16 Quotes to Inspire Startups and Small Business from Ed Catmull, Co-founder of Pixar

Ed Catmull Creativity QuotesAlthough Steve Jobs is often credited with the success of Pixar (it was his money that kept the company afloat for years), he wasn’t there at the beginning. That was Ed Catmull, who joined George Lucus‘ startup called The Graphics Group in 1979. Under Catmull’s guidance, the company created pioneering animation programs and systems that changed 2D and 3D animation forever.

By 1986, Lucas had given up on the company and Jobs stepped in. The company was renamed Pixar and Mr. Catmull was made CTO. He was the guy behind the scenes that made sure the company operated in a way that helped its creative teams do their best work. His best-selling book, Creativity, Inc. shares many of his experiences and how he helped make Pixar the amazing success that it became. It’s well worth reading.

Catmull has been honored in numerous ways—in 2013 he was named a Museum Fellow at the Computer History Museum “for his pioneering work in computer graphics, animation, and filmmaking.” He has also won five academy awards and the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for a lifetime of technical contributions and leadership in the field of computer graphics in the motion picture industry. Today he is the President of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.

Here we’ve posted few of the best things he shared in his book—the stuff we think most entrepreneurs and small business owners will find most inspirational. Check them out:

“Being on the lookout for problems, I realized, was not the same as seeing problems.”

“When faced with a challenge, get smarter.”

“You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.”

“People need to be wrong as fast as they can. In a battle, if you’re faced with two hills and you’re unsure which one to attack, the right course of action is to hurry up and choose. If you find out it’s the wrong hill, turn around and attack the other one.”

“In a fear-based, failure-averse culture, people will consciously or unconsciously avoid risk. They will seek instead to repeat something safe that’s been good enough in the past. Their work will be derivative, not innovative. But if you can foster a positive understanding of failure, the opposite will happen.”

“It’s folly to think you can avoid change, no matter how much you might want to. But also, to my mind, you shouldn’t want to. There is no growth or success without change.”

“How, as managers, do we differentiate between sticking with the tried-and-true and reaching for some unknown that might—or might not—be better?”

“To think you can control or prevent random problems by making an example of someone is naive and wrongheaded.”

“‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure’ is a maxim that is taught and believed by many in both the business and education sectors. But in fact, the phrase is ridiculous—something said by people who are unaware of how much is hidden. A large portion of what we manage can’t be measured, and not realizing this has unintended consequences.”

“Disney employees attempted to keep his spirit alive by constantly asking themselves, ‘What would Walt do?’ Perhaps they thought that if they asked that questions they would come up with something original, that they would remain true to Walt’s pioneering spirit. In fact, this kind of thinking only accomplished the opposite. Because it looked backward, not forward, it tethered the place to the status quo.”

“Companies, like individuals, do not become exceptional by believing they are exceptional but by understanding the ways in which they aren’t exceptional.”

“There is nothing quite as effective, when it comes to shutting down alternative viewpoints, as being convinced you are right.”

“If we think data alone provide answers, then we have misapplied the tool.”

“Trust doesn’t mean that you trust that someone won’t screw up—it means you trust them even when they do screw up.”

“It is difficult sometimes to tell the difference between what is impossible and what is possible (but requires a big reach). At a creative company, mistaking one for the other can be fatal—but getting it right always elevates.”

“The past should be our teacher, not our master.”

—Ed Catmull, Pixar Co-founder and Author of Creativity, Inc.

Click here for even more inspirational quotes from Creativity, Inc.

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Logo Design News This Week (5.12)

It’s Friday and the Spring Equinox. And March Madness. Normally it doesn’t get better than that, but add in a dose of logo design news from the last seven days and it’s like adding a cherry and chocolate sauce to that bowl of ice cream. Here’s all the logo-related stuff we saw this week:

Swim Canada Logo DesignCanada has been on a tear rebranding its sports associations. A we saw few weeks ago, we saw a new logo for Canadian Curling. This week we got a new design for Swimming Canada. The logo is an evolution of the previous couple of marks and features the red maple leaf crowning an Olympic-looking swimmer icon. In fact, the swimmer icon pays tribute to the 1908 Olympic Games in London when Canada first participated in international swimming. The logo is relatively versatile and can be easily incorporated into other uses, many of which are shown at the link above. Nice work.

