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Ways to come up with startup ideas – Find a boring problem to solve

Posted on:February 21, 2024

One night, after a long day full of meetings and tough work, my colleague and I commisserated. He said, “I just want to find a boring problem to solve.” He went on, “There are all these boring ideas that make great businesses because they’re essential. People actually need the solution to the problems, and don’t want to do it themselves, so they’ll pay for them.” His words have stuck with me ever since because they were so incredibly true.

People love starting companies around exciting things regardless of whether they’ll work out. So they go after futuristic technology – the rocket ships, AI products, games, entertainment, and other stuff that’s never been done before. They go after the fun! But a lot of fun doesn’t pay the bills.

Exciting companies often fail. Quibi and MoviePass were fun but failed. Segways are fun but never took off. The gaming company 38 Studios was fun too but burned through cash at an astonishing rate and went belly up. Fun is fast and trendy, but what’s cool today won’t be cool tomorrow.

On the other hand, boring problmes are often familiar, always there, and need solutions. Customers need a solution today, need a solution tomorrow, and when they go out of business because they were too busy having fun, will have the same boring problems to solve all over again at the next company.

But that’s not the only advantage of choosing boring over fun. Cool ideas are easier to think of and more enjoyable to work on, attracting more competition. But boring things that aren’t as fun to think about are waiting to be solved by someone willing to put in the effort.

Consider these companies: Stripe processes online payments; DocuSign allows electronic document signing; Square lets businesses accept credit card payments; Intuit creates finance and tax software; Rippling offers software for managing payroll and benefits. I just fell asleep while writing that! But you know what these companies have in common? They’re all worth billions.

Exciting things can crash and burn, while boring ideas can be hidden business gems that nobody else is thinking about.