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Beg HN: Share some ideas.
51 points by jonne 2733 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments
I'm finishing my masters degree in computer science and I don't want to work from 9-5 in a boring company or from 9-11 in a consulting company.

I want to have my own startup but I don't have any good ideas! All I have is ideas for small web applications but not enough to make a living out of that nor to reject the offers I have.

So, can you please share some ideas with me? If you don't want to say them in public, please contact me at t57435 gmail.

Thank you!




Here's an idea: get a job. After a year, you'll have plenty of ideas, maybe even one of your own.

I hate to rain on anyone's parade, but the thought of begging for ideas in an on-line forum is just so alien to me. The best predictor of your success in any endeavor is your own determination. With someone else's idea, you're much more likely to bail at the first sign of difficulty. Once you get a little real world experience under your belt, you'll find plenty of opportunities to encounter something for which you'll have real passion.

Your chances of success increase astronomically when you're working on something you "have to do". The only way to know if you "have to do it" is to have a little background and experience with it. Trading ideas like commodities in a place like this seems like the least likely way to find something you'll be passionate about.

OTOH, a "boring job" can be an incredibly fertile environment for start-up ideas. You'll learn what people want, see what works and what doesn't, and be much more adept at identifying opportunities. Oh, and get a chance to bank some money so that when you do start working on your passion, you can concentrate on that instead of begging for funding.

Sometimes the easy way out is just that: the easy way out. Get a job and pay your dues. You'll probably be very glad that you did.


I'd like to add a caveat to this: If you go out and get a job, do yourself a favor and live as lean as possible while working it. Save every dime you can. That cushion will make startup life significantly easier.

Plus, you won't have a huge overhead draining you when you do finally make the leap. It's very easy to spend up to your income level when you start making decent money... but it's a trap! Keep your eye on the prize if you really want to start up.


Can't emphasize this enough. I've talked to countless people unhappy in their career that can't get out of it because of a family and an addiction to their current lifestyle. They continued to expand their spending as their income incremented, leaving them in a risk averse position.

The lesson I take from every conversation I have with these people is live simply and lean even as your income grows, and when you have that great idea or urge to try something radically different, you can.


As someone who followed this advice excessively, I have to counter it a bit. Through most of my 20s I lived in the cheapest, shittiest apartment I could find, ate cheap (which in the US means extremely unhealthy) food, rarely went out partying with friends, never went on a vacation, never dated, etc. This kills your network and your health. Frugal is fine, but don't be so freaking cheap that when you're 30, you hate your 20s, and need to spend 2 years fixing your life.


I'm curious the specifics that you did in the last 2 years to fix your life. Specifically, how did you transition from your frugal ways to your current living? Expand your network and improve your health? This would be very helpful to the rest of us who are going through the same thing that you have accomplished.


I'm still only a couple weeks into actually fixing it. I've started going to the gym 3-4X/wk, and switched to a clean high protein/low carb diet.


Absolutely. Its always a balance.. I'm speaking more towards avoiding the lavish lifestyle of club bottle service, expensive cars and other luxuries. Its the expensive car payment and mortgage or rent that gets you in trouble.


> [...] ate cheap (which in the US means extremely unhealthy) food [...]

You're doing it wrong. You can cook your own food for dirt cheap and still have a very healthy menu.


There's a huge time cost to preparing your own food from raw ingredients. I agree it's worth it, but it's definitely more expensive than hitting Jack In The Box.


There seems to be a misconception in the USA that everything healthy must be fancy. Make rice and lentils, chop a tomato and an onion, fry an egg: congratulations, you just ate a full, healthy meal for less than $2. Time wasted: approximately 10 minutes.

Even better: take turns cooking for the team. 5 people, 20 minutes of work: you're down to 4 wasted minutes per person. That's less than you need to walk to Jack in the box.


100% agree with this. I worked on Wall Street for almost three years, and ended up with a good idea for mortgage bond analytics software. Most jobs out there use some antiquated, terrible, but really expensive niche software. Most people would love to upgrade to something better, but there's often only one company in that particular space.

The following article provided some helpful inspiration for me. Hope you enjoy it:

http://nukemanbill.blogspot.com/2008/06/how-to-sell-your-sof...


I use that software every day. Want to get in touch with me? (Email in my HN profile.)