In other sports logo news, the Flint Firebirds are a new team with a new logo (they’ll be playing in the Ontario Hockey League). This design isn’t great.

Portland Streetcar Logo DesignNext fall, Portland Streetcar is set to open the full central loop which will connect the east and west sides of Portland. And to prepare for the upcoming new route, they released a new, much improved logo. The old logo was boxy and dark. The new one has a pretty cool icon with “tracks” cutting through the S icon.

This is a very busy, very colorful logo. From a design standpoint, it’s not good. It’s the kind of logo we generally hate. But for some reason, we kind of like it.

New Autotrader Logo DesignAutotrader, which claims to have invented the online automotive marketplace, unveiled a new logo—a definite improvement over the previous version which has been in use since its .com days. They’ve dropped the very dated .com button. The new icon is supposed to be an intertwined A and T symbolizing the road ahead for the company. We don’t see it. It’s just an A to us. It does have an appropriate car monogram feel. Not a bad design overall.

Speaking of cars, Camaro has a new look logo design.

Crimea Logo DesignMaybe getting annexed by Russia isn’t all bad, after all, the process apparently includes a new logo design. We’re not experts in what passes for great design in Russia, but if this is the best they have to offer, maybe Crimea was better off in the Ukraine. The color applications at the link are better than the standard design shown here. This new logo was created at the request of Crimea’s tourism minister who wants to use it for products made in the region, infrastructure, and tourism.

The Palo Alto Players have been around for 85 years. So it was about time for a new logo.

First Day of Spring Google Logo DesignDays are getting longer. Temperatures are starting to warm up. And winter is over. Google celebrated the first day of spring with this animated garden logo, which you’ll see at their home page all day today. The page also includes a link to International Day of Happiness which is apparently today as well.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments.


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Slim Down Jupiter needed a logo design. Logomaker had the solution.

Slim Down Jupiter LogoWhen Dr. Don Pearsall opened up his new weight loss clinic, Slim Down Jupiter, he knew he needed a professional logo design to help attract potential customers. He knew exactly what he wanted and even sketched it out.

Then it was time to find a graphic designer to help create the files. He searched several logo designers online, interviewing several in his area. The process was frustratingly time consuming. Then the designer he chose quoted a price he thought far too high (after all, he already had a design sketched out).

So Dr. Pearsall turned to Logomaker’s logo design software. Since anyone can try it for free, why not give it a shot?

And what he found there surprised him—within two minutes he saw an icon that was almost exactly what he had sketched out. It only took a few more minutes to add his business name and save a logo that was right for his business. In the process, he saved hours of back and forth with a designer and hundreds of dollars.

Here’s how Dr. Pearsall described the experience:

“The cost was very reasonable, and the time saved was spectacular. I have already posted my new logo [on my website], and my printers are going to work. Thanks for helping me create a logo that Slim Down Jupiter can be very proud of.”

And what would Dr. Pearsall say to someone else who is looking for a new logo?

“Have a concept in mind before you start. What are you trying to highlight about yourself and your business? Make sketches even if you’re not artistic so you can see it. It only took a couple of tries with Logomaker to say ‘that’s it!’”

Ready to try to create your own logo? Check out Logomaker for details.

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12 Quotes to Inspire Startups from Harry’s Co-founder, Jeff Raider

Jeff Raider Startup QuotesStarting a shaving company called Harry’s takes some cheek. But then so does starting a shaving company to compete against established billion dollar corporations when you have no industry experience. Or starting a discount, fashion eye glass company without any experience. And Jeff Raider has done them all.

Mr. Raider was one of the four co-founders of Warby Parker, but when Andy Katz-Mayfield (his Harry’s co-founder) told him about his bad experience buying razors, they decided this was a market ready for disruption. And that’s exactly what they’ve done. Less than a year after launching their company, Harry’s, they spent $100 million to buy a 100-year old German razor manufacturer to engineer their products line. Then they opened a traditional barber shop in Soho (for product development), where they sell razors, shave creams, and more. Today they have more than 100,000 customers, 90% of whom reorder regularly. And they’ve raised more than $200 million in venture funding—that’s an amazing amount for a company barely two years old.

