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Organic Startup Ideas (paulgraham.com)
273 points by adamc on April 15, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 105 comments

I don't know if the Gates/Basic example is really organic.

I happened to be hacking late at night on the same Harv-10 machine in the old CRCT machine room (now gone, replaced by the Gates/Ballmer cheese wedge building), during the period where Gates was building his 8080 assembler/linker/simulator and developing Basic using those tools. (I do remember teasing him about toy computers at the time.)

My impression was that he wasn't trying to actually use the Basic himself, but saw that for these hobbyist computers to make any headway, they were going to need a higher-level language. He was already a very proficient 4004/8008/8080 assembler hacker and a PDP-10 assembler whiz.

I.e., his Basic development was not organic but fairly coldly calculated as an obvious business effort.

(He was "yay close" to being expunged from Harvard (worse than being expelled) for using their research machines for profit, and he had to give back the $10K that MITS had advanced him. 'Twas a bit unfair, as I saw several different commercial efforts running off that same machine (all of them late-night denizens of the computer room like me), and no one ever squawked about them.)

I'd just like to point out how astonishingly cool it is that we get to read first-hand comments like this.

Well, I think Gates ended up having the last laugh ;) He's actually worth more than Harvard's endowment.

Yes, especially since Harvard's endowment (already down 30% or more) is wildly overstated due to all the illiquid assets they own.

Quoted as $5 billion in real estate alone. Given the market you can assume -20 to -30% at least on most RE portfolios.

I was thinking more of the whole derivatives scam they were partially responsible for cooking up in the first place.

Those are clearly worthless, and account for a big chunk of the endowment.

They just can't bring themselves to admit it yet.

[Edit] I guess I'm shedding crocodile tears for them. I've no love lost for my alma mater, which, while academically valuable, is really nothing more than a soulless multinational corporation. They long ago gave up any semblance of trying to actually educate the whole man.

I think I'll have to disagree.

Organic Startups have one huge advantage: They're significantly easier to build.

Organic Startups have one huge disadvantage: They're significantly easier to build.

The space for people-like-me startups is severely crowded due to an over-abundance of people scratching their own itch. On the other hand, markets that are the diametric opposite of silicon-valley-tech are ripe for the picking by any halfway competent team. Look at Club Penguin, acquired for $700M, all because they focused an "unsexy" niche.

The second type of startup is harder to build but it's not that much harder to build. More importantly, it's variably harder to build.

Some people are going to be naturals at it and not see what the big fuss is all about. Others will never have the necessary social intelligence. But the vast, vast majority of people will suck at it to begin with but then get better the more they try.

I've always been a big proponent of taking the road less taken. While every other uber-hacker is learning erlang & haskell, why not learn how to become better at designing for people who are not yourself?

The space for people-like-me startups is severely crowded due to an over-abundance of people scratching their own itch.

Empirically that doesn't seem to be true. E.g. there were not a lot of other startups doing Facebook at the same time as Mark. A couple, but not a lot.

Probably the reason is the point I mentioned in the essay: most people ignore their itches because they don't seem good enough sources of ideas.

Ironically, if people start doing what I suggest, it could cause what you're claiming to become true. But we can cross that bridge when we come to it.

there were not a lot of other startups doing Facebook at the same time as Mark.

Actually, I'd say there were. Not "doing Facebook", but scratching the same itch Mark was, which is connecting students on campuses. Some of them failed, some went in different directions -- Facebook itself has grown into what it is over the years.

Incidentally, Zuckerberg wasn't scratching his own itch; he took the idea of some other students who's site he was supposedly was helping them to build, and ran with/stole/took 'inspiration from' (depending on your point of view) the idea himself.



It's quite a Microsoft-esque tatic I think, i.e. of questionable morals, but potentially a great business move.

OK, so someone was scratching their own itch..

I'm not sure what went through Mark Zuckerberg's head, but I imagine he felt he could do a better job than ConnectU and was compelled to do so.

>>....he felt he could do a better job than ConnectU and was compelled to do so

If you are aware of the background to the story, it seems like he gave the impression to two fellow Harvard students that he would help them build an internal dating site for Harvard, but some time into the project he decided to stop communicating with them and used the code for what would eventually become Facebook.

"Look at Club Penguin, acquired for $700M, all because they focused an "unsexy" niche."