This is brilliant advice. Remember all that shit about pain points and building a product that has value? That's what living and breathing a 9-5 in a specialty domain will teach you. Think you might want to build an online property management system? Go get a job managing properties. Etc.


Spot on.

I just came out of college at the end of 2008. The place I work for seemed like it was going to absolutely rock but I was dead wrong. It's not a small company which I've found that I really should have started with.

I'll spare the details, but the point is that I've generated a lot of ideas while I've been working and I've moved forward and completed some of those ideas. I've seen how an industry works, good and bad. I've met some really crazy smart people and now have some good recs behind me. I've messed with several technologies that I otherwise probably wouldn't have.

If you don't have a solid idea, plan or financial path just snag a job first and work a couple of years while feeding your inner entrepreneur. You can do both for a bit.


Adding to what others have said, look for an industry that either interests you or is somewhat a laggard. Get some domain experience and the ideas will flood you. There are obvious benefits to an area where the pace is slow and the practitioners are not stellar, fewer HNers to compete with. Be aware of the sales cycle though. Government has multiple crying needs, but it can take years to make a sales.


It doesn't work for everybody, though. For me, a job tends to completely numb my mind and kill off any creativity I have. YMMV.


What edw519 is saying here doesn't require creativity though. It's pretty much what I did in my first side business: I could see the problem customers at my day job were trying to solve by combining some products we sold, and I realized that they would happily buy a single product that did what they were trying to get done. No thought required, just implementation and marketing.

The owners of the company thought my idea was dumb, so I built it myself and sold it into a completely different market.


That kind of thing only works for some jobs, though. I don't think it would have been applicable in any of the jobs I had so far.


This is some of the best advice I've seen on here in a while.


To further this, get a job with one of these folks: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1557972

A lot of the jobs posted sound pretty interesting, with interesting problems to solve.


It's not great ideas you should be after, it's great problems. If someone has a great idea for a website, I might use it. If you can solve a problem I've got, I'll pay you.

Here are 4 problems I've got that I'd happily pay money to have solved for me.

1. I can't find good podcasts about the things I'm interested in. I should be able to say "give me any podcast about 'yiddish'" and a neat server would collate them all.

2. I want something between a university course and Ruby learning, without having to be 'present' or leaving my job, but with small, bite-sized chunks of learning. Amy Hoy/Thomas Fuchs and Michael Hartl are kind of their with their smaller groups/sessions. I'd like sessions on Apache, jQuery, Ruby, testing, CS fundamentals, etc. This could be something as simple as facilitated self-study.

3. A Twitter iPad app for note-taking and live-blogging at conferences. It should focus on note-taking and allow you to send out tweets of particular parts and easily follow hash tags.

4. A web interface that brings together all the different recommended writing rules (like this: http://matt.might.net/articles/shell-scripts-for-passive-voi... and this: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2010/07/janet-fit...) and some readability scores, etc. Paid users could set a consistent rules/styles/brand voice and possibly integrate with Google Docs or something similar.


Every time someone brings up the idea of starting an site based around giving away ideas, someone else brings up halfbakery, so I suppose you could start there:

http://www.halfbakery.com/

I personally don't think the ideas there are all that great. Fortunately there are lots of places where people post ideas that they'd love to see implemented:

http://www.reddit.com/r/somebodymakethis/

http://search.twitter.com/search?q=i+need+software+that

http://ycombinator.com/rfs1.html

http://ycombinator.com/rfs2.html

http://ycombinator.com/rfs2.html

http://ycombinator.com/rfs3.html

http://ycombinator.com/rfs4.html

http://ycombinator.com/rfs5.html

http://ycombinator.com/rfs6.html


The first one in the "Computer" category - "copy and paste between computers." can be done with Synergy.


Ideas are everywhere, man. There are a few common important themes going on right now in the technology world that we all know about.

What I'm getting at is that you should start thinking about how you're solving these problems or tackling these ideas, rather than simply ask for an idea generator.

Case in point: http://ycombinator.com/ideas.html

There's about as many ideas there as anyone can handle. If you solve any of them, you'll be very well off.

But just remember that ideas are cheap and a dime-a-dozen. Pyra, before starting Blogger, was working on Project Management software. eBay was selling auction software to other companies. Twitter's company had been a podcast database before.

It's less about the idea and more about 1) You. and 2) Your execution.

