In short, effective methods to come up with product ideas can be categorized along two dimensions:
Most of the books that I want to read during my Bootstrap MBA experiment focus on just one specific topic. This makes sense because book that cover too many topics usually don’t go deep enough to be useful. However, I thought that it wouldn’t hurt to read at least one “general purpose” book that covers a lot of ground and thus can give me some orientation at the beginning of my journey. Initially, I decided to read Pieter Level’s book MAKE which is subtitled “The Bootstrapper’s Handbook” and has gathered a lot of praise in the maker community.
One of the first books I read on bootstrapping is MAKE by Pieter Levels. Pieter promises to share the techniques that allowed him to build two highly successful products (Nomad List and RemoteOK) that bring in more than $80.000 each month. In addition to sharing actionable advice he wants to encourage others to try the bootstrapped way of building businesses. In his words:
I recently decided that I want to learn Rails. Since everyone keeps raving about it, I used Michael Hartl’s Rails Tutorial. While the tutorial was helpful, I felt as if something immensely important was missing from it.
Choosing a tech stack and making sense of the web devlopment landscape (from a bootstrap entrepreneurial perspective)
I’ve wanted to learn how to develop proper web apps for several years now. But what has stopped me so far is that there are so many options, and I was never sure what exactly I should learn. In particular, what I’ve been missing is a proper overview of the various players in the field and how they interact.
(Credit where credit is due: the distinction between websites as self-invention machines and self-promotion machines is due to Austin Kleon.)
My next twelve months will be dedicated to a single meta-framework that I call the Bootstrap MBA. This name makes sense for two reasons:
A huge challenge everyone who decides to be self-employed needs to face is that there are suddenly no constraints. At school, university, or work, there are always deadlines and you had to carry pre-specified work using a pre-defined toolbox. But if you’re self employed, you can build anything, work on any project, using any tool, framework, or programming language.
Insights are one of the things that give us a sense of meaning in life. The more patterns we recognize and the more insights we have, the more meaningful our life feels. From an evolutionary point of view, our desire for pattern recognition and insights makes a lot of sense. The more you understand the higher your survival chances.
Information overload is not a real problem. Information is just prettified data and only slightly less boring. Hence, almost no one really cares about information and whether or not there’s too much of it.
The broken window theory: “Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. [Such visible signs of crime] create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes.”
As I’ve mentioned in my humble business ideation article, one of the best strategies for humble entrepreneurs without a huge marketing budget is to bet on trends. Big companies are typically too slow to move quickly enough. And if a market is still small when you enter it, it will be much easier to get the attention of customers. When the market then explodes, your business will grow accordingly. This way, “the market you’re in will determine most of your growth,” to quote Sahil Lavingia.
The easiest way to convince someone to pay for your product is by arguing how much more money they’ll earn or save by using your solution. If your product costs $30 per month and each customers makes or saves on average $300 through your product, the buying decision becomes a no-brainer.
Society moves in waves. It always starts with lots of separate things. Then they get bundled. After a while, more and more people start to realize that the bundled solution is too bloated and not specific enough for their needs. This is when an unbundling happens.
Don’t look for clever ideas and don’t ask people what they want. Instead, just follow the money.
The number one reason that’s stopping aspiring software entrepreneurs is the thought that they’ll eventually have to build the product they envision and have no idea how to make it happen.
One area of my life I struggled with for a long time is education. I love to learn but what I’ve been doing for a long time was far from systematic. I picked books at random. I mostly restricted myself to purely passive reading. I didn’t interact with other people that are interested in the same topic.
Let’s say you’ve successfully found an idea to solve a painful problem in a healthy market with some but not too much competition. What’s next?
Before we can generate and evaluate business ideas, we need to answer the question: what type of business do you want to build? This question is important because many ideas are not bad per se. Instead, they’re just bad if you want to build a particular kind of business.