How to find a business idea -- and figure out if it's any good

Ramit Sethi 01Business InsiderYou can’t wait for a magical idea to fall from the sky, said GrowthLab CEO Ramit Sethi (pictured) in a Facebook Live interview with Business Insider.

Starting a business is hard from day one.

In fact, the first hurdle trips up many would-be entrepreneurs: How do you even find a business idea?

Entrepreneur and GrowthLab CEO Ramit Sethi visited the Business Insider offices for a Facebook Live interview, and we asked him how to get over that first hurdle: What do you tell people who say “I just don’t have any ideas for a business?”

Sethi said that’s the most common question he gets from aspiring entrepreneurs, and that it’s flawed.

“What’s the assumption behind it?” he asked. “The assumption is ‘I’m waiting for a magical idea to fall down from the sky.’ And that’s not how it works. If you want to start a business, you find an idea. And it’s not the perfect idea; it’s one of many.”

At GrowthLab, Sethi and his team recommend a classic technique to start generating ideas: idea mapping.

“You just start off with a broad set of ideas of what you might be good at,” Sethi said. “You don’t have to be perfect — you just have to get started.” You can start mapping ideas around three primary categories that will help you get a better sense of your expertise and potential offerings:

1. Skills you have, like speaking Spanish

2. Experiences you’ve had, like backpacking Europe for 30 days

3. Challenges you’ve overcome, like losing weight or building muscle

“This is the beginning of how you find an idea,” Sethi said. “Most people stop there.”

But the next step is important: How do you figure out if your business idea is any good? 

“Let’s start off by saying: Most of them are not good,” Sethi said. But, he continued, that’s fine. The trick to separating the good ideas from the bad to test them — “slice and dice them” — to find a profitable idea. For instance, Sethi started off learning about personal finance, but he didn’t know if that would make a good foundation for a business.

So, he emailed a handful of friends, asking if he could talk to them a little about money. When they gave the green light (and all of them did), he asked, “When it comes to money, can you tell me what are your biggest problems with it? If you had a magic wand, what would it look like? And what are those things where you wake up in the morning, when it comes to money, and you say, ‘I really hate … fill in the blank?'”

“Now imagine you do this with money, or learning how to dress, or being productive, or learning Excel,” Sethi said. “If you email 5-10 people, they’re going to give you some really valuable insights.”

Watch the full Facebook Live »

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