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How to have and prioritise ideas?

ideas, startup4 min read

When you're a maker, you probably have at least one of these problems:

  • You have no ideas.
  • You have too many ideas. But not enough time to work on all of them.

I've been many times in that position.

That's why I want to design a system to come up and prioritise my ideas. I'm going to take Paul Graham's ideas types: organic and necessary ideas. From this classification, I'll list the problems I have from my daily and professional life. Finally, I'll explain the management matrix that I'll use to prioritise ideas.

How do you come up with startup ideas? From the great Paul Graham

The best way to come up with startup ideas is to ask yourself the question: what do you wish someone would make for you?

He divides the different startups ideas in two:

  • The ones that grow organically from your own life.
  • The ones that you decide, from afar, that are going to be necessary to some class of users other than you.

Let's make this exercise together. I'll write my ideas and categorise them following Paul's classification. We can prioritise them with management matrix. This way we'll check if the system to come up and prioritise ideas is valid.

What's missing or broken in your daily life?

Have you ever wished for someone else to build a product for you? That's the purpose of this question. You might think that building something for only one person is silly. But here are some advantages:

  • You already know there's a real problem.
  • You already have a user (you!).

Here are my real life problems:

  • Passport: I think this is the biggest one for me in my life currently. The Venezuelan embassy is unreliable and it's offering only extensions to my old passport. This makes things really hard to do sometimes.
  • Visa: If you're not an EU citizen, you need to ask for a visa for different countries.
  • Money: Receiving and sending money in Venezuela is really hard. Especially for people who don't have an international account.
  • Local Time Zone: When you have friends scattered around the world is hard to coordinate and maintain a communication.
  • Finding a flat: There are many loops that people need to pass in order to have a flat in Germany. Also, Immobilienscout is a joke. Can you change the Market Dynamics? Will the landlord always have power? Can we have a system that will allow you to have multiple options all the time?
  • Discover Music: I don't want to be social on Spotify nor only talk about music in 4chan. It would be nice to have a HackerNews for music. Also Streaming sucks.
  • Paleo Recipes: Find new and easy to make Paleo food.
  • Pocket Clone but good: Only links, be able to read from computer to phone.
  • A decent idea board This is probably one of the hardest problems. I've seen people using Trello or Google Keep but I've neever been happy with the alternatives.
  • A decent collaboration tool for chat Microsoft Teams and Slack are still not there. There's something missing.
  • Whiteboard Have you ever used a decent Whiteboard application with people? Write me if you have.
  • Tandem App I'd like to help and be helped while learning a new language.
  • Write Tweets as if it were a Github project. You can think of a Twitter account as a state of tweets. If you change a particular project then the application would change the state on a regular basis.

Ideas that are going to be necessary.

There are some risks involved with working with ideas that you think are necessary. For example:

  • You need to have domain knowledge from the problem.
  • You need to have a group of potential customers who are interested in solving the problem.
  • You need to validate if these people will pay for your product.

These are all the things I've noticed that people miss. For Rocket Launcher and the resource optimisation tool I've had several talks with CEOs, CTOs and System Administrators from tech companies. For the other ideas it's just a hunch.

  • Rocket Launcher. I believe that we need a standardized CI/CD solution for small and medium companies to use. Think convention over configuration.
  • Resource optimisation for Cloud One of the greatest challenges of maintaining a cloud infrastructure is to have everything in check and optimising for the price.
  • Profile-less Dating App The major problem I see with traditional dating sites is the need of having a profile. Would be nice to meet people without having a description of yourself.
  • Create a CI/CD with a README.md file READMEs are outdated constantly. If we can have a relationship between the README and the CI/CD pipeline then we'll always have an updated documentation.

Model to Prioritise my ideas

Let's organise the list of ideas we can work on. I'm going to use the prioritisation matrix taken from my buddy Fabio Ferrari. Finally, I'll summarise everything with a small list of projects I'll work on my 12 Startups in 12 Months idea.

So how to prioritise my ideas? I'll consider 2 variables:

  • How important is this idea for me? I want to write apps that will make me proud in the future. Something I can use in my day-to-day life.
  • Can I actually pull it off? Shipping and finishing a software product is a skill. Overambitious projects are great but I just want to invest one month to: finish a minimum viable product, promote it, and get feedback. Therefore, I need to be really focused here.

This can be expressed in a simple Excel Sheet:

prioritise-list

I'll take the ideas that are really important for me and I can pull it off easily. A five out of five.

Here's the finished table:

finished-list

Once I sum the scores from the headers, we get the following:

7654
Rocket LauncherMoney SendingPaleoIdea Board
Flat RentalWhiteboardCI/CD Readme
Music ShareProfile-less DateTweets
Pocket CloneChat Collaboration
Tandem
Local Time Zone

So I can choose from all the 7-score problems. I've already started with RocketLauncher (if you haven't noticed). I'll go from easy to solve to hard:

  • Pocket Clone App
  • Music Share App
  • Flat Rental Problem

So there you go! This is a simple way of organising ideas. It only considers 2 variables: importance and easiness.

If you want to follow a similar approach here's a link to the template:

Priority Template

Conclusion

How do you have and prioritise ideas? The process can be summarised in these steps:

  • Ask yourself what's missing in your life?
  • Ask which product is missing for a certain group of people?
  • Organise these list in a management matrix with 2 variables: attainability and personal importance.

You'll be able to take the most relevant and start working on them. Good luck!

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