I was re-reading Paul Graham’s essay on “Organic Startup Ideas” today. Paul (as usual) gets you thinking. This essay, may in fact trigger a lot of posts. I will share one of our own experience on an organic startup idea.
The best way to come up with startup ideas is to ask yourself the question: what do you wish someone would make for you?
This is how we came up with our product InfoMinder. I was doing some research on XML towards the end of 90s. I found many interesting sites and bookmarked them. Soon I realized that I had over 300 bookmarks. I figured that even if I spend a minute on each page, it will take me about 5 hours to go through them all. So had one of my developer friends code a simple script to import the bookmarks and check pages daily and send an alert when they change. This way I needed to visit only the pages that changed.
Once we had this simple notification scheme, we realized that just getting an alert was not enough. When I visited the changed page, I had no idea about the actual changes on the page. We added a small feature. When we detect changes in a page, we highlight the changes and deliver a link to the highlighted page. This worked well for a while.
Very quickly we noticed a pattern. We were getting a lot of notifications for trivial changes. So we had to add a filter to ignore trivial changes. And we gave the product to a bunch of friends. We started getting some really useful feedback and that triggered a whole set of updates to the product.
We did one mistake, though. We kept the bookmarks private for each user. So we missed the entire social bookmarking revolution, even though we had all the features delicious had.
So here is the lesson. While you can start with a useful product idea, try it out and even find a decent number of customers, some times it take a little bit of additional inventiveness to make it a movement.
If you are are startup or thinking of doing one, certainly read Paul Graham’s essay on Organic Startup Ideas.
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