I believe all the club penguin founders had children so I'd say it probably qualified as an organic startup (in the sense pg uses the term)

I actually know something about this! My son's best friend's mother's sister's best friend (hmm, I think that's right) is the wife of the guy who started Club Penguin. He started it because he couldn't find anything good for his daughter to play at online. So yes, it was a classic organic startup. It matches the description in another way, too: no one would take it seriously. He tried to get the guys at the ISP he worked for to buy into it and they wouldn't. It was only once it took off with children that anybody gave it the time of day.

When something proposed as a counterexample turns out on inspection to be a classic case, I consider that pretty good evidence for a model.

I have to agree with pg. There's an abundance of itches out there waiting to be scratched. Just build something that scratches an itch not common among hackers.

Not all hackers have the same itches. Also, easier to build != less valuable.

The other thing is that there is a continuum between yourself and random people: yourself - family - friends - coworkers - acquaintances - random people.

And so even if hackers had similar needs/wants (still doubtful to me), it's very unlikely that their family and friends would all also have similar needs.

Curiously, PG has mentioned this before in a few essays, but for some reason omits it here.

What is getting good at designing stuff for others?

A central part of it is being able to put yourself in other's shoes. You can do that by already being in their shoes (designing for yourself), physically putting yourself in their shoes (becoming a direct marketer) or do it empathetically.

I agree that it's harder as you go down that path. But it is interesting that they are all relying on the same thing. You either design for yourself or you simulate designing for yourself.

Another point that's important to raise is that, if you have aspirations for your product to grow in number of users, it also has to grow in diversity of users.

At some point, the institution as a whole has to gain the ability to design for others or be relegated into a ghetto (cf: Crossing the chasm).

Now, a reasonable argument could be made that by the time this happens, it'll be possible to hire talent to help you scale, diversity wise. It's certainly possible but I wouldn't call it easy.

OTOH, I thinking baking in the assumption that you-are-not-your-user at the very early stages of the corporate culture makes that transition process significantly easier.

You have a point, but I still think it makes sense initially to build something that's just good enough for yourself. The you-are-not-your-user realization happens quickly after you get users who are not you.

Ease to build is important. Linkedin founder once said: software startup is about building the simplest thing which has a market. The power of organic ideas is that it is just less mental energy to start building it and ship it! Simplicity is beautiful and realistic. It takes several years to grow an idea to a real success. So the idea has to be simple, interesting and beautiful.

Actually, I don't think that the latter kind is harder to build -- sometimes it might be easier. What is more difficult is defining a solution for a problem someone else has; but in that case make sure you have one of those "someone elses" on board.

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

I don't believe this anymore.

After 4 years of trying to follow this advice, and building 4 different web applications that were things "I wish someone would make." I've given up on following PGs advice. Perhaps I'm an anomaly, but I'm fairly sure I'm not as there are so many startups out there that all try to solve the same handful of problems, and fail.

Most of us are developers, and we have a set number of 'tasks' that seem like they should be something you could build a business out of and so we all try to do them. Task Management, Project Management, Time Tracking, Social communication, etc. There are obviously winners in this space but they are established, and it is extremely difficult for a small group of developers to come along and decide to 'solve' one of those problems.

Maybe I'm just not interesting enough, I'll admit that is possible, but I've found much greater success by building applications that people tell me they want, and pay me to build.

I also don't have a billion dollar startup, so don't listen to me, but I couldn't let another article get by with espousing the virtues of just 'building what you like' without saying something.


Most of us are developers, and we have a set number of 'tasks' that seem like they should be something you could build a business out of and so we all try to do them. Task Management, Project Management, Time Tracking, Social communication, etc.

Good god no, don't do that! Task management, project management and time tracking all severely fail the "will it get my users laid" test.

Take some time to pick up a few hobbies and interests that don't involve programming. This will improve your life in general, and it won't be long before you see how badly computers suck for people who aren't engineers. Soon you'll see dozens of ways you can use software to make things better, and a few of them might just be the kind of thing you could make into a business.

There is actively asking yourself what you wish someone would build, and there is telling yourself something doesn't exist because it isn't defined 100% the way you would define it.

The difference is where your failure lies I think (of course I don't know you; just inferring from your comment).

It could be highly possible that you don't in fact have any critical problem that hasn't been addressed in a worthwhile way already by someone else. This is certainly true if you are young and a student.

I can guarantee you however that you simply won't be able to say this the moment you get into business. There are so many things that businesses need - from general to niche - that an inquisitive mind couldn't possibly ignore.

Perhaps the key is not trying to think of something you need right now, because your right now is saturated and complete. Perhaps what you need to do is enter the workforce in an area that interests you and make their problems yours.

