Coffee Table

How To Find A Profitable Startup Product Idea

The easier it is to build the solution, the smaller the gap between yourself and the possible competition is.

By Joanna Wiebe

An aspiring entrepreneur on Hacker News recently asked, “I want to start a startup, but have no ideas. What should I do?”

Here are some suggestions based on my interviews with entrepreneurs here on Mixergy.


1. Start by consulting

Mike Jones told us how he built a chat application for a consulting client and then turned it into userplane, a company that he sold to AOL.


2. Teach what you’re good at

Timothy FerrissJeanne D’Arc and Lea Wood told us how they traveled the world as digital nomads. And now all 3 are making money by teaching others how to travel the world and still get work done.


3. Run some cheap tests

Chance Barnett, said before he even builds a product, he buys some cheap ads on Google to see if there’s a market for it.


4. Bring an existing idea to a different platform

Andrew Lee came to Mixergy to talk about how his company, JamLedgend, took the concept behind the Guitar Hero and made it into a game anyone can play on a computer.


5. Create a quick web site

Ted Rheingold said that dogster was just a fun web site he made while doing consulting work, and the idea was so much fun that it evolved into a business.


6. Get mad at something

If you listen to my interview with Adeo Ressi, you’ll see how upset he is with the way venture capitalists fund startups. That led him to create theFunded, a site that helps startups report on investors.


7. Do what you love

Keith and Chemda told us how they plugged a few mics into their computer and created a comedy podcast. Today, the show has a loyal following that tattoos itself with their logo.


8. Start networking

Peter Pham told us how he built relationships with entrepreneurs and those entrepreneurs helped him think through his idea for BillShrink.


9. Get a mission

Frank Warren showed us how his mission to help people release their secrets, helped him create PostSecret.


10. Do some people watching

Eric Stephens suggests that before you start a business, you watch people interact with existing companies to discover their pain points.


11. Buy an existing business

I asked Matt Mickiewicz for an interview after I read a New York Times article about how people were buying and selling companies on his site, In our interview, you’ll see how they do it.


12. Build a few smaller businesses

Rosalind Resnick talked about all the different companies she started before she hit on her big idea, Netcreations, a company she launched on her kitchen table and took to IPO.


Your turn. Do you have any suggestions?

These are just a few ideas that I happen to remember from past Mixergy programs. Do you have any suggestions for how to come up with an idea for a startup?

How I Turned My Side Hustle into a Full-Time Gig

With a solid plan, you can quit your day job and move from employee to entrepreneur.

By Shannon Hennig

So many of us dream of leaving the 9–5 behind and becoming self-employed. Maybe you want to become an entrepreneur and have an amazing idea for a tech startup or a creative line of products that you’re just itching to share with the world — but you just can’t find the time or money to actually do anything about it.

There are bills to pay and the need to keep a roof over your head, so how can you actually make the jump from dreamer to a doer?


With time, attention and a little planning, you can take the necessary steps towards being a full-time business owner — as I did.


This transition didn’t happen overnight and there is no magic secret to success — just hard work and dogged commitment to living life on my terms, instead of someone else’s.


Setting Up A Side Hustle


When I first started consulting I had no intention of it turning into a full-time job. The idea of owning my own business was scary and it didn’t really feel like something I’d want to do— I was just looking for a way to make some extra money to help pay for childcare costs which were (and still are) painfully high.


My first contract was with a non-profit organization and I was supporting internal research and program evaluation. I was paid $15/hour and contracted to work 10 hours a week.


As I established myself and built my reputation for producing quality work, I was offered more hours and an increase to my hourly pay rate, both of which I gladly accepted.


Eventually, this turned into a contract for research, evaluation and project management that would allow me to turn my ideas into a collaborative initiative with a university in Massachusetts (I live on the other side of the continent and in Canada!).


So far we’ve received close to $300k for three separate projects from a major U.S. funder and we don’t intend to stop there.


At the same time, all of this was unfolding, I was also being tapped for additional consulting work related to my field of expertise. My side hustle was starting to take more and more time away from my evenings, weekends and whatever extra bit of time I could find in my jam-packed days, where I was still working full-time.


It was at this point that I knew I either had to make the jump to full-time consulting or reduce the number of projects and commitments I had on the go. With four years of consulting under my belt, a solid number of clients and an established reputation the pieces were in place to transition.


