How To Find Your Billion Dollar Idea

There is no silver bullet, the great idea can reach you everywhere: when you drive, go jogging, or during a brainstorming session. Nobody knows when it will happen next time. Stay focused and keep watching as hunters do.

September 3rd, 2017   |    By: Alex Kistenev    |    Tags: Ideas, Unicorns, Idea Validation

Looking for the next billion dollar idea? Good luck. Many unicorns pivot away from their initial idea and novice entrepreneurs often fail to understand this and instead attempt invent the next “you name it” idea from the get-go.

How To Find Your Billion Dollar Idea

Experienced entrepreneurs know the better way. All they need to do is to look inside their inner self and talk to other people to learn what remains broken in the world around. Then — fix that, in the best possible way.

Well, so easy to read, but the devil is in the details. That’s why I’d like to share the set of techniques how to come up with better ideas for a startup.

Look Inside Yourself

Great ideas are born when you feel a particular need on your own. However, you may not notice those signals in the daily routine. Want to talk about it? Well, sit down comfortably, calm down your mind and ask yourself:

Which of your talents do you like most or what skills do you want to improve?

Consciously or subconsciously, Mark Zuckerberg wanted to be more social, hence Facebook. Jack Dorsey wanted to feel more connected to a city’s activities, which led to Twitter.

Let’s continue to more concrete questions:

  • What is the hardest part of your day, what do you try to avoid?
  • What are the things you’re doing that designed poorly?
  • What are your hardest challenges at work and beyond work?

Write down your answers. Even if you failed to identify something worthwhile, you might have an insight next time when you re-read it.

Find your billion dollar idea

What Drives You?

Time flies when we enjoy something. These are the moments that can bring in new opportunities. This is a way to identify business ideas from your hobbies.

  1. List activities which you truly enjoy doing. Select three or five the best ones.
  2. Talk to yourself in detail: what do you really like in each of those activities.
  3. Find one or two most painful problems in relation to these activities.
  4. Describe in details how to solve these problems if you had all the resources.
  5. Tell your friends and peers about the solution and get their feedback.
  6. Describe in detail the minimal viable solution. How would it look like?
  7. Determine what you need to build the prototype and proceed to actual work.

Make the first, simplest step without delay. Do it today, right now! Decide what should be your next second step and schedule it for tomorrow, in the morning (if necessary, wake up earlier).

You see, you are on your way to make something meaningful.

Talk to Professionals

Talk to people who work in the area of your interest or where you see the highest potential. Without any doubt, most of them face lots of challenges in their professional life and know all the details that make sense.

Ask questionsdo not interrupt, listen carefully and write down their answers.

Feel free to use the below questions as a starting point:

  1. What tasks are you responsible for doing in your business day to day? (Listen for response)
  2. Which of those tasks take the most time and which do you like the least?
  3. Tell me about how you go about doing (insert task from the response above). Stop and listen for 60 seconds.
  4. If you could wave a magic wand and do anything related to (insert task from the response above), what would it be?

After a dozen or so discussions, you may spot some repeating answers. It could be what you are looking for. Ideally, 25–30 talks of this kind are needed to gather enough data to start seeing repetitive patterns.

We, at Standuply, did hundreds of interviews to understand how we can improve communications in distributed teams using a Slack bot.

The Deliberate Idea

Dan Lewis, CEO of, goes further and distinguishes three basic idea types:

  1. The spontaneous idea.
  2. The insider idea.
  3. The deliberate idea.

The first two types do not depend on our efforts. In contrast, ideas of the third type are born when access to insights is difficult. Thus, you have to put some extra effort.

The algorithm is the following:

Motivation ➡️ Problem ➡️ Several ideas ➡️ Validation ➡️ Implementation.

Moreover, Dan shares many links to different training books and articles which are also worth your attention.

Look for Complaints

Looking for customer complaints

Every time someone complains, write it down. It could be about customer service or how expensive bath towels are. Listen for phrases such as ‘I hate’, ‘I wish’, ‘thats so annoying’. These are queues for potential startup ideas.

Search on Twitter can be also very insightful. Twitter is often used to post complaints addressed to companies or share thoughts aloud. Here are some more phrases that can take you closer to insights.

“I wish I had”
“is the worst product”
“that’s so frustrating”
“does anyone know how”

You can also read feedback sections at different websites with users ideas and comments. From time to time, you can find something interesting. For example, try this Google search request “sucks”.

Platform Thinking

Find a problem which is still solved inconveniently or in an old-fashioned way. Then you have to figure out whether this problem can be solved by the people on their own, but with your coordination.

Here is a simple algorithm.

  1. Select a market where two parties exchange some values (i.e. taxi drivers and passengers, or locksmiths and apartment owners).
  2. Identify the problems which limit their collaboration.
  3. Think about how to solve the problems encountered by both parties. Your invention should increase the value of their cooperation.

The best example is, for sure, Uber. So you need to match an undervalued (redundant) resource (the free time of car owners) with a non-satisfied deficit (cheap taxi for every day, as if having an own chauffeur).

Idea Hexagon

Ramesh Raskar, a MIT Media Lab professor, purposed a unique method to develop inventive skills (see on SlideShare). It is called “Idea Hexagon”.

Here are its key thinking principles:

Idea Hexagon

It is important to work with people who think differently. The greater is their difference, the more effective shall be the co-work.
—Ramesh Raskar

Product Analysis

Here are some simple exercises to help you getting new ideas.

  1. Improve Sales. Take any product and try to invent ways to increase their sales. What do you think should be done to achieve this? How can you make it better?
  2. Apply New Business Model. Pick a product and change its business model completely. If it’s a toy shop what would happen if toys are for rent?
  3. Business Decomposition. There is Facebook with a variety of functions, and there is Twitter with the only function of user status broadcasting similar to Facebook.

Brainstorm to Spur Creative Thinking

David Skok developed a Brainstorming Model that helps to inspire creative thinking. Here are the basics.

  1. Identify something which is an Extreme Pain for the potential customers.
  2. A new disruptive solution should be found to kill this pain.
  3. Write down, then score and validate your ideas.

Simple enough, right?

Develop Yourself

Your ideas reflect your inner world, experience, and views. Thus, training your brain is a great way to invent something new. Here are some tricks to help you to become more creative:

There is no silver bullet, the great idea can reach you everywhere: when you drive, go jogging, or during a brainstorming session. Nobody knows when it will happen next time. Stay focused and keep watching as hunters do.

Sometimes you know — it’s so close, so that you aren’t gonna quit. You may get tired, feel disappointed and frustrated. But do not never ever give up!
Keep going, and some day you will see that the gold is in your hands.

As for me? It took 8 long years of searching and trying.

This article was also shared on Standuply

About the Author

Alex Kistenev

Hi, my name is Alex and I'm the Co-Founder at Standuply. I believe in chatbots and would like to be among those who makes our lives better with its help.

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