How To Come Up With Startup Ideas

Startup Journey Log #2: How To Come Up With Startup Ideas

I have given plenty of advice to others for how OTHERS should come up with startup ideas, but now that it is my turn, how will I come up with my next great amazing startup idea?

Good question!

Have you ever heard a new band whose first album was amazing? Like one of your favorite albums of all time? Then their second album comes out a year later and sucks. For my wife, that happened with James Blunt. She loved his debut album but nothing else he made was as good. How disappointing, right?

Startup ideas can be like that.

A founder (like myself) after years of struggle hits an amazing idea that takes off (like AppFog). The startup is acquired (like mine) or IPOs and they think they finally figured the game out. So as soon as possible they jump into the next startup idea they have.

And the startup sucks.

Or, because of the high expectations, you might stop trying and never start a company again.

So what am I to do? How do I take the success I have had so far and become a craftsman of startups instead of a one hit wonder?

I’ve thought about this question a lot since my company was acquired. I have thought about everything I have learned about myself and startups. And now I have a plan.

It involves cultivating 3 states of mind:

  1. Patience
  2. Mindset
  3. Persistence

I am not giving up nor am I diving right in.

1) Patience

I am dedicating myself to letting life unfold like a flower… in its own time.

Life will bring me an opportunity when it is ready to, I won’t rush it. My first startup was a mad rush. Everything was always in a hurry. And yet when things were working well, I always had a sense that it wasn’t because of me but rather in spite of me.

I am cultivating a faith that a great startup can happen without the mad rush and pressure I used to put on myself. That’s the thesis I am going to test with my life now.

Am I wrong? Only time will tell.

2) Mindset

But patience is not sitting around doing nothing and waiting for something to happen.

Far from it. You won’t find what you don’t seek. You won’t get what you don’t ask for. So I am also cultivating a mindset of absolute dedication and commitment towards finding a startup to do. I don’t know when it will happen, could be days or weeks or years or decades before the right idea comes to me. But I am not going to stop looking for it.

The difference is that I am looking, but not desperate and self-loathingly hard on myself like I was before. I am keeping the good part of my old attitude (the seeking) and throwing out the unnecessary self-immolation.

3) Persistence

I’m not just talking about a stick-to-it attitude. I am talking about dedication and faith that everything I am doing is leading me closer to my ultimate goal.

That includes all my hobbies and interests. Everything from the game of Go, card magic, mentalism, hypnotism, meditation, Paris, and writing novels. Maybe they lead me to my next idea. Or maybe they only correlate tangentially. Or not at all. I can’t know ahead of time.

With a combination of patience, mindset and persistence… I am not bothered that I don’t have an amazing idea right now.

I am not giving up nor am I jumping into another idea I should not be doing. The best ideas can’t NOT be done. Something draws you in and won’t let you go. Instead of you always trying to make it happen.

At some time, I might take a job or do a startup that I know isn’t it yet… but I will know that I am still searching. I won’t be thinking that it is something it is not. I am writing novels because I love writing novels. Might it turn into something bigger? Maybe, but I don’t expect it to. Regardless it’s great practice writing which will be used for whatever comes next.

P.S. This is part of a series of articles I am doing about coming up with my next startup idea. To start from the beginning, check out the first in the series: Why I Moved to Paris.

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Lucas Carlson

About the Author

Lucas Carlson

Lucas Carlson is a hands-on consultant, author and entrepreneur. He helps founders discover opportunities for growth, both for their companies and for themselves. He was the CEO and founder of AppFog, a popular startup acquired in 2013 after signing up over 100,000 developers and raising nearly $10M in venture funding from top angels and VCs.

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