You Want to Build a Startup But Have No Ideas: How to Come Up With One, in 3 Steps

I’m probably going to get a lot of shit for this article from people who believe that there is no format that everyone can follow to come up with good business ideas. I also bet that a lot of entrepreneurs that clicked this article are thinking, “oh, boy... here we go”. They’re right. There isn’t a guide that 100% of the world’s population can follow so nobody writes about it. However, the steps outlined below are what have worked very well for me and guess what... I’m writing about it.

I firmly believe that if you follow my steps, you too can come up with not just great new business ideas, but also better marketing strategies, slogans, ads, brand names and also open yourself to a whole new world of opportunities.

This system has worked for me very well but more on that later. To date, I’ve come up with several innovative business ideas that I jot down even as I work on my current startup. I wish I could share them with you but, if I did, I’d probably have to kill you :)

To all the people that say they want to work on a startup but have no ideas. This one is for you.

Step 1. Get In The Right Mindset

To be able to see opportunities where they exist you need to have the right state of mind. You shouldn’t be going about your day thinking about nothing else except the bills that are due at the end of the month, your divorce, your job that you hate so much, the weeds you need to pull out of your garden, all the things that need to get fixed around the house, or how the comment your friend posted on Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/Instragram pissed you off so much. These are all mental viruses that will completely clog your thinking and will EASILY allow opportunities to walk right past you without you even noticing.

Get rid of them ASAP. Do whatever it legally and morally takes to solve these issues so you can stop thinking about them. That might mean finally going out to pull the weeds in your garden, hiring someone to handle your divorce, getting a new job, or blocking some people on social media. Just get it done.

Afterwards, if you still find yourself constantly having negative thoughts and just walking around like a ol’ big grump, mentally yell to yourself “STOP” right at that moment and be present. Observe and listen to your surroundings and check in with your physical self.

Let me emphasize those two points.

  1. Yell “STOP”. People do not talk to themselves enough. That might sound crazy at first but it’s really not. We talk to ourselves all the time but we do so to complain or express unhappiness about something MORE often than talk to ourselves to express praise or appreciation. How is that healthy?
  • “Ugh, this $#@%* traffic!”
  • “OMG this weather sucks!”
  • “That guy is such a #$%$^@!”

Are you more likely to think similar thoughts or are you more likely to think their opposites? Hey, it’s normal. Many of us do it but it’s not healthy for you to just constantly be in this state of mind 16 hours a day.

Next time you’re having a negative thought while doing whatever it is you should be focused on. Mentally yell, “stop”, and...

2. Be present. Stop worrying so much about the hundreds of things you’ve got going on in your life. Yes, I know that can be very difficult but it’s extremely healthy for you to take time off every day (or at least 2 times a week) to meditate. By meditation I don’t mean going full Yoda or anything like that but, meditation can consist of almost anything: a walk in the park, working out at a gym, jogging/running, biking somewhere, traveling, drawing/painting, writing music, or even sitting alone on your living room couch (no TV). Heck, just download a free puzzle or coloring book app on your tablet/phone and use them 10–15 mins a day. The point is to take time off by yourself and with zero distractions to refocus your thoughts and clear your mind.

(PS: If you think getting a coloring book or puzzle is silly, read why coloring could be the new alternative to meditation and how puzzles help the mind)

Personally, I use the Headspace app (no affiliation) and, when it’s warm out, I like to have a picnic with just me and my dog. Cellphone on silent.

By meditating you will train your mind to be more present and by being more present you will be able to see opportunities (startup ideas, romantic encounters, potential business partnerships, etc) a lot easier.

I also quit watching television news about 13 years ago. *GASP* Yes, it’s possible.

Television news does nothing for me except fill my mind with negative and biased information. In today’s world, I can count on Facebook, Whatsapp, Reddit, Twitter and more to give me the most important information that’s directly relevant to me.

However, that’s just my approach.

Step 2. Surround Yourself With Creative Thinkers and Successful People

Once you are able to put yourself a clear mental state, begin to engulf your mind with the ideas and creativity of successful people and great thinkers that you admire.

For me that’s mainly Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Tim Ferriss, Gary Vaynerchuk, Mark Cuban, Daymond John, and Peter Thiel. I don’t personally know any of them (I wish I did though!) but I don’t have to. As long as I actively engage my mind with the massive amount of content they continue to produce (books, online videos or courses, podcasts, social media posts, interviews, etc), I can begin to learn and see new things from a different and potentially greater perspective than mine.

By reading/listening to/watching content from successful business people and innovative thinkers, you’re also opening up your mind to new ideas and that will get the mental gears of creativity spinning which will help you think of the next problem your future startup will solve.

