Written by Olivia Hough

It can be the roadblock that stops us in our tracks and delays the beginning of our startup journey: finding a great idea. Whether you think you have too many and can’t choose what to focus on, or if you can’t think of anything that feels worth the plunge, we’re here to give you some handy tips that we’ve learnt along the way.

1. Start with a problem

This is something we tell all the startups who join our programs- because it’s the most important part of starting a business! (Particularly if it’s a socially or environmentally focused one). You’d be surprised at how many people come up with a solution for a problem that doesn’t actually exist. Ultimately, your business wants to try and sell something, and therefore, it has to be solving some kind of problem for the buyer.

A good way to start is to think of problems that you face yourself. Do other people like you experience this problem too? How much does it affect them? If you can focus on problems rather than ideas, you’ll find business opportunities hiding in unexpected places. The better you understand the problem, the better you’ll be at solving it- and how you solve it is how you create your awesome business idea.

2. Don’t reinvent the wheel!

Get inspired by other businesses, innovations and creations from other countries with particularly thriving startup ecosystems, such as cities and countries like Nairobi, London, Brazil, Colombia, France…you might find businesses that don’t yet exist in Cambodia, but could solve real problems for you and the people who live here. It’s a great way to get inspired, see what other people are getting excited about, and keep up to date on what new technologies and inventions are out there.

3. Brainstorm your passions and skills and combine them

Grab a big piece of paper, and on one half, write down all the things you’re passionate about, spend most of your time doing, and make you really happy. Once you’ve got an exhaustive list, on the other side, write down all the skills you have- all the things you’re good at. Whether that’s social media, looking after others, knowing lots of people or following the latest trends. If you’re not sure, ask someone who knows you really well what your strengths are.

Once you’ve finished both sides, take a step back and look at it all together. Look for crossovers and similarities that can point you in a particular direction- maybe it’s the style of work you’d like to achieve or a particular area of your life that you find brings you a lot of passion.

Whilst we’re talking about passion, take this piece of advice from Steve Jobs:

Passion is defined as “an intense desire or enthusiasm for something.” – it doesn’t have to be your hobby, or current interest- it just has to be something that you desperately want to solve, want to create, and that you’ll stop at nothing to do so- even when the going gets tough.

4. Go deep- who are you REALLY helping?

It’s pretty easy when you’re starting out with an idea to go to your closest friends and family and ask them what they think. This won’t help your business at all, unless they are truly your target audience. They’ll tell you it sounds great, or they’ll try and protect you and tell you to do something else- either way, it won’t be helpful advice. What you really want to do is two things:

  • First of all, really define your customer- if you say ‘my app can be used by everyone in Cambodia!’, it probably won’t work. Your target audience should be specific; so specific in fact that you could create a character with interests, dislikes, hobbies, and friends to show to others the exact person you’re targeting.
  • Secondly (and this part might help you work out the first part), focus on a group of users who really need what you’re making, and they want it urgently. Even if this group is initially small, focusing on really solving the problems for this group will naturally open your business up to being more helpful for the masses. If you can sell your first, slightly small prototype to this group without them even knowing who you are, you’re on the right track.

Finding an idea can initially feel daunting or difficult, but if you are truly passionate about solving problems, starting your own business, and working hard to make your ideas a reality, you can definitely get there. If you find yourself thinking about your idea wherever you are, whatever you’re doing- this is a good sign! Don’t forget to check out Impact Hub Phnom Penh’s programs and let us support you in making your awesome idea a reality.

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