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
service 

Lesson: Just because you
have an idea, it doesn¶t mean it¶s a good idea

Idea A-B 

Nowigo - transportation
search engine + ridesharing service 

Lesson: Work on
something that has potential to be huge

Idea C 

Hulist - Craigslist for
colleges 

Lesson: Work on
something that has a builtin mechanism for getting huge fast

Idea D 

Moobub - Spam-yourfriends 

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
awesome!

Idea F 

Almost Twitter - Rate-yourhappiness 

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 

³The YouTube for
academic publishing´

Idea G-H 

A way for academics,
creative writers, or anyone to publish online more easily 

³The 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 

³The 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. 

³The 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 Ideation 
The basic idea:
A startup is not just one idea, but a series of ideas put together 
 
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) 

What this means

The TM: Basic Principles 
Push yourself to be creative 

Usually two hour bursts once a week Stop everything to µbe creative¶ 

Move your best idea forward 90 hours
per week 

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 is good and related to idea A Idea B is bad

Idea B Idea A-B

Idea A

Idea B

Putting the TMUs together: Path to Success
Quality of idea

Success!
F-G-I F-G F A-D
Time

A B C E H J

= TMU

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 you, then get started 

If any idea seems too good to be true to  It¶s often about simple innovations - taking
existing elements and repackaging them trendy, but learn from what¶s working for others 

Don¶t pay too much attention to what¶s

More Ideation Lessons 

Being a good founder is a  Commitment is good but

learned skill - through trial and error always challenge your current ideas Success 

Hard work + creativity + TM =

Thanks
Trip Adler trip@scribd.com www.twitter.com/tripadler

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