This makes a ton of sense and finding an organic idea is often what I tell people to do when they're thinking about a startup. Few reasons:

- Doing a startup is like an iron man competition. When there's something you want to see built, there's that extra incentive to keep going. If you don't finish, you don't get the thing that you wanted. Steve Jobs said it best in his interview at D5 with BillG. Any sane person would give up, but if you really want to see what you're building exist in the world, you'll keep going.

- Usually the organic idea stems from some kind of domain expertise ie- If you used to work in the fashion sector, you recognize severely broken things that are amazingly obvious from spending so much time there. If you didn't work in the Fashion industry you would have no clue these things exist.

- You'll be able to find co-founders more easily. If you've spent time in a certain sector with a problem you're trying to solve, odds are a) you know people in that space really well b) they therefore know that vertical well c) they will recognize the problem as well.

Don't make something people want, but make something you want. Odds are there will be a good amount of other people like you out there. My first startup was a non organic idea. We were trying to make SaaS for PR professionals because it seemed like a good opportunity. Honest truth? I was never a PR professional and didn't really give two shits if PR professionals had good software. I could live if that itch wasn't scratched. Ironically, this failure spawned what is an Organic startup that i'm currently working on with Cloudomatic by helping SaaS developers get distribution. Life works in funny ways.

This from you: "Any sane person would give up, but if you really want to see what you're building exist in the world, you'll keep going"

and this from pg: "There's nothing more valuable than an unmet need that is just becoming fixable"

are, in my experience, both true in science as well, and are useful heuristics for what to work on.

"We were trying to make SaaS for PR professionals because it seemed like a good opportunity."

What was your strategy for figuring out what PR professionals wanted?

So here's the backstory:

Publictivity originally started out as an organic startup- theWeblogWire, which was meant to connect startups and bloggers together. You wanted to launch something, we would make sure bloggers got it. We had a really successful launch (mashable, front page of digg, lifehacker, downloadsquad,etc. for press and we had bloggers from: all of gawker, weblogs inc, techcrunch,mashable,etc.). There were even paying customers too! We had been invited out to the valley to meet a bunch of important people that wanted to help us/advise us/etc.

Shortly thereafter, one of the cofounders Frank, went to someone he knew from way back in the day. His friend was the cofounder of pr firm. They thought what we were doing was great and gave us a bit of office space. One day the owner pops in and says: we need this software for PR! and we'll give you money to build it. This was the point Publictivity was born. We (stupidly beyond belief) shuttered theweblogwire for Publictivity, because it made sense to concentrate on only one thing + software seemed like a better startup path. We spent about two months in their offices so we were close to feedback and took meetings every few weeks to get feedback on how the "PR process" worked. We ourselves were clueless on Public Relations from a firm standpoint. We knew how it worked according to being a startup, but that's a fairly different process.

In hindsight, knowing what I now know just from startup experience, I would have never started down the path of Publictivity and continued onwards with theweblogwire. Why? theWeblogWire was meant to cure a need I really had.

So at what point did you know the publicity software was going to be a failure? What was the proximate cause of your doom?

It sounds like not being very good at this was their problem, which they realised.

OK, but I still want to hear what their strategy was. If I can't think of obvious ways to improve it then maybe organic really is the way to go.

I'm quite interested by Steve Blank's stuff on Customer Development.

My personal theory is that you can sometimes build profitable products, without being the customer, but you can't build great ones.

Microsoft and Apple seem to be two excellent examples. Apple's customer is Steve Jobs.

Are great products also greatly profitable?

To be honest I am mostly interested in making a profit.

Edit: If you're trying to give Microsoft as an example of a company that fails to make great products because it fails to use them, think again: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/62/microsoft.html It seems more likely that they just suck.

I am trying to do that,

They may use them internally, but I think a lot of their work is focussed on external users.

A tweak to increase the likelihood of profit might be to go from, "build something that you wish someone would build for you", to "build something that you would pay someone to build for you." The "pay" filter might be good at killing unprofitable ideas.

For example, Wozniak's idea meets the pay criteria. Facebook, Twitter, and most social apps don't. So they need more funding to bootstrap.

This makes a lot of sense, but for a lot of developers they might think of developer tools, since they're developers and developers use and like tools, which is an area that seems hard to sell in.

Hrm, that's true. I should add a caveat that it's hard to compete directly with open source software. You can build things for developers (e.g. Heroku), just so long as there's something you can charge for.

Edit: did.

I have sometimes wondered if I could sell sysprof (http://www.sysprof.com). It's an open source profiler for Linux, and as such anyone can just download it for free.

