How to Get Startup Ideas

Monday, November 19th, 2012

The very best startup ideas tend to have three things in common, Paul Graham says:

They’re something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing. Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Facebook all began this way.


The verb you want to be using with respect to startup ideas is not “think up” but “notice.” At YC we call ideas that grow naturally out of the founders’ own experiences “organic” startup ideas. The most successful startups almost all begin this way.


  1. Ken says:

    An excellent observation. In academic circles, there is some controversy over whether entrepreneurs recognize opportunities (Schumpeterian view, simplifying) or enact them (Kirznerian view). I’m not sure the difference makes much difference. The iPod and the Walkman before it were both answers to a question asked within the firm (“why can’t people carry all their music with them?” in the case of the iPod, and “How can I listen to my opera on trans-Pacific flights?” for the Walkman), and both addressed unmet/ill-met customer needs.

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