As a successful, two-time entrepreneur, Jeff has been a popular subject for interviews where he is often asked for advice on starting a new business. Here are a few of the things he has suggested might be important to other startups:

“Making sure that what we give our customers every day is the most amazing possible thing. Making sure that we have a team that loves our customers and cares about their experience. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters: really happy customers.”

“Deliver [to] people exceptionally high quality products, do it at a great price, and make them like the purchase experience.”

“We saw a situation in which people were paying lots of money and they didn’t have to—sometimes the cost of making something is quite detached from the cost of purchasing that thing. I think about disruption as being a way to innovate and so blatantly change things for the better that you become an industry standard. That’s what we’re after.”

“…when you start a company, you care so much about it: the brand, the product, the customers. Then there are these tremendous highs when things go exactly as planned or go really well. And it can also lead to tough days when things don’t go exactly as you wanted every time.”

“Never compromise on the product. Make sure that it’s amazing and that you care about every single detail.”

“Focus on doing something that you are really incredibly passionate about. For me, I wanted to wake up in the middle of the night and start to think about research, begin writing the business plan. You need that level of passion to be successful, because it is hard work. When you like the work, you know that it’s going to be worth it and you are going to be successful.”

“Know what business you’re in and that will dictate your strategy. For some tech companies, it makes sense to launch products fast and then iterate multiple times. For a consumer brand, that’s not a great strategy. You have to make the product really great at launch because you only have one shot.”

“Have a positive impact beyond the company. Really impact the community in a positive way. With Harry’s, what we do is donate one percent of our team’s time and one percent of our sales to organizations that prepare people for personal and professional success.”

“Starting a business is an emotional roller coaster. There are incredibly high highs and incredibly low lows when they happen. And I think starting a business is really about enjoying that roller coaster.”

“…we sweat every last detail.”

“I think what’s incredibly important with first employees is that they’ve bought into the vision of the founders… I fundamentally believe that culture in a company is set by your first 10 to 15 hires.”

“Naming is a really difficult thing. I think names are important only in that they stand out for what you want your brand to stand for. I don’t think that coming up with an extravagant name just to have an extravagant name is necessary. But if you can infuse that name with real meaning around what you stand for as a company or brand, then it becomes important.”

—Jeff Raider, Co-Founder, Harry’s

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Logo Design News This Week (5.11)

We’re back after a short break last week. And boy did this week go by fast. It’s Friday yet again which means its time to take a look back at the news from the world of logo design. This week we’ll look back a full fortnight and bring you a double portion of the stuff that caught our attention, like:

New Spike TV Logo DesignWe saw a bunch of new TV logos, like this new logo for Spike TV, the US cable station aimed at men. The new logo features a sharp cut through the middle, hinting at the edginess of the station. The new tagline is “Spike: The Ones to Watch”. UK satellite broadcaster service NOWTV also has a new logo this week. We don’t love the rounded design (at least not like we love the Spike design) and don’t see this new mark as an improvement over the old. It may be fresh, but it hurts our eyes. The removal of the play button from the O makes the logo feel unfinished. New ABC Kids Logo DesignLastly, Australian broadcast channel, ABC Kids TV also got a new logo. We like the feel of this mark—the three icons representing the a, b, and c; as well as the youthful font treatment. Well done ABC.

A few years ago Domino’s Pizza updated its logo, dropping the word Pizza. It seems that three years later, there are still stores using the old design (like 4,000 or so). So the company has launched a “logo mission” asking customers to let it know when they see an old logo still in use. The idea, we suppose, is to shame store owners into updating. If you accept this mission, find an old logo, take a photo, and post it in social media with the tag: #logoinformants, you might win a prize.

Funded by the UK Government LogoApparently the British public doesn’t know that new bridges, roads, and public buildings are funded by the Government (really tax payers, but who’s keeping track?). So to fix that, there’s a new logo to be fixed to all public projects, even projects in Scotland where Scottish nationalists think the logo is a silly gimmick.

A good cause with a lousy, new logo.

Dunkin Donuts Liverpool Crest LogoThis is not the way to pay tribute to a much-loved, 123 year-old logo. Dunkin Donuts created a pink and orange, donut-filled version of Liverpool Football Club’s logo, replacing the eternal flames with cups of coffee. Those flames were placed in the Club’s crest in 1993 as a tribute to the fans who died when a stampede killed 96 and injured another 766 people. Whoops. Some traditions shouldn’t be messed with.

