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How to Come up with

Good Startup Ideas

Trip Adler
Co-founder and CEO, Scribd

Founders Institute Presentation

May 19, 2009
The Process of
Startup Ideation
The Scribd Story (SS)
The Trip Method (TM)
Idea A

Nowigo - a ridesharing
Lesson: Just because you
have an idea, it doesn’t mean
it’s a good idea
Idea A-B

Nowigo - transportation
search engine + ridesharing
Lesson: Work on something
that has potential to be huge
Idea C

Hulist - Craigslist for colleges

Lesson: Work on something
that has a built-in mechanism
for getting huge fast
Idea D

Moobub - Spam-your-friends
Lesson: If you try it and it
doesn’t work - and this
causes you to lose confidence
in the idea - then stop
working on it
Idea E

1-800-ASK-TRIP - A call
center for everything
Lesson: This idea is
Idea F

Almost Twitter - Rate-your-

Lesson: Bounce your ideas
off smart and creative people;
get them involved in the
creative process
Idea G
(Scribd Beginning)
A way for academics to
publish online more easily
“The YouTube for academic
Idea G-H

A way for academics,

creative writers, or anyone to
publish online more easily
“The YouTube for all kinds
of writing”
Idea G-H-I

 A way for academics, creative

writers, or anyone to publish
online more easily by uploading
documents sitting on their hard
drive and displaying them in a
web browser
 “The YouTube for documents”
Idea G-H-I-J
 A way for academics, creative writers,
or anyone to publish online more easily
by uploading documents sitting on their
hard drive and displaying them in a web
browser, and drive traffic to them from
Google, social sites, the Scribd
community, etc.
 “The YouTube for documents”
Idea G-H-I-J-K-L-M-….
(Scribd Today)
 Many more major ideas along the
way: iPaper, groups, API, mobile
reading, ads in documents, Scribd
Store, etc.
 A social publishing company that
aims to liberate the written word
by democratizing the publishing
process for everyday people
The Trip Method of Startup
 The basic idea: A startup is not just one
idea, but a series of ideas put together
 What this means
 Just come up with an idea and start working on it
 Constantly keep pushing yourself to come up with
new ideas
 If you come up with a better idea
- And it fits into the original, then merge
- And it’s totally different, then switch (okay early
on, much harder later)
The TM: Basic Principles
 Push yourself to be creative
 Usually two hour bursts once a week
 Stop everything to ‘be creative’

 Move your best idea forward 90 hours per

 Building it, researching it, promoting it, etc.
 Trust your instincts and don’t worry
about others’ opinions
 Always evaluate, combine concepts, and re-evaluate
 If your gut tells you an idea is good, then it’s good
Trip Method Unit (TMU)

Idea B is better Idea B

Idea B is good and

Idea A-B
Idea A Idea B related to idea A

Idea B is bad
Putting the TMUs together:
Path to Success
Quality of idea




Getting Started
 Think of something you need/want
 Think of something others need/want
 Figure out what’s broken and how can you fix it
 Find out what’s working for other companies and apply it in
a new way
 Invent a new technology and figure out how to apply it
 Think of a marketing/growth strategy and then fit a product
into it
How to Evaluate an Idea

 What other people think (probably better if they don’t like it, but not always)

 User data; reaction by the user / customer

 Success of similar ideas

 Sounds different / weird / radical

 Potential to change direction / leaves options open

 Has a way to get big fast

 Potential to be something huge / game changing

 Something you have the resources / knowledge / expertise to build

 Your gut feeling - what matters the most - needs to be developed through TM
More Ideation Lessons
 Having a great idea is often about connecting
the dots

 Creative ideas often form from intersection of

two people’s thinking

 If any idea seems too good to be true to you,

then get started

 It’s often about simple innovations - taking

existing elements and repackaging them

 Don’t pay too much attention to what’s trendy,

but learn from what’s working for others
More Ideation Lessons

 Being a good founder is a learned

skill - through trial and error
 Commitment is good but always
challenge your current ideas
 Hard work + creativity + TM =

Trip Adler

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