However, I could see embedded shops being willing to pay for it just so that (a) they have someone to call for support, and (b) it will continue to be developed.

A lot of open source software go down the route of having the software free, and paying for guaranteed support and/or funding developers directly in order to get their specific bugs and needs met faster. That's definitely a viable path; the question is, can you make more than just a salary on it? Some companies do, but then you have to get into hiring, managing people, which most hackers don't really have any interest in.

That's a great point. There's a good income to be made by developing tools for developers, just not the type of stellar growth that gets you mentioned on TV (unless you switch from developing for developers to developing for everyone, like Bill Gates and Paul Allen)

Github is a good example of this as well.

Perhaps that's a reason to have a non-technical (or at least non-programmer) co-founder; different perspectives, different life histories, different work histories.

Maybe the answer is to focus on the non-developer side of your life? What else do you do? Play games? Fly kites? What kind of things do you do socially? What about family? Do you have kids? Aging parents to care for? All of those might be areas to explore for ideas.

I know I am late to this thread, but building development tools for closed source products (.NET, etc.) is an easy way to make a living. Developers are easy to reach, don't demand glossy marketing and have a good sense of the time they can save with your tool. Two of my early startups were both development tools companies and they were both quickly profitable.

"This suggests a way to predict areas where Apple will be weak: things Steve Jobs doesn't use. E.g. I doubt he is much into gaming."

I'd agree with that given the initial insistence that native apps were unnecessary. Every sufficiently popular platform devolves into a vehicle for delivering games eventually. If he were a gamer, he would have known that.

I'm pretty sure the initial insistence "native apps were unnecessary" was just a cover story while the dev tools and app store were being finished.

Hmmm, I'm not sure I agree that every popular platform "devolves" into gaming if you're implying that gaming is a step backward.

I have fond memories playing games on my computer before computing was ever consider popular. Gaming got me into programming, not visa-versa, and even tech startups (my first real taste was a gaming startup). And, I'd argue that gaming has been a significant contributor to the speed at which modern computing has been adopted by consumers. Honestly, if it wasn't for games during the 80's and 90's, my upgrade cycle would have been significantly longer.

I said devolves because it becomes little more than a game delivery mechanism. Facebook is a great example of this. Take away games and it would look more like Myspace.

Every sufficiently popular platform devolves into a vehicle for delivering games eventually.

The Mac never has (not saying there are no games on it - just that they are pretty insignificant, unlike the iPhone where games are significant)

Two counter examples:

1. Mark Pincus was successful 3 out of 4 times he got funding.

2. Jim Clark is the only person in the world to create three billion dollar companies.

What I've read of them suggests that they were exploiting trends, not necessarily scratching itches.

> 2. Jim Clark is the only person in the world to create three billion dollar companies.

Didn't Marc Andreesen do this too? Or maybe Ning shouldn't be counted until it exits.

exploiting trends is the second type.

unfortunately none of Jim Clark's billion dollar companies are around today no matter how historically important they were.

I think PG's larger idea here is simply: "build what you know." And that is excellent advice.

Either build something that scratches your own itch, or if you're trying to solve somebody else's problem, understand that problem like it's your own.

My first funded start-up was an online English instruction website geared at students in East Asia. We had great software, a great idea, and the market was and still is huge, but I didn't learn English as a second language, and neither did my co-founder, and ultimately we just didn't understand the problem well enough from the user's point of view.

> we were comparatively old when we started the company (I was 30 and Robert Morris was 29)

How old are typical startup founders? Can 29 really be considered "old" in terms of founder age?

The ones who appear on Techcrunch are 20-25. The ones founding the businesses that don't get fawning press are well over 30.

I agree completely. The other point I guess is that if you build something that satisfies a need for you, you're far more likely to use it day in day out. Using your own product is extremely valuable, and it's surprising when you hear of businesses that don't use their own products - how will they know what needs fixing/improving etc.

And making something you want means you likely have a lot of knowledge already about the space. It's like an author being told "Write about your own experiences - write about what you know".

Also it really surprises me if someone is working at a big company 9-5, and doesn't have a side project. Get a side project all you people! It could turn into something other people want as well.

In part this is true, but I will add a third kind: ideas/startups that evolve.

Looking back at YouTube, PayPal or many others (now) most successful companies, their originally idea was completely different. PayPal changed 4 times during his first year, YouTube at the beginning was a video dating site. So, I think that another way to build huge companies is more in the ability of the founders to understand and iterate on first early adopters needs instead of "I need that" scenario. They have to be as fast as possible to change the product around what people want. But if they are fast enough a startup that looks a completely disaster at the beginning could turn into a gold mine.