See, one great thing about us humans is that we’re all raised differently due to our environment. The environment in which we are raised poses unique problems, situations, thought processes, mannerisms, morals, etc so the way in which we think about how to solve life’s challenges is always unique. When we learn about something new one may think, “what a minute… that doesn’t make sense. Why are you doing it this way?”

For example, I was born in New York. I was mostly raised there but I also lived in the Dominican Republic during my teenage years, the most important years for any kid growing up. I’ve been presented with various challenges and have seen so many things that many people can’t even imagine. Now, I live in Europe and, because of my upbringing, I see certain things from a completely different perspective than that of many people who were raised here all their lives. This allows me to come up with new solutions to the same problems that people deal with here on a daily basis. Who knows… maybe I’ll be the next Bill Gates of Europe some day.

Step 3. Stop Thinking of The Next Startup Idea

No, it’s not a joke and, yes, it sounds counter-intuitive but it’s the best way.

Read this section carefully.

If you sit there and actively think about what your next startup should be, you’re going to settle with whatever sounds best. You’ll settle with an idea just because you can’t think of anything better. Why would you devote the incredible amount of time and effort that a startup requires to an idea that is not potentially your best??? I don’t care how desperate you are to be an entrepreneur. Don’t waste your time on a startup idea you settled for when you could be working on something GREAT.

Instead, keep the thought of starting a business in the back of your mind but, be present in your daily life and fully engage yourself in whatever it is you are doing and the next startup idea may just come to you.

The founders of AirBnB didn’t come up with the idea for their 25 billion dollar business by sitting in a room together and saying to each other, “yea, sooooo… what should we work on, bro?” No! They were struggling to pay rent and when all hotels were booked due to a large conference in their city, they rented three airbeds in their living room and THAT is how they came up with the idea for AirBnB.

Same with Microsoft, Apple, Google, and many others. The ideas for these innovative businesses came about because, at the time, the founders were actually experiencing a specific problem and they wanted to solve it. This is how you come up with a Zero to One business. Damn how I wish I could just highlight that last sentence in bright neon yellow and just have your printer automatically print 100 copies of it.


How all of this ties together.

By being in the right mindset you’re able to see opportunities as they come. Those opportunities may consist of actual business ideas or something that will lead you to the next startup idea.

When you are in the right mindset, you can begin to slowly crank that mental gear that allows you to think creatively by surrounding yourself with innovative and successful business people and/or thinkers.

Then, when you are presented with a challenge, you may be able to see it as an opportunity and come up with a unique solution.

By the way, when you think of a startup idea..

Google it! See if anyone else is doing what you want to do. Analyze your potential competition. What would your product/service offer that’s different? Is it worth competing?

In my opinion, competing is never worth it unless you’re bringing in a complete game changer. Competing distracts you from seeing new potential opportunities because you’re too busy trying to win one over and spying on other companies. That’s how innovative companies come in and sweep the rug out from under the feet of other companies. Think what you want and even hire a whole R&D team whose purpose is to be “innovative”, but you cannot be innovative while competing at the same time. Period. But that’s a topic for another day.

How all of this has worked for me.

I was always an entrepreneur but I didn’t realize it until I moved to Europe. When I moved here after completing my college education in the US, I began to go through an existential crisis. I began to question the very foundations of who I was and my beliefs, the decisions that I have made in my life, and the people I have chosen to surround myself with. All of this may sound scary as heck and that’s because it truly is. Some people even end up committing suicide over it.

This new perspective allowed me to realize that I needed to make changes in my life. I realized that I wanted to explore the world and not sit in an office cubicle for the rest of my life.

So I began to be genuinely interested in science, entrepreneurship, the lives of successful business people, the daring risks taken by the first explorers of our world, and the history of how the world is what it is today.

My mind became an incredibly well oiled ENGINE for creativity.

I started taking up dance classes, reading, traveling, and doing so many things that I wanted to do just because I wanted to do them. It was my way of fueling my creativity and adding more value to my personal mental health.

Then one day as I was walking back to work from my lunch break I began to mentally talk to myself about how I missed certain things about the city I used to live in before moving to Europe. Every weekend, that city would host a local street market that I loved so I said to myself, “why do I love that market so much? Why isn’t that market available here? Why can’t I just go online somewhere and experience THAT market?”

That’s when I literally stopped in my tracks, felt like the world had suddenly frozen around me, and said to myself, “holy… shit.”. That is the exact moment that I came up with the idea for my startup. I saw it as an opportunity and wanted to come up with a solution for it. So I did.

If you want to check it out, the website is VendemoMarket.com. Feel free to follow me on Twitter to see where where it goes and to get more tips as I publish them. I love tweeting with my readers so if you need any help getting a step in the right direction for your next startup idea just send me a tweet. Yes, I respond personally to all of my followers :)


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