What Kind Of Business Idea Has A Decent Chance Of Succeeding?


Friday, 9.40pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Don’t be afraid of missing opportunities. Behind every failure is an opportunity somebody wishes they had missed. – Lily Tomlin

My YouTube suggestion machine came up with a video by Tim Ferriss where he talked through some of his key ideas and the books they came from.

And these ones are useful for someone looking at starting a business or developing a new product or service.

The whole startup thing is the easiest and the hardest thing to do at the same time.

Everyone has ideas – there is no shortage of people with ideas.

Few of those people go on to execute those ideas and create a real business.

And that’s because most things we see are things that are successful – we aren’t exposed to failures.

And really, if we want to succeed, we should study failures – because that’s how we learn to see what bad ideas look like and how to avoid them.

Let’s say we could do that – put on a pair of magic glasses that let us figure out what might fail.

What would a bad idea look like?

Would it be the opposite of a good idea?

One piece of advice you get often is to build something that scratches your own itch.

For example, there was an article on the news some time back about a father who built a hydraulic arm for his son who had his amputated at birth.

This was something big companies had said couldn’t be done – but this dad did it because he wanted his son to be able to hug his brother.

Now, that’s something that is special.

But is it a business?

I spoke to someone on a train who talked about a company that specialises in making prosthetic arms for children inspired by Lego designs.

A child can see a prosthetic arm as a dull, lifeless thing, something that he or she might be teased about at school.

Or it could be an awesomely cool bionic arm – something they could show off and be proud of.

There are so many stories of people creating things that are personal to them – because they were underserved by the existing product machinery that dominates the world.

And this leads to two other characteristics of ideas that have a chance of succeeding.

They can be easily differentiated from whatever else is out there.

And they are easy to explain – you can quickly see why someone would need or want those things you’re planning to make.

But, is that enough to grow – what if everyone simply copies what you do?

Well, that’s where there are benefits to being first to market.

But that’s not always possible, there might already be a market with an existing firm that dominates it.

In which case you shouldn’t try and compete with them.

Instead create a new category which you can dominate.

What does your category need to have?

If you want your business to actually survive and grow you need to have a market.

But you don’t need millions of sales – not for a new business anyway.

What you need are 1,000 true fans – people who will believe in your idea and buy what you create.

So, if you’re thinking of a business idea right now – or you’re thinking about how you can refocus what you’re doing so that it can become a better business – these ideas are probably useful to keep as a checklist.

Are you creating something that you would use yourself?

Is your idea easy to explain?

Can you easily show how you are different?

Are you the only person doing what you do – or demonstrably the best at what you do?

Is your marketing focused only on the people who could become your true fans – the ones who will support you in what you do?

If you get these things right then it will show up in the numbers – in the only number that matters.

The number of customers you have.

Profitable customers.

And your business has a chance of succeeding.


Karthik Suresh

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