Developing a great startup idea

May 30, 2020


While many people will tell you that execution is more important than an Idea, coming up with an idea to start with is still one of the biggest barriers entrepreneurs have in starting their own business. So how do you come up with the next idea like Larry Page and Sergey Brin with Google, Steve Jobs with Apple or Elon Musk with Tesla? The answer is to not look for ideas rather solutions via a technique we call observational Thinking.

To explain Observational Thinking we are going to play a game. Now many of you may have played Where’s Wally? (called Where’s Waldo? in North America) created by English illustrator Martin Handford. The game consists of page with illustrations depicting dozens or more people doing a variety of amusing things at a given location. Readers are challenged to find a character named Wally hidden in the group.

Ready to play?

In the next image count as many Wallys as quickly as you can.

The Result

So did you get the right answer below? If you counted 12 then that’s because your brain only sees what you program it to look for.

Observational Thinking

Observational Thinking is about paying to attention to your surroundings, listening out to people saying things like “How do I…”, “I don’t like…” or “I can’t find…”, challenging conventions and thinking about What If scenarios that can make a lasting difference. Think about the opportunities you missed because were not applying Observational Thinking:

  • If you were too focussed on what you’re having for lunch you may have missed the numerous healthy options and missed the opportunity for…. MyFitnessPal.
  • If you’re focussed on getting the night bus home you may have not seen the queues outside the taxi ranks and missed the opportunity….. to start Uber.
  • If you are living rent free with your parents you may have missed people complaining about their mortgage costs and missed the opportunity to help them with extra income…. Airbnb

Look closely what do these businesses have in common. They solve a customer need, problem or frustration and they make an existing experience better.


The following techniques can help improve your Observational awareness and improve your Thinking for the next great idea.

  • Capture Problems – Every time you observe a problem write it down add it as note in your phone or email it to yourself so you come back to it later.
  • Forums – Join forums on platforms like Quora and Reddit and observe pain points and desires of niche groups.
  • Make something better – Observe existing companies and think how its product or service could be made better, cheaper or more efficient. As a company scales it takes longer to adapt to it’s customer needs think about how can get take advantage of this.
  • Your own company – Look at the internal processes of the company you are working for (Human Resources, Finance & Accounting, Marketing, Management, Sales, etc.). What are processes that could be made more efficient? How could they be improved with the use of technology?
  • What works well? Look at things that work well and how they can be used in a different industry or market?
  • Monitor trends and evolving needs – Physiological needs stay the same (the need for food, shelter, and water). Emotional needs tend to stay the same. What doesn’t stay the same are the products and services it takes to fulfil those needs. The easiest products to market are also products that fulfil a real or contemporary need. An example of a service that is everywhere now is cloud storage. You don’t hear as much these days about USB sticks. It’s a result of our very contemporary need to have access to our data no matter what device we’re on that has resulted in cloud storage by companies like Google, Amazon and Dropbox.
  • Read! The more you read about different things in all sorts of areas, the more ideas will come to you naturally. By expanding your knowledge, you are expanding your realm of business ideas.
  • Challenge the Status Quo – Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Tesla were all originals in their market. They created a problem and solved it. Before  these companies people were just fine working they way they did. The status quo was comfortable, but once the computer, smartphone and electric car was born these ideas changed the world!
  • Become an Idea machine – Go through all the problems you capture and come up with ideas to solve these problems every day. This will train your brain to get really creative. Take problems that drive you crazy and shortlist the ideas you are most passionate about. This passion is the key to the rest of the development. You have to have something that will drive you through in the tough days of building the business. Yes, there will be tough days, but so many more great ones if you love your idea!

The next step

Now you have an idea, what next? Many people think we need to start with a business plan. Let’s start with burning this business plan. A business plan is going to maximise your risk of failure. Why is that?

  • Firstly you find an idea that isn’t proven.
  • Secondly you fall in love with the idea.
  • Thirdly you explain at length on a 50 beautifully pages what you are going to create & execute a fantasy.

This is a waste of time because you need to quickly turn your idea into a solution that customers actually want and to do that in one page you need to use the The Value Proposition Canvas. Click here to Learn More