Cardiff City FC Logo DesignSpeaking of crest logos, the Dunkin logo isn’t the only one we saw this fortnight. Check out this new logo for Cardiff City FC (they play in the 2nd tier of the English club system). With the new logo, the team is returning to its roots, ditching the dragons for the older and traditional blue bird. We like dragons but this new logo is a smart improvement. But we’re not done. We also saw this new crest for the Granada Football Association which was unveiled last weekend. The linked article breaks down what the colors and icons represent. But no one will get that looking at the logo.

Speaking of football (the other kind) are these the five most dramatic changes in NFL logo history? Probably.

IA Financial Group Logo DesignAnother bad logo, this time for IA Financial Group. So much to dislike. The lower case I paired with a capital A. The differing angles of the letters. The round dot matched with the hard angles of the other letters in the icon. The elephant isn’t awful, but it seems like even that could have been done better. Yuck. If only the elephant icon had been the focus and the letters left off.

This is the week that the glowing Apple logo died.

Roseburg Logo DesignHow about we take a look at a few new local town logos. We haven’t done that in a while. Wilsonville is no longer “serving the community with pride”. Their new logo is “Powered by Purpose.” It is supposed to attract modern day pioneers. We think it will do the opposite. It’s terrible. Worse than that actually. Roseburg’s new logo is supposed to make a splash and attract more people to visit the area. Four manta rays and a heart. That will do it. Actually this is a nice looking logo, we just doubt anyone will visit the area because the symbol on the city’s stationery is nice looking. And then there’s this new logo for Richmond Hill (just around the bend, it would seem). It’s just a bit crowded and what is that in the background? Not a great logo. But Montreal has a nice new look.

We like this new logo for Apologetics.com.

Albuquerque Isotopes Alternative Logo DesignRegular readers know we love minor league baseball logos. Here’s a nice wrap up of the newest logos for baseball this year. We still love the Smokies logo, but the Dayton Torgugas alternate logo isn’t bad. Not included in the wrap up is the new logo for the Albuquerque Isotopes which introduced a new alternate logo—an I with an electron making its rounds. We like it, though it appears a few long-time fans object.

We noticed two new airport logos this week. A nice one for Cork and a terrible one for Lafourche. Click the links to compare.

We also noticed a couple of new college logos this week, one comes with a controversy. The University for the Creative Arts unveiled a new logo design this week. We won’t argue that the new design is an improvement, however, we can’t agree with protesting students that the new logo looks like a swastika. Come on. Rigid and ugly? Yes. Nazi propaganda? Grow up. And then there was this new logo for Southeast Missouri State University.

Momofuku Ando Google LogoHad enough? Yeah, we have too. So let’s wrap up this edition of logo design news with the latest logo from Google celebrating the 105th birthday of Momofuku Ando the guy who invented instant Ramen and fed millions of starving college students in the process.

Did we miss anything (boy, we hope not). If you saw something we missed, tell us about it in the comments.


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Start a Business — Our Big List of Free Startup Resources

Free Startup ResourcesEach Wednesday for the past few months, we’ve shared with you our thoughts about how to start a business: things like how to make sure your idea will make money, where to find new business ideas, and how to set up your first website.

But our blog isn’t the only place where you can find awesome resources to help you as you start your new business. So we’ve put together this list of resources that we like. We’ved used some of these services, but not all. Take a look and try the ones you need to take the next step in your startup journey.

1. Business Plans. While many startups skip the process of writing a business plan, others still need one in order to raise money (most banks still require them to get a loan). If you need a business plan, check out Enloop, which makes writing one easy. Free.

2. Logo design. This one is easy. You can design one yourself with Logomaker’s logo design software (Free). Or hire a designer for something more custom at LogoDesign.com.

3. Project Management. Trello makes it easy to create a “board” to manage your projects and to-do lists. You can access it from your phone, tablet, and desktop computer. Free.

4. Stock Photos. You need images for your website, emails, and blog posts. Here are a few places you can look for free photos: PhotoPin, Pixabay, Kaboompics, Magdeleine, and FreeImages. Be sure to give credit where credit is due.

