My filters for potential business ideas

Inspired by Derrick Reimer’s excellent post.

I want to build an small business eventually, however I find coming up with ideas for one rather difficult. In order to quickly evaluate potential, I thought about a list of filters that help me focus on the right things.

Are people searching for the problem on Google?

With Changefeed we made the mistake of building a useful product that nobody knows they need. It requires sales to be successful (a skill I do not have) and is harder to sell than a product in an already existing market.

For my next business, I want to build something in a large market, something that people are already searching for on Google. Justin Jackson calls this “Selling ice cream on a busy beach”.

Can I ship a first version in a few weeks?

Since I am bootstrapping, I cannot spend years (or really even months) on any given idea before figuring out if it’s valuable. While this can be hard to judge, I need to discard really hard problems, and ones outside of my expertise.

Interestingly, this means the more I Invest in the best tools the more potential options are available to me, as it should take me less time to build things.

Is my audience going to use it?

Ideally, my product should be useful for my existing audience. I spend a lot of time building it, so it would be great if that overlapped with the product I was building. (We bootstrapped Spectrum that way)

Since my audience is largely like me, this would also mean I’m following Solve your own problems.

Bonus: Would it make my users money?

If my product (directly or indirectly) makes my users money, they are more likely to pay me a portion of that. A great example would be they make their instructors money directly, and their viewers money by helping them level up and get better jobs. Win-win!