Thinking about Slide; Max Levchin has changed the company proposition many times, or look at Airbnb, they were a renting couch website with the focus on the events and not on travelling, they changed that very fast and now they are just making a revolution into the world of travel.

The most important part, is to start, with the conscience that your company could change completely, and you have to accept that before it will be too late to fit the market.

Unrelated point, but this sort of evolution is expensive--you often have to throw away software and marketing efforts, and all you got in return was some knowledge about what users want. Might not it be possible to figure out more about what users want by thinking harder/interviewing them and avoid this waste?

I mean, you probably don't need to throw away all the software, but just a part of that, you have to modify that not to delete everything. About Marketing, I don't think that spend money in ads and stuff like that is a good idea. I prefer unconventional and cheaper ways to attract your early adopters, or at least at the beginning, (during first months). Only once you have found your first users, you have to find a way to scale the ROI with the lowest marketing investment, but again, I prefer unconventional stuff. Like Airbnb has made Obama and McCain cereal boxes to buzz the company name, and at that time they have found "already" their market.

Maybe. I don't think the idea is to avoid getting it right the first time. :-) I think the point is not to be afraid to evolve if you find out you didn't get it right initially.

Of course.

Tim O'Reilly came up with a colorful way to describe the same concept back in 1995: "fishing with strawberries". He explained how he ignored the tired business school cliché about how you should bait your hook with worms, rather than things that you personally find tasty.


Money quote: "But that's just what we've always done: gone fishing with strawberries. We've made a business by offering our customers what we ourselves want. And it's worked!"

I can relate to that. I get enormous personal value out of my little startup, most recently yesterday:


I really like the idea of not being too concerned with a problem seeming initially too small. A funny thing I've found about small problems is that they are almost always connected to other problems. If you can solve somebody's small problem really well, they'll be much more likely to give you a shot at their bigger problems.

The "toy" aspect may also be related to finding an under-served market - it may be a "toy" to someone is because he or she may be unaware of a huge need for the product.

I feel either this essay is targeted at young founders or there's just a general bias toward them at YC. Should mid-thirties founders even bother?

There just happens to be a natural connection between organic ideas and young founders.

We've funded lots of people in their 30s.

I think older founders might actually be at an advantage in some ways. Someone else in this thread mentioned that one of the problems with organic startup ideas is that so many aspiring startup founders have similar interests and are at similar stages in their life. Maybe that could be an advantage for older startup founders. They're more likely to have interests (and therefore itches to scratch) outside of the typically crowded startup scene. If my theory is correct, it'd also similarly be an advantage for organic startup founders who are woman, or who live far outside the valley, etc.

I guess mid-thirties should probably look at the other type of startups: those that you decide, from afar, are going to be necessary to some class of users other than you

Reminds me a lot of Steve Yegge's "Business Requirements are bullshit" blog post: http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2008/08/business-requirement...

Interesting to read that the focus for good ideas should be more towards organic ideas. But I would add in order to have a real impact the solution offered does need to solve a real problem where people are willing to pay for or do use the solution.

The best ideas are a combination - ideas that come out of consulting for a real business with a problem that the business will pay to solve. Like with the organic idea, the founder will have great original insight into the problem and possible solutions. But it avoids the trap of the organic ideas, in which developers all build the same type of "me too app" for people just like them.

Good to see more arguments on the 4th argument of "The 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups": Derivative Idea, where it was said "It seems like the best problems to solve are ones that affect you personally".

Which reminds me that the eassys really need some tagging, as there are very related "ideas" essays, but reaching out for google to remeber what was said and where takes more time than it should.

Summary: If you can't make something people want, because you don't know what that is, make something you want.

I am reminded of Steve Yegge's line "ONLY BUILD STUFF FOR YOURSELF" in his really long essay. http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2008/08/business-requirement...

I like what Gary Vaynerchuk had to say on this: http://vaynermedia.com/2009/11/build-an-application-even-if-...

I don't think Gary wrote that article.

It's hard to justify working on just an idea (rather than a startup) full time though. And not working full time undermines your ability to execute on the idea (since you're slower, less committed).

"It takes experience to predict what other people will want."

I'm pretty young. Will asking people what they want work?

Has there been any scientific research on the effectiveness of focus groups?

Don't ask what people want. Ask them what they do every day that they find really annoying or boring.

Best advice on the thread.

