrastructure, like MVNOs)
  • Telemedicine (regulatory changes were further accelerated by Covid)
  • Flying things (from drones to flying cars)
Patent application filed by Stratasys in 1989, expired in 2009




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