How To Find Startup Ideas

You want to start a company, but you’re not sure what to do? Here are 21 lenses to generate ideas (thanks to B. for the great help with examples).

First Source: Yourself

This first group starts from your own skills, feelings or thoughts.

  • 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 crypto / blockchain
  • The rise of machine learning, computer vision, etc.

Second Source: Market Observation

This second group results from a market analysis. It is more ‘rational’ than the first group.

  • Redfin (craigslist real estate)
  • Upwork (craigslist jobs)
  • Slack (chat for business)
  • Snapchat (chat for teens)
  • Tinder focused on fast, picture-based casual dating.
  • The Wii targeted casual gamers with simpler graphics and movement
  • 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.
  • Ninebot (remade Segway for 1/10 of the price, then acquired Segway)
  • Xiaomi (reinvented how smartphones are made and sold)
  • Twitch (from JustinTV)
  • Discord (from various messaging and voice services used by gamers)
The humble beginnings of Twitch
  • Coinbase (digital currency exchange)
  • WebMD (health information)
  • Didi/Grab (Asia’s Uber(s))
  • Taobao (China’s ‘improved’ Amazon)

Third Source: Shifts

A brand new technology to build things with?

  • Smart Fitness Equipment (Fitbit, Apple Watch)
  • CRISPR (low-cost gene editing, fueling a food and health revolution)
  • MyFitnesspal (track fitness and diet data)
  • CreditKarma (track credit)
  • 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


I hope this will help you find your next startup idea!

Partner @ SOSV — $700m VC fund for Deep Tech (biology, robotics, etc.) | Digital Naturalist | Keynote Speaker | Angel Investor