Building things on the internet

10 things to consider before starting a new idea

Paul Graham wrote an iconic post last year on How to Get Startup Ideas. Recently I started listening to Startups for the Rest of Us with Mike Taber and Rob Walling who talk about the challenges and decisions that are made when launching are startup, as well as sharing their own experience launching Drip and AuditShark.

Here are the ten common threads needed to tie together a great idea.

1. Must-have

Not only do you have to get someone's attention (no easy feat), you have to offer something that they immediately need. It's practically impossible to come up with someone that will instantly become "must-have" to everyone you come across. That's why the most obvious products already exist in some capacity. So it's important to carve out a niche that you know well and can sell to.

2. Shared values

Justin Jackson hosts Product People and recently wrote about how to choose your audience. He lists all of the target groups that he identifies with and then hones in on the ones he can speak to the most effectively when growing an audience for his mailing list. It's important to understand your customers and share interests with them. You already know what you like, and it shouldn't surprise you that there are a lot of people out there like you.

3. Usefulness

Sometimes people spend money on garbage on a whim. There are industries built around this. Think, glow in the dark sticks on July 4th. But if you want to build something of substance, you have to look at what will be improve your audience's way of life, making things easier or simpler.

4. Deep resonance

It should be something people can get excited about. It doesn't have to be earth-shattering. Have you seen that amplifier that pumps up the sound of your iPhone speaker? It's not much more complicated than putting your iPhone in a bowl and letting the sound reflect off the sides. But it resonates with people because that is something that lots of people wish their iPhone did with a group of people or at parties; be louder. Make something that people slap their foreheads and say, "why didn't I think of that?"

5. Original content

It is so easy to gravitate towards all of the amazing content and products that already exist. One guideline I set out for myself when building a new idea is that it had to be made up of original content. There are a lot of great content aggregators or curated magazines. Its great that they exist and serve a very specific, important purpose. But the itch I needed to scratch was to become a producer rather than a consumer.

6. Consistent updates

This means your idea has to be able to grow. The nice part about this is that you typically won't have the urge to build an idea about a topic that isn't changing because you're not thinking about it. It's the nature of the beast, but it is so much more rewarding to work in an evolving field.

7. Possible to monetize

Unless your new project is a side project that you are doing just to learn or a public service like Health Sherpa, who reverse-engineered so users could quickly see how much their new healthcare plan would cost, your new idea could become your livelihood. How you launch your project will dictate your audience's expectations. If you launch with a free product, users will usually search elsewhere if they are asked to pay. That's unless it's a free trial where you have to put a credit card down. Build in the expectation from the beginning and build something people will be happy paying for.

8. Solve a problem

This point is self-explanatory, but imperative. Your elevator pitch for your idea should include the part of your concept that will make their lives easier, simpler or more effective once they get their hands on it.

9. Something you can improve upon

It's so important to get your idea out the door as soon as you have something that will help people. Look at How Dropbox Started as a Minimum Viable Product by Eric Ries, the lean startup guy, this point is always hammered home because it is critical to start learning from your users before you waste time building something they don't want.

10. Offer people a better version of themselves made an outstanding point when explaining the difference between benefits and features. It's important to remember the goal of your customers, and not lose sight of what the benefits are going to be.

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