Why does it seem like all the good startup ideas are taken? The common advice is to find an idea by looking at problems you have yourself. But what if you’ve hit a dead end? Maybe you just don’t have many problems. If you work in tech, you’re only exposed to tech problems, and let’s face it, there are a lot of developers already working on solving tech problems. It’s a crowded field.
It was actually a lot easier for me to come up with tech startup ideas when I wasn’t in tech. When I worked at a mid-sized law firm, ideas were everywhere. Everywhere I looked, there were problems that could be solved with just the slightest bit of technology. We still had 100% paper files, took notes on those awkwardly large yellow legal pads, and the secretaries still had typewriters – you know, just in case.
There’re a lot of opportunities for startups in old-school industries like law, accounting, and insurance. But if you’re reading this, chances are that you’re probably already working in tech. So, what do you do? How do you find new startup ideas? Is it too late?
Some people would suggest going and talking to people at these companies. That’s a great approach, but it would take a lot of time – especially for this early idea phase. It also takes a tremendous amount of skill to listen to the problems people say they are having and figure out the actual root problems at the business and whether they would be willing to pay for a solution.
I’ve developed a trick to start to understand new industries and generate startup ideas in them. The will allow you to discover real problems people have in industries that you aren’t familiar with. Not only that, it will tell you whether they will be willing to pay for a solution.
The way to discover real problems businesses are having is to look at job postings. Companies don’t hire anyone unless they have a real problem.
Let’s look at an example.
Learning About Chiropractors
Let’s say I wanted to learn more about chiropractors and see if there’s an opportunity to create an app that they would buy. I could go to a job site like indeed.com and search for “Chiropractor.” I’m not looking for job listings for actual Chiropractors, instead I’m looking for postings for support staff like billing, receptionists, etc.
Searching for Chiropractor in Chicago, I find a job posting looking for a “Medical Biller.”
I don’t know much about medical billing for chiropractors, but I can already tell that they are willing to pay someone to enter some medical billing information into a computer system and follow up with client’s regarding invoices. This sounds like a job an app might be able to offer a lot of value.
At this point, I want to go a step further. I want to see if other chiropractors are having this same problem. So I search for “chiropractor billing” across the country. It turns out there are 59 other similar job postings.
Now, I don’t know the first thing about chiropractor billing, but in just a couple of minutes I’ve found a real business problem that chiropractors have. I might be able to solve the problem with some simple software. By reading the job postings, I also know specifically what they’re looking for: Help with CPT coding, insurance billing, etc. This doesn’t mean that the app will have to replace a real person. If chiropractors are ready to spend money to have someone come in and solve these problems, they’re probably also willing to pay for an app that could help streamline the process.
At this point, there is a lot more to do in terms of understanding the unmet needs of chiropractors and what problems they experience. That said, I now have a lot of information to explore in more detail.
This definitely isn’t the only way to generate startup ideas, but if you’re feeling stuck it can help to jumpstart your thinking about business problems that you never knew about.