Ben Meisner is the Founder of the leading online photo editing platform Ribbet.com.
With 321 billion-dollar unicorn companies in Europe and startups around the globe raising $158 billion in the third quarter of 2021 alone, it looks to be easier than ever to find investment money, start your own company and chase your dream, regardless of location or background.
But, how do you uncover that business idea that will take you from zero to one, as Peter Thiel described it in his entrepreneurial handbook Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future? How do you find that thing that hasn’t already been done—that thing that will drive your passion for years to come? Certainly, unanswered questions still exist, but with advancements in technology, science and innovation, it seems like that gem of an idea has become harder to strike upon.
Looking back at my more than 20 years of entrepreneurship, I can see that when I started a company in the past, I was chasing an opportunity that happened to arise. Now, as I am ready to launch a new venture, I feel that a more strategic approach is needed. Below are the questions that are helping me personally as I explore my next business idea, and I hope they will help you, too.
What is a craft that you love losing yourself in?
Keeping excitement alive in the long term of running a business is hard, so over time, productivity has to be continued through discipline. But in order to take that first step toward finding your business idea, you have to find a craft you will be happy working on for years to come—that thing you love to get lost in doing.
MORE FOR YOU
What were you doing the last time you became lost in your work?
I love exploring ideas and the process of creating something from nothing. I’m deeply passionate about creativity and empowering it, and every time I find myself doing this, it seems like time just flies. Take the time to recall the last time you enjoyed the hours flying by, and explore that direction.
What is one particular challenge you face personally?
You might not realize that one of the problems you’re facing is a common one. Something you haven’t found a solution to in your area of work or in your personal life might very well frustrate others in your same situation. Starting with something you love that would also solve a personal problem has double the benefit.
What will your startup look like in five years’ time?
The initial excitement of starting a new venture tends to make us overlook the fact that a company will need to work well into the future. I’ve found that entrepreneurs frequently look at key performance indicators in the short term, but having a long-term vision can make the difference between success and failure. Furthermore, try to imagine—without limiting yourself—what that future might look like and what you could do to enable it.
What can you do better than other people?
Where does your specialty, experience or advantage lie? Perhaps ask your friends, colleagues or partner their opinion on this question. We often underestimate or diminish our strengths and consider something we can do with ease to be unextraordinary. Having specifically developed skills can make a great foundation for a future business.
If money weren’t involved and there were no time or other resource limitations, what would you do?
This might sound cliche, but it is, in fact, a very important question. We are always constrained by various limitations, and time and money are the most common. But if you were able to do whatever you wanted, every day, without worrying about finances or time, what would that thing be? You might find the answer surprising. I am a strong believer that when you do something with passion, you are on the right path. Either success or failure will follow, but it will be an enjoyable journey regardless.
Whom do you admire who has created something?
Role models or people who simply inspire you with their achievements can provide a strong clue to what your new business idea might look like. What did those people create, and what is it specifically that you admire about that? Is that something you’d want to create, achieve or do? Go in-depth with these questions. What are the underlying character traits that you find attractive, and what is it about their businesses that spark your interest?
Finding an idea in 2022 isn’t straightforward. Having a process helps, as does having a community with which you can build ideas. There’s definitely enough room for innovation, creativity, new technologies, for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations and completely new approaches to how we work, live and experience the world. These questions can help guide you on the way to a new venture.