"Where do you begin when looking for an idea for a startup?" is a question that I often get from first-timer entrepreneurs.
One way is to start with a problem, then look for an alternative path to solving it. Research shows it much wiser to flank into uncontested territory than to attack the existing market leaders head-on.
I found the insighful analysis of what one entrepreneur did to find an opening for a startup (March 26, 2012 Investor's Business Daily):
- Ease their pain
"15 billion faxes are sent annually from doctor's office to doctor's office." So says Doximity.com founder Jeff Tangney. The fact that sharp professionals rely on decades-old technology amazed the entrepreneur.
With Doximity, CEO Tangney created a social network for physicians. "They can't really use the same tools we do" beause of patient confidentiality issues, he said.
- Clear hurdles
Tangney aimed to make Doximity as simple as Facebook, but as confidential as a closed-door discussion through stringent encryption techniques. "We're taking the best Silicon Valley has to offer to health care," he said. "Our goal is to make it effortless."
Since launching the site in 2010, Doximity has added 8% of the country's physicians as active users.
- Increase the chatter.
Doximity members can send secure faxes from the Web, iPhone or Android. Members also get second opinions and give referrals through virtual curbide consultations.
That is a simple example of how one entrepreneur moved from big problem to clever solution. The result is a successful startup.
BOTTOM LINE: When looking for an opening to get a fresh company started, look for as large a problem as you can find (I did not say "most complex problem").
Then find the point of pain (exasperation, frustration, anger, disappointment, etc.).
Start thinking up ways to reduce the pain. Keep inventing alternatives to the existing solution (avoid words like "quicker, better, cheaper" because "er" words have no staying power).
When you find an alternative solution that could touch a lot of potential customers, figure out how to build and launch that solution (that's your business plan).
When you build a solution that is exciting ("compelling to customers"), the customers will email, Tweet, and phone the buzz around the planet about your wonderful solution. That's how serial entreperneurs do it. So can you. It is central to building an unfair competitive advantage.
I wish you The Best on your Adventure!