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How do you tell whether something is the germ of a giant company, or just a niche product? The founders of Airbnb didn't realize at first how big a market they were tapping. They were going to let hosts rent out space on their floors during conventions.They didn't foresee the expansion of this idea; it forced itself upon them gradually.Who wants this so much that they'll use it even when it's a crappy version one made by a two-person startup they've never heard of?If you can't answer that, the idea is probably bad. It's depth you need; you get narrowness as a byproduct of optimizing for depth (and speed). In practice the link between depth and narrowness is so strong that it's a good sign when you know that an idea will appeal strongly to a specific group or type of user.Similarly for Microsoft: Basic for the Altair; Basic for other machines; other languages besides Basic; operating systems; applications; IPO.Self How do you tell whether there's a path out of an idea?Usually this initial group of users is small, for the simple reason that if there were something that large numbers of people urgently needed and that could be built with the amount of effort a startup usually puts into a version one, it would probably already exist.Which means you have to compromise on one dimension: you can either build something a large number of people want a small amount, or something a small number of people want a large amount. Not all ideas of that type are good startup ideas, but nearly all good startup ideas are of that type.



When you have an idea for a startup, ask yourself: who wants this right now?

The very best startup ideas tend to have three things in common: they're something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing.

Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Facebook all began this way.

Imagine a graph whose x axis represents all the people who might want what you're making and whose y axis represents how much they want it.


If you invert the scale on the y axis, you can envision companies as holes.November 2012The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas.


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