The current consensus seems to be that asking people what they want doesn't really work. Summarized in this quote from Henry Ford: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

I think people are reasonably good at going "It hurts when I do this", but terrible at working out what might fix their problems.

And sometimes they're so used to the way things are now they don't realise there's a problem in the first place.

"The current consensus seems to be that asking people what they want doesn't really work."

Who besides you and Henry Ford is participating in this consensus? I'm not trying to be mean or confrontational. The fact that you're speaking of a consensus while sharing the opinions of only two people suggests that you have a lot of additional information you're not telling me about :o)

"Summarized in this quote from Henry Ford: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.""

I'm not suggesting that you exclusively pursue the strategy of asking people what they want for the development of your idea. More like guess what they want, then ask them if your guess sounds good. Or listen to a description of what they do now, suggest a change or improvement, and see how they react.

There are two stages to the development of a startup's product description. The first is (or should be) before any code is written. The second is after the initial product is launched. I think you can do both stages effectively without actually being much of a user of the product yourself.

" The fact that you're speaking of a consensus while sharing the opinions of only two people suggests that you have a lot of additional information you're not telling me about"

I hope you don't expect me to make a scientific paper out of a forum comment?

I seem to remember an article claiming a similar thing on HN just a couple of days or weeks ago (by one of the Guru bloggers). They pop up every now and then.

But since you don't seem to consent, I happily withdraw my claim that it is a consensus.

In the end I guess it doesn't really matter how you arrive at your good idea. Maybe some good ideas can be derived from asking customers, others come from other places.

"I seem to remember an article claiming a similar thing on HN just a couple of days or weeks ago (by one of the Guru bloggers). They pop up every now and then."


Is Guru a blogging network of some sort?

No, I just meant one of the famous (on HN) bloggers.

You are looking for what Steve Blank calls "Customer development" (http://steveblank.com/category/customer-development/)

He suggests that you schedule 15 minute interviews (no sales pressure) with a range of people in your target marketplace. Ask them about their pain points and try to come up with a solution with them.

There is a lot more detail in the essays I linked to about what to do next.

Underlying principle: Focus on problems you understand

In short: If you do not know what users want, build something that you need.

Difficult to apply if you are content and need nothing.

would this warrant a redesign of the t-shirts? "make something people want" -> "make something you want"

Application/Interview?: I'm going to make something I want.

Demo day?: Make something people want.

Acqusition?: I made something people wanted.

To get from something I want to something other people want the link I see is that other people want what I want therefore I made something other people want.

found a bug:

"There are ideas that obvious lying around now."

Not a bug; you mis-parsed it. "There are ideas as-obvious-as-that lying around now".

The problem with these kinds of organic ideas: startup geeks and developers are all similar. There are so many developer tools, social tools, project management systems, freelance and small business accounting systems, and all the other things that geeks need.

The really great business opportunities are in the areas the Silicon Valley Kool-Aid drinkers don't even look twice. Many of them are not even fundable by VCs because they aren't sexy. YC funds some cool ideas, but most of them are immediately useful to the 20 year olds who come up with them, which means they are immediately taking on markets being built out by the rest of the startup community.

Ask a 60 year old manager of a sales force in a backward industry how his business works and you'll find real "organic" startup ideas. You might even find an idea that adds value to the universe, and might therefor yield revenue and profit.

Yup, that is why I don't hang out with geeks (at least computer ones). Most startup geeks and developers as you refer to them should step away from the keyboard and join a house league sports team; one with people they can talk to that won't whine that the iPad sucks because it only has 256 MB RAM. Most of these geeks should aspire to be as sociable as Richard Feynman was. Not only will it help them achieve their goals, but it will make reaching them all the more fun.

This is good for me and you but I suspect alot of people termed geeks are introverts. Hence being around other people tires them out.

I'm one of those introverts - being around lots of people I don't know can be exhausting for me. But the point is, it has a great payoff, so I still do it.

Richard Feynman started out focussed on physics. He later broadened his interests. (Though he was probably sociable earlier.)

"The problem with these kinds of organic ideas: startup geeks and developers are all similar."

Yes, this is my greatest problem. It is even worse: Usually most of my reasonably good ideas were some kind of developer tools. When I search for similar products, usually I find depressingly lots of them. But even if I am sure I could do it a bit better than others, almost all of them are open source free products created by passion by people who earn their money as consultants. There is no way I could sell my stuff for money if it is only slightly better then these open source free products.

The only apps that I've had financial success with are ones that I personally enjoy using. Also, I'm young: 22.

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