I recently shut down my product business after five years of effort. I’m now turning my attention to trying to come up with my next idea, taking care not to head down a path that’s going to burn another five years fruitlessly.
When it comes to detecting a good business idea, I’m familiar with the advice to talk to people and try to find out what their problems are. Maybe this tactic really does work for people but so far just confuses the person I’m talking to and makes me feel like a weirdo.
I think part of my problem is that a software product could serve any industry at all, and so I have to just arbitrarily pick an industry out of all the industries in the world, which is hard.
So a thought occurred to me today that maybe I can use my interests as a starting point. I’m not a member of the “follow your passion” camp. (I don’t imagine patio11 was passionate about bingo cards or appointment reminders.) On the other hand, I can see some value in at least being somewhat interested in the domain in which you’re working. My last product was scheduling software for hair salons, and not only am I not interested in hair at all but the about only thing I have in common with most hairstylists is that we’re both homo sapiens.
And let me be clear: I realize that I should try to detect what people want to buy and then give them that, rather than decide what I want to build and then see who might want it. My thought here is that I can use my own interests as a launching off point in embarking on market research.
So here are some of my interests, in rough order of strength:
- Cars (especially BMW)
- Legos (especially Technic)
And here are some thoughts on each:
Music: Every dumbass in the world wants to do a music startup. I probably better not waste my time with this one.
Art: Maybe? I actually don’t know much about art or the business of art, I just know that I like to draw and that art is just something I generally enjoy.
Skateboarding: I don’t know what kind of opportunities might exist in the skateboarding industry. One advantage here is that since I used to skate, I can talk intelligently with skateboarders, I’m familiar with prominent skate companies and pro skaters, etc. This is in contrast to the beauty industry where I knew nothing and didn’t particularly care to learn.
Cars: This is obviously a huge industry with fucktons of money flowing through it. I also don’t know a whole ton about cars beyond the fact that I like Top Gear and I subscribe to Car & Driver and one time I drove a Ferrari and it was awesome. My favorite kind of car is BMW. I don’t know if that helps me get pointed in a direction at all or not.
Pool: Pool has become a hobby for me lately. I know nothing about the pool industry but I find pool to be interesting.
Legos: I could play Legos all day every day for the rest of my life. I know it can be dangerous to base a whole business on the back of some other single business. You don’t want to be dependent on someone else’s whims. But I also imagine it could be done in a safe way, like if a person were to write a book about Legos. I’m not going to write a book about Legos, though. I would want to use my existing skills.
I think that’s about as far as I can get myself with this idea, at least for right now. What I think I’m missing is the next step. If I were to choose to pursue something in the auto industry, I guess I would go ask people in the auto industry what problems they have or something, but how? Go to a dealership? The guys there who are available to talk are probably too low on the totem pole to answer me in a meaningful way or even understand where I’m coming from.
I’m totally lost and could use some help. I’ve been trying to come up with a product business idea for eight years. I’ve made six attempts at a product business in those eight years, all failures. Something is clearly wrong with my approach but I can’t figure out what.