Before thinking that you can start your own business keep in mind that it takes time to build trust and establish a great relationship with your clients. Just because you’re a good writer at your current job doesn’t mean that this will instantly translate into clients banging down your door the minute you’re open for business.


Setting up a side hustle while working might sound overwhelming, but it can give you the foundation you need to make money and pay your bills when you first start.


It’s a lot easier to get going with half a tank of gas than one that’s nearly empty. You’ll need all of it to make it past the frustrations and challenges that come along with business ownership.

Make it your goal to be one of the 10% of new businesses that succeed in their first year, instead of the 90% that fail because of a lack of planning, resources or a proven business model.

Deciding What You Have To Offer

Long before I made the transition to full-time self-employment I was a committed corporate career woman. I had built a strong reputation for my writing and communication skills, strategic planning and systems thinking within health care, research and the non-profit sector.


Having spent a decade working these fields I had learned a lot and was given opportunities with more responsibility and chances to try new things — learning the ropes of leadership and people management, stakeholder and government relations along with crisis management.


At the same time, I was also building my reputation through my side hustle doing research and evaluation work, while also learning the ropes of social media management, marketing and consumer engagement, and grant writing.


Looking back on it now I can see that it was all kismet and meant to get me to the place where I am now — a full-time business owner with a clear purpose and vision of what I want to build.


Key to this success was sitting down and examining what I had to offer clients in terms of skills and expertise. I then had to look at how I could use all this knowledge to solve the immediate problems I knew were rampant in the industry and leverage the existing relationships I had with clients.


One of the biggest issues always facing my clients is securing funding for research, program operations and other initiatives. Writing successful grant and funding applications is absolutely essential to keeping the lights on, and many of these are massive documents — 50, 60, even 100 pages in length.


By taking my skills in project management, strategic planning and writing, and positioning myself as a grant writing consultant that can take care of the entire process, clients breathe a sigh of relief and they can focus on the other parts of their business.


Think about your skills and experience. What do you know and how can you transform it into something of value for potential clients?


If you’ve been in your industry for a while and understand where the critical pain points are, you’re even more ahead of the game. It’s in solving these most pressing problems faced by clients where you’ll meet with the most success.


Creating A Plan


You might think that all this sounds great and wonderful but does nothing to help you get from away from the rat race. While I had some luck and definitely put in a lot of hours to get me to the place where I am now, experience tells me that I needed a plan.


Doing my work piecemeal and as opportunities came up was interesting, but it wasn’t a sustainable approach to creating a long term success. It left me feeling like I constantly had one foot in my day job and another in my side hustle, unable to really focus on either.


If you’re serious about making the jump to entrepreneurial life, take time to sit down and think through all of the implications it may have on your life and work. Factor in your current lifestyle, commitments and obligations. There will be things that you’ll have to put down in order to make your business work.


Making the jump to full-time self-employment was actually more of a push for me because I ended up being laid off. Rather than looking for a new job, I knew that it was finally time to go for it.


For the last six months, I had been strategizing, planning and dreaming about what my business could look like, but was afraid of the uncertainty that comes along with being self-employed. If anything else this experience has taught me that nothing is certain when it comes to holding down a job, so you need to have an exit strategy.


While planning for your new business consider how and where you’ll find new clients, take time to figure out your operating expenses, and think about marketing and branding. All of these will play a critical role in your chances of success.


It’s entirely possible to leave your day job and pursue your entrepreneurial dream with the right amount of time, attention and planning. Consider first setting up a side hustle to start and see how profitable it is. Manage your reputation well and build a base of clients before you fully set off on your own.


Part of your planning process needs to involve a realistic evaluation of what skills and knowledge you have to offer. Understanding the pain points and specific needs of your ideal client will allow you to develop amazing solutions that will differentiate you from your competitors.


Finally, when you do think about what an entrepreneurial startup could look like, remember to consider all the cascading effects to other parts of your life. Have a plan before you make the jump and be committed to your long term vision — these will be what help you keep going when you hit a bump (or pothole) in the road.

"Make it your goal to be one of the 10% of new businesses that succeed in their first year, instead of the 90% that fail because of a lack of planning, resources or a proven business model."

Working Coffee