One more really important thing to think about is that virtually all (immensely) successful ideas arise from a founder's need. Look around your life? What around you do you hate and want fixed? Take that and solve that problem. If anything, it will make your life a lot better ;)

Excellent essay here on the subject: http://www.paulgraham.com/organic.html

Good luck, though :)

----------------------------

Also, more detailed YComb ideas:

http://ycombinator.com/rfs1.html http://ycombinator.com/rfs2.html http://ycombinator.com/rfs2.html http://ycombinator.com/rfs3.html http://ycombinator.com/rfs4.html http://ycombinator.com/rfs5.html http://ycombinator.com/rfs6.html


You need to have experience in trying stuff out before you stake your future on "The One Big Idea." Unless you've tried and implemented several, perhaps lots, of ideas, you won't know where the hard bits are.

When writing a thesis you have two problems: writing and the ideas you are trying to convey. When you need to write a thesis, start by writing something, anything, every single day. Non-trivial amounts, and expect to throw it away. by the time you have to write the important stuff for real, the writing is second nature and you can concentrate on the bits that really matter.

So it is with implementation of startups. Do it several times over. Pick something and see it through to launch. Don't expect to make money from it, but get a minimally working, not too shabby version actually working with other people using it for real. Until you have that experience, making a product to make money requires that you solve more problems at once than you have time for.

Experience failure to learn about success.


Ideas are a dime a dozen, or cheaper still. Execution is what counts. I would tell you to get a soul sucking job, volunteer your time at a worth while, human helper, dogoodnik organization of your choosing or even whacking some bugs off some open source software you use or want to get to know better.

All those things will broaden your horizons, open your eyes to new problems and give you an appreciation for the suck that certain things can be and get you thinking about how to fix them.


I would suggest building and launching one of those web app ideas. It doesn't have to be brilliant.

Doing so will a) give you the experience of completing a product from start to finish and b) probably give you a bunch of different ideas for a startup.


smiles, and pulls out trusty phone full of ideas

These are ideas that I wish to capitalize on in the future but since I dont want to jump from project to project you can have them:

1) A language learning api- Website and games can add value to their service by allowing people to learn a new language as they visit their site. I did a small implementation of it in a Software Engineering Module.

2) Collective mnemonics - every single year, for university and highschool, students learn the same thing over and over. Each one, creating their own mnemonics to remember the material. Mnemonics take pretty long to devise. The solution is people post their mnemonics for different course. Eliminate the repetition of creating mnemonicss. And the goal is to obtain full course coverage.

3) A site for poker bots to compete against each other or even chess bots.


Regarding chess bots, there are a lot of places that already do this...ICC And playchess to name two, plus there are lots of rating lists such as http://ssdf.bosjo.net/list.htm


Great, now he knows there is a market for it.


The best way I've found to think of ideas is to keep track of everything that annoys you. Periodically, sort through the list and think a little more about those annoyances which are so great you'd pay real money to make go away.

For example: 37signals - All of their products have come from their own needs


Google is currently using the model of try creating a service and see if it sticks with users.

If you have ideas for a lot of small web applications, why don't you try the really low risk approach of building them one at a time, polishing each one up really well, and host these applications on the web? Internet web hosting is dirt cheap and if these are all "small" applications, then you won't need a lot of resources for any of them.

After you build a small collection of services in this way, you can then start looking at cobbling them together into a single service brand like 37signals for example. Alternatively, you may find that one or several of your web properties really take off. You would then be able to let the users tell you how to evolve/grow that service (or system).

Good luck.


Can I have a MMO version of the game DefCon please?

Seriously - I would happily pay for that so I've solved the problem of you finding your first customer as well. :-)


Generating (any kind of) ideas is the easiest and most important part of doing a startup. If you can't do that, you shouldn't go further, but rather first learn to generate ideas yourself. Business ideas are no different than programming ideas, you just have to look for them. Talk to people, go somewhere. Start with easiest ideas - identify problems that need solutions, then think of solutions.


You should try to think for yourself, attend meetups where other founders discuss their ideas, and eventually you'll come up with something too.

As a reminder, a site designed for the purpose of discussing ideas is http://fairsoftware.net/startup-ideas-software-web-iphone.


If you put out your ideas first, I am sure there will be plenty who will follow. Also, there have been quite a lot of startup idea threads on HN in the past. A quick search brings many like this one (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=250704) up. Good luck!


