Business plan hierarchy

Good Business IDEAS for College Students

Business Ideas / February 16, 2019

I find it much more exciting and inspiring to work on an idea you came up with yourself as opposed to asking others for ideas. It's not that hard to come up with ideas either, you just have to train your brain to start looking at the world around you differently, becoming obsessed with trying to identify new patterns, and finding innovative ideas.

Here are three different ways to start thinking about ideas:

1. think how new relationships can be formed by combining new elements with existing facts

Think about how emerging technologies and trends might disrupt the world around you. The internet gave rise to e-commerce startups like Amazon, the sharing economy brought us Uber and Airbnb, what will new technologies like virtual reality or artificial intelligence make possible? Reading about new trends and new technologies is a great way to come up with ideas (see my reading list at the bottom for further inspiration). When looking at new technologies, ask yourself: how can this technology affect existing facts? It’s easy for example to imagine a world where VR will affect our favourite experiences, from travelling to watching live sports, or where artificial intelligence will make our lives easier.

2. Reason from first principles

Elon Musk, founder of Paypal, Tesla and SpaceX (!) believes in reasoning from first principles rather than by analogy. As he notes, “first principles is kind of a physics way of looking at the world. You boil things down to the most fundamental truths and say, “What are we sure is true?” … and then reason up from there.” Because the stock market value of the material constituents of batteries was much lower than expected Elon found that batteries could be produced much cheaper than anyone else realised. This approach forces you to test every assumption, which in turn can lead to billion-dollar ideas. For example, why is it that we pay banks massive exchange rates on international transfers? Reasoning from first principle, the founders of Transferwise discovered a real opportunity here.

3. Build things you need

For Paul Graham (founder of YCombinator), looking for things you need is the place to start finding ideas. What’s interesting about building something you need is that it’s probably going to be something a lot of other people need. Case in point, Amazon Web Services was created because of Amazon’s need for a more flexible and scalable software infrastructure. They soon realized that they weren’t the only ones who needed such an infrastructure. AWS now has a global footprint and generates over $7 billion/year in revenue for Amazon.