Everyone wants to be the next big thing, but few of us are fortunate enough to know where to start. Luckily, Paul Graham gave some insight into this in his latest post, How To Get Startup Ideas.
There's one piece of advice that keeps coming up, whether it's in this latest post from Paul, or the Steve Jobs biography - build something that you would want to have. At least this way you have a customer from day 1, right?
Another benefit of "you being the customer" is that you know exactly what the problem is - no need to spend time testing markets early on. Sometimes testing the market means asking friends and family whether they would find a particular idea useful. That's ok, but bear in mind that it takes a strong friend to tell you that your idea sucks.
These days there is more and more pressure on people in software to come up with great ideas. But this pressure just ends up in below-par products, or worse, products that no one wants:
Why do so many founders build things no one wants? Because they begin by trying to think of startup ideas. That m.o. is doubly dangerous: it doesn't merely yield few good ideas; it yields bad ideas that sound plausible enough to fool you into working on them.
Paul mentions one more point that resonates with me - thinking that the idea is too late, that someone has already done it, and that I should just force myself to think up something different, leaving a perfectly good idea behind
Because a good idea should seem obvious, when you have one you'll tend to feel that you're late. Don't let that deter you. Worrying that you're late is one of the signs of a good idea. Ten minutes of searching the web will usually settle the question. Even if you find someone else working on the same thing, you're probably not too late.
How many times has this been proven over the last three decades? IBM has the PC industry sewn up and along came Apple. Altavista was a great search engine (in it's time) and now we all use Google. The MP3 player market was flooded, and the iPod became the default.
It's never too late to disrupt, you just need to believe in your idea.