Start with the small web applications. They might turn out bigger than you expected. There are lots of stupid web sites raking in money. And if they don't turn out big, they still provide you with a lot of learning opportunities. Also, you have something to demonstrate should you ever decide to apply for a job.


It seems like you're looking for an idea. This is something that annoys you - you can't come up with an idea of your own.

Other people probably have the same problem. Maybe you can help them (and yourself) solve that problem? How about an idea management tool?

Maybe people are even willing to pay for something like that? Maybe an "idea market" works better? I don't know. The point is that ideas are everywhere, you just have to start looking. Sometimes it's easy to miss the forest because of all the trees.

Here's another piece of advice on how to think about your idea: http://blog.opportunitycloud.com/2009/08/03/your-business-id...


There are a couple of "give away your unused ideas" threads floating around, you might search them up.

That said, you should probably think more in terms of generating ideas than begging for ideas. I bet you actually have plenty of good ideas floating around in your brain, on some latent level. You just need something to bring them out. Just look for problems people are having, and think about how to apply the technologies that you know, to solving those problems.


My best ideas come from playing and tinkering and being engaged in the fields that interest me. That way, complete product concepts and prototypes form, not just ideas.

Also nothing wrong with small web apps. A solid one-person app can pay your bills and get you the freedom to build more products on your own terms.

I mean, Tweetie was built by one guy. No revolutionary concept, just a great product. And he got picked up by Twitter.


Ideas by proxy don't work, you have to have something that matters to you. If I gave you my list of ideas, you'd laugh at 'em and say how crap they are even though I reckon I could turn them into decent businesses.

If you are in the UK and want to work with me for a year, I'd consider it. I've got too much on my plate and plenty of ideas to explore.

Ryan


Start with your own small ideas. Maybe they won't make a whole living, but like 1/10th of a living. Make ten of them.


Alexa top 100 sites can give you plenty of ideas to steal and improve.

If you deliver you'll be an instant billionaire.


Sure if by "deliver" you mean a lot more than just making the site and by "instant" you mean a long fucking time.


Fresh out of school, go join a startup. Get some experience, learn what it's like to be a startup and when you have that big idea, you will be 100% more ready than now.

Oh, make sure you start saving now, have 6 months of living expenses in your pocket.

We're hiring, drop me an email if you are interested.


In fact many try to get a winner startup. I see a flow of online intensive startups, think in a way to connect people in the real World. Try to see this way, instead to get people from the real World to the online World, look the other way around.


The only hint I can give you here is that you should look for frustrated people, and then ask them very specifically what it would take to fix their frustration, then go do that, you already have your first customer.

Frustration = a business waiting to happen.


I want to build a factory for efficiently copying other people's ideas and executing them; that's goal #2, after I execute #1, the project that will get enough revenue that I can put together the team capable of doing #2.


The best ways to come up with ideas is to get out there and talk to people. Work. Try new things. Some of the best ideas I have ever come up with had to do with what I hated or took up so much time in my work.


Filtered internet connections.

Buy DSL from us, get a connection with only productive, work related content, or no porn, or defeat the tvtropes addiction...


Do people really have a problem with internet addiction? or is this just another meme?


I certainly have problems myself. pg clearly does too. I get the feeling it's widespread beyond that.


Don't look for ideas, find problems (that more people than just you have) and solve them.


I sent you an e-mail. Let me know if you're interested.


I asked something like this not to long ago here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1486240

Sorry, not many willing to share ideas here.


Take an existing product and put a clock on it.


Find some of mine here. www.flairjax.com


The "Continue Reading..." link on your "OK, THIS IS GETTING RIDICULOUS." post sets off malware detection in Firefox & Chrome. I don't know much about WordPress, but judging from their main page, 2.2.1 seems a bit out-of-date.


thx jbf


You need a customer first.


What interests you? Start big and work your way down. Do you want to disrupt the Enterprise? Or social? What your personality? Do you hate an industry and want to take it down? Or do you care about something so much you want to bring attention to it? Funnel down from there. Let me know what interests you and I can give you 5 ideas.


i may be starting a web project in August, if you'd be interested.


My idea for you? Make RandomRunners.com happen. I'll even give you the domain name.

The concept is here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1554144


I've often thought about something along these lines - not to run a whole marathon as was originally suggested, more like: "I'm going to run 4 miles after work tonight at an 8:00 min/mi pace, anyone want to join me?"

I definitely think this idea's got legs...




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