How To Come Up With Startup Ideas

Note: A version of this post originally appeared in Spanish with the title Cómo encontrar ideas para emprender in El Mercurio, one of Chile’s leading newspapers. I use my monthly column to give mainstream readers exposure to startup ideas. It’s a shortened version of Paul Graham’s original post How to Get Startup Ideas.

Lots of people dream of starting their own business. They want something of their own, to be their own boss and to try to build their business into something big and successful. As an investor, I meet with hundreds of hungry potential entrepreneurs looking for capital to start businesses. Their ideas run the gamut from small businesses to scalable tech startups. Their funding plans cross the specturm from VC, friends and family to bank loans.

The vast majority of the best Latin American companies that I see come from people looking for solutions to problems they’ve seen close up in their daily lives. Paul Graham, the cofounder of Y Combinator, the world’s most successful accelerator, put it extremely directly:

The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It’s to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself.

At Magma, we couldn’t agree more. We’ve seen it with our own portfolio companies and when we meet successful entrepreneurs outside of our portfolio. The best companies come from founders who are solving real problems they had in their lives or problems that someone close to them had.

If you’re thinking about starting a business, but still don’t know where to start, the best thing you can do is get out the office, talk with friends, contacts, coworkers and other business people to find problems that you know more about than other people and then start to solve them. If you follow this guide, you’ll more likely be on the right path, with a higher probability that your future clients will actually want to pay you. And a lower chance that you’ll be trying to do business in a market that’s not interested in your product or service.