Part 5: Ways to found successful companies

Finding great ideas for a startup isn’t actually a picnic. Luckily, there are several ways to found successful companies and get great startup ideas. What varies is the experience you need to have and the ease of execution with different idea setups.

In this post, we will introduce different ways people get ideas for their companies using examples from our portfolio. This is the fifth part of Icebreaker’s Is my idea any f#%!ing good guide. The post will give you great insight as of its own piece, but you can also read parts one, two, three and four

When validating if ideas are great, you can look at the idea from the perspective of the picture above. You can start to solve a massive problem that a lot of people have without much industry expertise, but that doesn't really make the execution easy or the likelihood of success very high.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you are building on top of your own industry expertise and solving a problem on a field you know well, your chances look much better. You already have a professional network, links to potential clients and a deep understanding of your customers' needs. 

To be more concrete, we can take a look at the backgrounds of Icebreaker portfolio founders: how did they get their ideas?

1) Work experience

In 10 of the 25 portfolio companies founders based their idea on work experience, meaning they had identified the problem while working in a certain industry or job function. In many cases, the founders had very personal experiences with the problem they had identified – for example, Arne Schlenzka as a surgeon had identified that lack of sufficient training tools for surgeons causes a lot of issues.

2) Entrepreneurship in the domain

In three cases, founders had been more traditional entrepreneurs in their domain, not really looking for scalable growth. Kalle Salmi and Martti Suomela were already entrepreneurs in the real-estate sector while identifying the problems that aims to solve. Martim Gois, CEO of Valpas, was running a bed bug business when he got the idea for their product. The founders of UPGRD had a photography business and identified that the manual post-production phase could be automated.

3) Academic research

In three cases, founders based their company on research they had been doing for years.

4) Hobby 

Two of Icebreaker’s portfolio companies have been based on a (serious) hobby. For example, Terramonitor’s CTO Lauri Häme had spent a lot of his free time studying and analyzing satellite and space data before coming up with the idea for Terramonitor.

5) Pivot 

In one of Icebreaker’s portfolio companies, the founder was solving a problem he thought would be massive. After working with that problem for a while he identified an even bigger problem from the same domain and decided to start solving that instead.

This part hopefully has helped you to know where to look for ideas if you don’t have one already and give you some understanding on how the idea can add on your likelihood of success.

Read part 6 ››

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