Don’t make something “new,” make something better

A student recently asked me how to come up with ideas for new products… all the good ideas, it seemed to them, were already taken. I realized from talking to this student that a lot of people looking to be entrepreneurs think you have to come up with something new in order to be successful. But this couldn’t be further than the truth.

Often, trying to build something completely new is way harder than building something that already exists. With a new thing, you have the added burden of educating your market that your solution exists. With an existing market, other companies have done that heavy lifting for you, and your task is reduced to convincing your audience that your solution is better.

With an existing market, a lot of the guesswork is taken out of the picture: if someone is making money off of the problem you’re fixing, that means you could too.

And there’s no shame in entering an existing market. Think of some of the biggest tech companies around today: Google, Facebook, Spotify… all of them entered existing markets. Before Google, you could search the web with Yahoo. Before Facebook, you could connect with friends on Myspace. Before Spotify, you could listen to Pandora. In fact most of the tech companies you can name weren’t making something new, they were improving an existing product (or ‘disrupting’ a market, in Silicon Valley parlance).

So, here’s the takeaway: if you have an idea and it ‘already exists,’ good! If you’re using an existing product and you think of a way to significantly improve it, even better! Those are both great ways to start making a useful product.

Now get to it!

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