Have you ever been scared that someone will copy your idea and take advantage of you?
After all, what’s stopping others from not giving you credit, defacing your creation and making billions on the back of your idea?
Every entrepreneur who feels this fear lives in a paradox.
To make your project work you know you have to share it with as many people as possible. This will help you gather feedback and to get the promotion going. Right?
But you can’t shake off the fear that someone will rip you off if you share your idea before you are ready.
So you end up keeping your idea close to your chest. And the new business paradox sets in.
If you share your idea and someone steals it, or even worse, no one likes what you offer, then you are out of ideas. And without ideas you are doomed for the rest of eternity.
And if you don’t share your idea, you don’t gather feedback, and you don’t start promoting your project.
In the meanwhile you invest months of your life and loads of money to build your creation. And you find out it’s not that high in people’s priority list.
When that time comes, most of the time its way too late to correct course.
So the paradox has you cornered.
What can you do to get over it?
I’ve already talked on how to protect your idea while keeping it open. But let’s face it, this fear is not only about others stealing from you, but also about you running out of clever ideas to offer.
This paradox can be solved from the moment you learn how to find new ways to discover what people need and how to offer your skills, products and services.
Since this blog is about building a collaborative business, hopefully once you know how to come up with profitable ideas, you’ll use these ideas to make your project open source, collaborative and make a bigger positive impact in the world.
Ok, enough said about ideas. It’s time to kiss goodbye to this fear.
Here are the six ways you will find profitable startup ideas right away:
1. Ask your friends and family for creative ideas
You don’t have to come up with all the ideas on your own. Other people’s feedback can be really helpful.
Here’s an email you can send to at least one close person:
Subject: Quick question
I’m looking for some new startup ideas.
You know me well so I was wanted to ask you what kind of startup you think I’d be good at?
Your friends and family will come up with ideas you probably wouldn’t have thought of on your own, and they’ll feel flattered that you reached out to them.
2. Teach what you know
Now let’s see what you’re great at.
Imagine you had to teach someone else how to do what you do best. What is that? That’s a good thing to consider doing as a business.
In my case it could be:
- How to organize a Crowdfunding campaign
- How to find startup ideas suited to your skills
- How to validate a business
- How to create healthy habits
- How to ride a unicycle downhill
- How to juggle
You see that everything here doesn’t have to have great potential for business.
There is probably not that many people looking to learn how to unicycle downhill, but if you have some of these keep them in your list, it can spark further ideas down the line.
3. What products can you customize?
What products or apps are selling like crazy? Arduinos, 3D Printers, Smartphones, WordPress Templates, Game Consoles, Pokemon Go (god forbid), etc…
How can you accessorize these or other popular products?
It’s easier to sell to a large group of people who’ve already spent money on a product or service. Imagine selling a protective case to someone who just bought a smartphone.
Some examples of customizations:
- A guide for kids or for older people teaching how to create cool projects with an Arduino
- Customizing an Arduino so you can plug bananas to the board and make music (that’s what MakeyMakey does)
- Accessories to enhance Open Source projects like
- OpenPump if you are in healthcare
- OSVehicle if you are in car design
- OpenFarm if you are into agriculture
- Or anything on Wevolver or WikiFab
- WordPress Templates or Plug-ins
- A local service to create modular Wikihouses
- Tutorials to regrow a forest in your backyard with Afforestt’s method.
- Check what products are popular on Amazon, Etsy, Sparkfun or any other E-commerce with reviews and customize them:
- Check the reviews where people complain about any feature or lack of feature.
- Improve the feature
- Sell it
- Bonus: For further improvement you can make the product Open Source and/or circular.
For example: In Amazon’s cutlery best-sellers, the bamboo cutting board sells really well.
One of the main complaints about it is that it bends after washing, so if you can make one that doesn’t bend, you’ll have a ton of demand.
Make it Open Source and you may be able to create a whole community around Open design for kitchen items, while selling them physically.
This method is not for everyone, so if it’s taking too long to find a great idea with this method, don’t worry. Go to the next step.
4. Go where people are spending money
If you are stuck on finding an idea to turn into a startup, a great way to find ideas is by going to people who already want to spend money.
Most of the time beginning entrepreneurs try to get people to pay for their solution instead of solving a problem people already have in their life.
Follow these steps:
- Go to the gigs sections of the platform of your choice
- Look for what people want solved
- If you can solve it, you are in business
Too many times we are making it harder on ourselves. People all around us already want to pay for solutions to their problems.
5. Check what the crowd is asking for
As we saw in the previous method, it’s much easier to sell something when people already want it, even if they haven’t paid for it yet.
To do this, work backwards from a problem people want solved. Then create the solution they may be willing to pay for.
Potential users are everywhere asking for solutions (products / services) on message boards, Facebook posts, tweets, forums, etc…
For example, if you are thinking of making durable clothing, you can go to BuyMeOnce’s Facebook board and see what people are asking for in the comments. In this thread you can see there is interest in durable baby clothing that can still be sold once the baby has outgrown them.
Once you solve a problem you‘ve found, the good thing is that you know exactly where to go back and find your first customers.
The steps here are:
- Go to a large message board online where people ask for solutions and actively saying they want things. This could be:
- Reddit’s Somebody Make this
- any large forum where people ask for help with something related to your topic
- or a Facebook group related to your topic like we mentioned before.
2. Look for the first 2 things that interest you.
If you are still not finding anything, move on. It’s supposed to get your idea creativity going.
Let’s move on!
6. List out 3 of your own startup ideas
You probably already had startup ideas of your own before reading this post. Now is the moment to list them. What are problems you have that you’d like to scratch for yourself?
Now your list should be pretty full. If you still don’t like any of the ideas you came up with, you still have four choices:
- Go help 1 friend for free with anything they need help with. This is really effective to find ideas to work on.
- If you got responses from the friends you reached out to in method #1, you can go work on them.
- If you are already in business, but selling many lines of products without earning enough, what is your best selling product? Try selling more of that until you become sustainable and diversify into another line.
- If people are repeatedly asking you for something you do well, see if people find it valuable enough to pay for it.
By now you should have a pretty big list of things to sell. So it’s time to narrow down your ideas to the one you will validate.
But just one last note of caution before you narrow down to the one idea you want to try: Make sure you have access to the people you want to help.
If you want to sell coats to go to the arctic circle, but only have access to people who live in tropical beaches, your project will probably never succeed because nobody will ever buy.
Only sell ideas if you have access to the market, and preferably in an area where you are already experienced. That will make things much easier for you.
Now you know how to have loads of products and services to offer, even if you go Open Source and collaborative. How does it feel? Still scared about sharing your ideas with others?
In next post you can find out how you can validate in 48 hours if this idea can become a sustainable business. If you want to receive more posts like this directly in your inbox you can subscribe here.
If you’d like a to get the blank template I use to do this exercise with other entrepreneurs, you can download your own Idea Planning template by clicking here.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
**About the Author**
Jaime Arredondo is a Spanish and French collaborative entrepreneur. He also helps other collaborative entrepreneurs launch little and ambitious projects alike, and make them profitable and impactful from the first minute, without expensive investments or complicated strategies. He sharescand document everything on his blog Bold&Open.