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 Andrew Filev, founder and CEO of Wrike.
My son’s first grade teacher recently gave the class a new assignment: Create an invention and present a simple prototype of it to the class. The purpose of the exercise was to teach kids to tap into their creativity to solve problems they encounter everyday. As part of the lesson, the class learned about other cool inventions that were created by young people. For example, Braille was invented by a teenager who lost his eyesight and wanted a new way to read without vision. The trampoline was dreamt up by a young man who saw acrobats at the circus and wanted to bring that experience to the masses.
Startup ideas are often dreamt up in the same way. When you’re passionate about solving a problem, it’s natural that the pursuit of a solution would lead to entrepreneurship.
Three years before my son was born, I was facing a challenge of my own that was exasperating. I was running a software consultancy at the time, and saw firsthand how adding hires and growing the business had the counter effect of slowing our velocity instead of accelerating it. We were scaling like crazy, but the tools we had were not sophisticated enough to support the growth. I knew there had to be a better way.
My startup idea was forged from that problem because it affected me personally and solving it became an obsession. I knew it had the potential to be a game-changer if I could focus on it full time. That’s how Wrike was born.
It helped that my idea was on the edge of a major shift in the world. We launched a cloud solution at a time when cloud computing was barely on the radar. Now, according to Forrester, spending on cloud-based software is expected to reach $106 billion globally in 2016, with no sign of slowing down.
Another example of this is GoPro (GPRO). Founder Nick Woodman was a surfer who wanted a way to capture video of his amazing rides. He invented a camera that could capture new angles never before recorded on film. At the same time, YouTube was exploding and sharing video was easier than ever. This gave GoPro the opportunity to surf the Internet video boom to huge success.
Now, picture the suitcase you carried on your last flight. Would you be surprised to learn that no one thought to put wheels on luggage until 1970? As Joe Sharkey described in the New York Times, the rise of commercial air travel created a need for a new way to move heavy bags through the lengthy halls of airports. Inventor Bernard Sadow seized the opportunity to disrupt a major industry with a simple modification to an existing product.
For my son’s invention, he also tackled a real need that he saw. One night I was nursing one of the many small bruises that come with the roughhousing of having two boys, and he noticed me struggling to work at my computer while holding ice on my bruise. Working together, we cut the pocket out of an old pair of jeans and tied a strap to it. We had just made a simple device to tie an icepack in place—to keep a bruise cool while you work.
It turns out that indestructible 7 year olds have a hard time empathizing with joint pain. His idea wasn’t the most popular in the class, but I was proud: He saw a problem and we created a solution. I’m happy to know he already has the creative eye to be a founder if he chooses.