When I was 6 and started going to school, I already knew what job I wanted to do for the rest of my life: building pyramids. Why did I want to build such things so badly? Because I loved to draw them on squared paper, and I was good at it. In entrepreneurial jargon, in those days I had found my niche: building pyramids all over the world. But then reality busted in and showed me the truth: pyramids hadn’t been in high demand since a long time (thousands of years), so I moved on.

From that particular time on, I learned how hard building a business can be. I remember how difficult it was to find new things I loved as much as drawing those Egyptian buildings yet still wanted to do every day when out of school.

It was freaking hard.

Fast forward to today, things haven’t changed much: people are struggling to find what they’d like to devote their life to and how this would pay their rents. Starting a new (compelling) business is still a major issue for many, mostly because you don’t know where to start from, or you just start from the wrong idea.

Finding a new and compelling business idea is not that easy as you might think. And even if chance can play an important part here, you should have done everything you could to "see" it happening.

"In the field of observation, chance favors the prepared mind" - Louis Pasteur.

So, the question is: how do you come up with a new business idea from scratch? How do you prepare yourself to generate great business ideas? Let’s hear what top entrepreneurs can teach you.

Need a business idea? Change perspective, be self-aware, research, write about it and collect emails Click To Tweet

Widen your perspective

The first thing here is the way you look at things in your daily life and around you. If you want to find new business ideas that are worth pursuing, you should change your perspective, your point of view on things: let emerge hidden features, unknown details and see what other don’t usually look at.

"Make sure you broaden your own horizon" as Kristoffer Tjalve, Danish entrepreneur, and strategic projects at CPH:DOX, puts it: "being able to draw on multiple experiences will make it easier for you to connect the dots and come up with new business ideas".

Start from here:

  • Read more articles and books, not from your field of expertise
  • Watch TED talks and attend TEDx events in your city
  • Talk with people from different backgrounds

These activities will give you the right state of mind to grow entrepreneurial ideas. If you’re more of a structured person, someone who needs flow and steps to follow here’s something you’d love. Dan Lewis, Founder of pre-launch startup, has come up with an impressive flow for generating ideas consistently: it is broken into 5 steps to facilitate progress through a system that in total should take about 30-40 hours to complete over a week or two.

Be self-aware

A greater perspective is the very first step in your journey to find business ideas, but it’s not enough. To get the most out of it, you should be able to see and recognize them when they occur. Paul Graham, Y Combinator’s Co-Founder, [said]http://paulgraham.com/startupideas.html):

"The verb you want to be using with respect to startup ideas is not "think up" but "notice".

Which are the everyday issues you/your friends are experiencing? Is there anything you could think of that would improve your life? If your radar is on, you'll be able to intercept many interesting ideas. Self-awareness enables you to understand better what’s happening around you and which relationships you have with your surrounding environment. To start with self-awareness, try with these exercise.

Research and find the right inspiration

Internet is a plethora of information and that’s where you should look into to gather insights about, for example, what products and services people love using, what pains are they experiencing doing which activities, what they complain about an so on.

To get this kind of information in effective ways, and not waste infinite time, you should start with what Robert Johnson, Co-Founder of Makers Academy, suggests:

  • Look through the customer service sections of websites and find out what people are complaining about
  • Look at the ideas that the YCombinator wants to fund
  • Glance through the different Craigslist categories
  • Look at the most commonly searched phrases on Google and Amazon
  • Browse through communities such ah Quora, Twitter, or HackerNews

To these insightful resources, I’d like to add some more from me:
+ Reddit and its subreddits like /r/Entrepreneur
+ Product I wish existed on Medium
+ Crowdfunding websites: Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, RocketHub,FundRazr,GoGetFunding and Crowfunder

Write about it and collect emails from day 0

When I need to understand deeply something, most of the times I need to write it down and read it out loud some while after. This forces me to read carefully, take into consideration all the involved elements at the right pace, without me skipping forward and lose some nuances, and re-think about the whole picture.

Many tell themselves they can't write but it's just an excuse.

The same approach can be easily applied to the development of business ideas. Alex Turnbull, CEO & Founder of Groove, started blogging right within the first months of his new company by sharing his views, tactics and what he was doing to achieve his business goals. Thanks to his Startup Journey blog, he was able to collect insight and comments from his actual users and, most interestingly, from readers who landed on his blog that are likely to share some entrepreneurial feedback.

Writing down your take on a specific issue, how you're trying to address it, and sharing what you might think are the weakest aspects or things that aren't correctly put in place gives you the ability to grow a following of people interested in what you’re working on. Like Buffer’s CEO Joel Gascoigne who started collecting email address at the early beginnings of his company with a 2-page website.

Getting an ongoing flow of people around your idea, whether they share opposite views or offer useful insight, needs to be your top priority. Without both writing and email address your efforts are almost useless.

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Think about how much this idea will change your life

While you’re on your journey to building up your next business idea, you need to consider 4 aspects that play an important role in any entrepreneurial life, which are:

  • Time
  • Skills
  • Money
  • Network

Or as in Zostel's Co-Founder Dharamveer Singh Chouhan's story are called them respectively: the Dinosaur, the Ninja, the Donkey, the Girl.

What's important here for you to understand is that you need to take into account that any business needs commitment, unless it just a hobby. So start by asking yourself:

  • How many hours would I be willing to invest in it from now on?
  • What am I good at? What I can't do that's related to my business idea?
  • How much money do I need to start right away that wouldn’t make me financially vulnerable?
  • Who could give me useful feedback, help with some money, or spread the word among people I know?

Forcing you to investigate and assess what your current status and force of will are provides you with a better picture of the cards in your hand.

People think business success strongly depends on 1 brilliant idea, but ideas alone are worth nothing Click To Tweet

Business ideas aren't enough

Now it comes the hard truth: most people think business success strongly depends on 1 brilliant idea, but ideas alone are worth (almost) nothing. The world is full of great ideas, but few of them become businesses. Turning an idea into a sustainable business is also known as "execution" and starting from that is how experienced entrepreneurs judge business ideas.

Derek Sivers has a great way to show how the 2 concepts are related one another.

But don't get discouraged: generating ideas is the beginning of any business and you should now know how to notice and better look for them. This gives you a leg up in your entrepreneurial journey to finding your next business idea.

To dig deeper into your next business adventure, find some time and read these amazing books from some of the most famous and brilliant entrepreneurs alive. I'd share my 3 favourites: Seth Godin's "The Bootstrapper’s Bible", Eric Ries’ "The Lean Startup", and "ReWork" by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried.

Now it's your turn: how did you come up with your first business idea? Do you have any tips or suggestions that others willing to start this journey would appreciate? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Thanks A lot Matteo. When i read this article every each of points are boost-up my self-confidence. This post is full of inspiration for Entrepreneurs and startups. Your all advice i am follow for my business. I am also read and follow many site like Entrepreneur, Mashable, Forbes, sdasia.co (StartUp Dhaka) and any more. Thanks for suggesting your favourites Books I will must try the books.

    • Thanks Billy, glad you liked :)
      Be sure to read those books and then came back here and tell me your thoughts about them. I’m 100% sure you’ll find them inspiring ;)

    • Shubhashis Ghosh

      Hey Billy

      That’s great.

  • Shubhashis Ghosh

    Thanks a lot Matteo for this well explained wonderful article. I was in a search of business idea for a long time and recently started working upon on a new project in social networking. We will apply your thoughts to make it happen

    • Hey Shubhashis,
      great to hear that! Don’t forget to get back here and let us know ;)
      Good luck!