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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 service
Lesson: Work on
something that has
potential to be huge
Idea C

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

Moobub - Spam-your-
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 publishing”
Idea G-H

A way for academics,
creative writers, or anyone
to publish online more
“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 Ideation
 The basic idea: A startup is not just
one idea, but a series of ideas put
 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 week
 Building it, researching it, promoting it, etc.
 Trust your instincts and don’t worry
about others’ opinions
 Always evaluate, combine concepts, and re-
 If your gut tells you an idea is good, then it’s
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
More Ideation Lessons
 Being a good founder is a
learned skill - through trial and
 Commitment is good but
always challenge your current
 Hard work + creativity + TM =

Trip Adler