The Startup Idea Matrix

I meet a lot of people who are interested in starting a company, but haven’t found an idea they are excited to work on for the next 5 to 10 years.

I generally think it is smart to have patience in finding an idea that pulls you in: a market or opportunity you can’t imagine not pursuing. Patience in the near-term will save you a lot of time in the long-term.

However, I’ve found one way to find this idea is to gain broad exposure to different markets until a specific opportunity and mission stands out to you. Of course that is where the real work begins: auditing the industry, talking to customers, learning about its history, and understanding the pain points to validate the idea.

To help with the brainstorming part of the journey, I’ve put together a matrix that outlines various consumer markets as well as tactics a company can take to bring a unique product to the market. Credit to Chris Dixon who showed me this format a few years ago.

This matrix is for consumer opportunities, but if people like it I’ll make one for B2B opportunities. The format could even be applied to one specific market like media to reveal a wider range of opportunities.

I’ve filled in some of the cells with startups that fit the themes. This is by no means exhaustive (and a company could fit in more than one category), but including existing companies helps ground the ideas in reality and makes it easier to draw connections.

To view the matrix, you can follow this link.

Think of this less as a map and more as a starting point for creativity. It probably won’t give you the next billion dollar idea, but might spark a line of thinking that brings you to one.

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