The Entrepreneur Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “How do you come up with a new startup idea?” is written by Feris Rifai, cofounder and CEO of Bay Dynamics.
Before coming up with a successful startup idea, you need a foundation. You should first decide if starting a company is something you want to do. Are you ready to face the ups and downs, switch directions if need be, and stomach the risk that comes with it? If the answer is “yes,” then you need to surround yourself with the right people. Think about with whom you want to embark on that journey. Even the greatest of ideas do not necessarily survive the test of time. And if you do come up with a strong idea, there are no guarantees it will work. Success is more of a function of you and your team being able to adapt in time. The same is often true of startups and the ideas behind them.
Once that foundation is in place—the desire to lead a company and the right people to lead it—you are ready to create and build out the idea. Bay Dynamics started because two guys—the company’s cofounder and me—wanted to work together. We knew we wanted to launch a technology-focused company due to our analytics and business intelligence expertise, so we started a consulting company helping e-commerce businesses drive traffic to their websites. As we continued to engage with more companies, we discovered a common problem related to their cyber-security posture: They knew people within their organizations were handling sensitive customer information and intellectual property every day, yet they did not know what they were doing with that information. They did not have visibility into their insiders’—employees and contractors—behaviors and actions, and therefore could not make informed decisions to better protect their data. By listening to our customers, we understood the problem and therefore switched course and developed security analytics software to solve it.
As we learned, good ideas stem from knowing your expertise. You need your own body of experience and knowledge to be able to develop a solution to a real-world problem. To identify that problem, you must listen to your potential customers, whether they’re businesses, consumers, or another organization. But potential customers won’t just declare they need “X” solution. In most cases, they understand their pain, but don’t know how to relieve it. That’s where you come in as an entrepreneur— innovating with a strong team to solve your client’s problem.
It’s important to test your idea first, though. Bounce it around among one or two prospective clients. Let them provide feedback regarding what works and what doesn’t. Trial and error is a critical part of the innovation process. Being able to listen to your clients, understand their pain, and learn from their feedback are all key contributors to the success of your idea. However, it’s important that you step back if something goes wrong, reevaluate your idea, and make changes so that you can continue to provide a real and viable solution.