Insanely Simple Secrets for Winning Startup Ideas

[quote style=”boxed”]”…if you want to build a business, going on vacation might be the best money you’ll ever spend.”[/quote]

Where do good ideas come from? Entrepreneurs find inspiration everywhere around them. From the people they meet at conferences, and unconferences, in universities and classrooms, across the Internet on websites like TED, even here on IdeaMensch. Here are a number of amazing entrepreneurs ideas we think will inspire you and how they came up with them.

I sifted through the most recent 25 interviews on IdeaMensch and was surprised to find out how many of them drew inspiration from travel or first-hand experience of a pain point. What do I conclude from that? One, if you want to build a business, going on vacation might be the best money you’ll ever spend. And, two, the pain you experience may turn into your biggest asset. Throw in a dash of creativity and some late night TV viewing to round it out.

I was also struck by the contrast between the stereotype of startups being run by young entrepreneurs with the latest idea and the number of interviewees that cited seeing the same issues for “years” before turning the pain point into a business. What do you see going on around you over and over again for which you have found a creative solution?


Sarah Chalos found her business idea on a trip to Bolivia. “We noticed that that Bolivians had all kinds of ready-to-eat quinoa options, while we had none in the U.S.” said Chalos. She decided to make ready-to-eat quinoa available in the U.S. through the creation of’i heart keenwah, a natural food company currently working on quinoa clusters.

A year ago, Matt Wilson was standing on a volcano in Iceland “literally having the experience of a lifetime” and said to himself, “Damn, I wish I could give this experience to other ambitious young people.” He pitched it to his business partner Jared O’Toole and they took the leap. Says Wilson, “We spent a year testing different models until we finally nailed the perfect format for the trip in Nicaragua.”

“I never intended to write a book,” states author Torre DeRoche regarding her recently published book “Love with a Chance of Drowning,” “nor did I intend to fall in love and wind up in a situation with a chance of drowning! I went overseas for a year to break free from my stagnant life in Melbourne, and I ended up having this crazy, unexpected, two-year nautical experience with a man who had a boat and a plan to sail the world. When I got home three years later, the story wanted to come out. I started tapping away at my keyboard, and so it came to be.”

Travel experiences in and out of the United States led Jamie Wong to develop to bring authentic immersion-style travel experiences to the would-be explorer. In particular, she describes her experience looking for a tour in Morocco: “Years later, I was in a carpet shop in Morocco, toting my “Let’s Go” travel guide, and I told the shop owner that my friends and I were looking to ride camels in the desert. Rather than go on the expensive commercial tour listed in the guidebook, he offered to drive us 15 hours through the Atlas Mountains in his Honda Accord to stay in his cousin Ali’s caravan camp in the Sahara for a quarter of the price. We agreed, and we ended up having the most magical five days of my life, and the shop owner was able to support his family for a month with the money he made. When I went home and my friends and family asked me to connect them with my Moroccan guide so they could have a similar adventure, I knew there was incredible potential here.”

Commercials / TV

The inspiration for “came about from a ‘make money while you sleep’ commercial and inspiration from an eBay auction in early 2003,” explained Daniel Wesley founder and CEO.

Experiencing the Pain Point

Kyle Sanders’ company, Complete Web Resources, sprung out of years of experience. Says Kyle, “I’ve been in eCommerce for a long time. As an employee and entrepreneur in the space, I’ve seen and experienced the lack of results from SEO firms and had to figure it out myself. I realized I could deliver more value than most firms and maintain a substantially lower attribution rate. Eventually, my partner and I decided we needed to be running a firm.”

Brittany Dowell, Vice President of Influence & Co., would agree. According to Brittany, “Like most great ideas, the concept of Influence & Co. came from the combination of a few people’s experiences. Kelsey Meyer and John Hall were running a co-working space for startups and noticed how many really fantastic entrepreneurs were struggling to gain exposure for their ideas. Traditional PR firms only provided these experts with a quote here or there or a press release that no one actually read. We recognized this problem and developed a solution utilizing our thorough knowledge of the online publication world. We’ve grown into one of the leading providers of high-quality expert content to the world’s best publications.”

Although Kytka Hilmar Jezek doesn’t come right out and use the word “experience” to explain how her book “Book Power” came to be, her narrative clearly shows that through experience a pain point was identified and a solution provided in book form. In her words, “I self published my first book 15 years ago. It was a horrible experience which cost a lot of money, took almost a year and my royalty on an $18.95 book was approx. 50 cents. It caused so much frustration and I was not pleased with the end result. Any changes would cost hundreds of dollars and delay publication by 6-8 months. When Amazon acquired, I cancelled my self publishing contract and published with CreateSpace. It was easy, fast and incredibly user friendly. Within a couple of weeks my book Reiki for Children jumped to #3 in its category and it has maintained yhe top 10 since. It put control into my hands and I understood the power of self publishing correctly. As a result of the books positioning, I was able to leverage that to gain access to interviews, media and speaking opportunities. I wanted to help other business owners share their messages in a way that would be both profitable and simple for them to do. Book Power tells them exactly how to do it in a fast and gamified manner and Be More Network helps those who want us to do it for them.”

Aim High Writing Services founder Jessica Peyton also saw a need and decided to meet it by developing a business. “I have always practiced what I call “Strategic Writing” for my own college, graduate school, and grant applications,” says Jessica. “A surprising number of students do not realize how the essay portion can be the deciding factor in getting into your dream school, obtaining the job you want, or receiving a fellowship. I wanted to start a business where I function as a Writing Coach, teaching students how to write strategically for their goals. When you are a confident, competent writer, you can be comfortable “aiming high” with your academic and professional objectives.”

Yet another entrepreneur, Landon Ray, launched his business ONTRAPORT after building it to solve a problem to which he couldn’t find an existing solution. He says, “ONTRAPORT came out of our own needs. I was running another business and ran into the problems that all entrepreneurs do, and I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a slick solution to solve them. We started building them for ourselves, and then realized we were on to something pretty cool. We decided to release our internal toolset as a product.”

Division33 developed after AJ Roberts spent “years teaching entrepreneurs how to market their businesses and continually seeing them struggle, I realized that, for most, their passion is not the marketing, but the creation. I wanted to give them the freedom to focus on what it is they are passionate about, without worrying about how to get the message out.”

In another “make what you need” scenario, Kyle Eschenroeder founded StartupBros. He describes StartupBros’ birth: “Will and I decided to create the entrepreneurial community that we had been looking for. I have a deep, almost spiritual, belief in the importance of self-reliance for people. Freedom from a boss can often mean a sense of freedom in the rest of your life. That’s what we’re trying to give people with StartupBros.”

Creative Environment

In the vein of Google’s 20% time, world-class Australian ad agency BMF “fosters a creative environment” and encourages employees to “find innovative projects beyond the work [they] are asked do for clients.” Out of that environment grew Alex Caredes’ project Mailbooks for Good – “an innovation in book publishing which encourages book donations to charities via specially designed book jackets that turn into pre-addressed envelopes.” He says, “The Footpath Library was identified by some of our staff as an outstanding organization that we’d love to help, and so we worked on developing a range of ideas that we thought would appeal to them. Mailbooks was one of these ideas.”