5. See What People Are Saying About You. When customers, friends, and employees talk about you online, you want to know about it. Google Alerts and Mention allow you to track online mentions and respond if appropriate. Free.

 6. User Testing. Want to see how customers interact with your website. Check out Peek which gives you a free 5-minute video of a customer using your site. Get a new video every month. Free.

7. Search Engine Optimization. There are a lot of free SEO tools, but a couple of our favorites are Moz bar (which lets you see SEO metrics for virtually any site you visit), Google Analytics (a code you put in your webpage footer that gives you all kinds of great data about you site), SEOQuake (like Moz bar, a tool bar that gives you lots of data) and OpenSiteExplorer (gives you information about your backlinks and those of your competitors). Want a free analysis of your entire site? Check out Quick Sprout.

8. Cloud storage. More and more startups are moving their storage off-site and into the cloud. Services like DropBox make it easy to access your information wherever you are and from any device. And you can get more storage space by referring other customers.

9. Email. If you’re just starting out, you don’t need an expensive email system. MailChimp offers a free plan that will work fine until your list is big enough to justify paying for something more robust.

10. Invoices. Once you do work, you need to get paid. Here’s a free invoice generator that will help you get the job done. Or check out Slimvoice for something more simple.

11. Business names. Looking for the right name for your business or product. Check out Namium which will suggest hundreds of variations on a word you input. Impossibility does something similar while checking to see if the domain is available.

12. Writing topics. Stuck for something to write about on your blog. There are several free services that can help with that. Enter your subject into Portent or the Hubspot Blog Post Generator and they’ll suggest several ideas that you can then write and post.

Looking for more tools? Check out the list out Startup Stash. Not all of the tools and apps there are free, but the list is pretty comprehensive—though they are missing the best logo maker tool—something we hope they correct soon.

Did we miss a free tool that you use for your startup? Tell us about it in the comments.


Photo credit: Bradley Stabler.

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8 Quotes to Inspire Startups and Small Businesses from Jimmy John Liautaud

Jimmy John Liautaud Startup QuotesKnown for their “freaky fast service,” Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches didn’t startup with freaky fast growth. Rather, 19-year-old Jimmy John Liautaud borrowed $25,000 from his dad to start a hot dog stand. When he learned the equipment would cost more than what he had borrowed, he switched his startup idea to making sandwiches and opened his first store in what had been a failed pizza shop in 1983. He added a delivery service because the store was so remote, customers didn’t come in droves.

Thanks in part to the delivery service and a generous program of offering free samples, the store turned a profit in its first year. But to make it work, Liautaud paid a high price, working seven days a week, seventeen hours a day. Two friends who had started with him quit within three weeks (because, initially, he gave them the worst shifts). Liautaud didn’t open a second store until three years later, and a third year after that. Several years later he began to sell franchises (which initially didn’t perform well). By age 30, he was making millions selling sandwiches. Since 2007, the Liautaud’s startup has grown, as they say, freaky fast to more than 2,000 stores in 43 states.

Jimmy John is one of those 30-years-in-the-making overnight sensations. When it comes to building a small business into a success, he knows his stuff. Here are a few things he has said that we think will inspire other entrepreneurs:

“Tenacity will beat brains seven days a week. Go in on Saturday. Stay ’till 6:30 on Fridays. Somebody will notice, and reward you for it.”

“When my father told me to keep my business checkbook balanced every day and to pay COD, that was my MBA.”

“I think I’m in the service business. I mean, our sandwiches are pretty good; I don’t know if they’re extraordinary. But our service is.”

“You have to live in reality, not in what might happen, but what is happening.”

“We’re reaping the rewards of a discipline we started almost a decade ago. We’re doing things right, and with the right people.”

“I wanted all my stores to be the same, to offer the same customer experience, whether I was there or not. Customer loyalty comes from consistent experience. They learn to count on you. When you screw it up, you fire your customers.”

“I was 19 years old. I was three months into it and there I was, all alone in a sweatbox. It was a hallelujah moment.”

His advice for other entrepreneurs today: “Listen to your customers, outwork your competition. End of story.”

—Jimmy John Liautaud, Founder of Jimmy John’s

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Logo Design News This Week (5.10)

This week we are taking a couple of days off to ride the White Rim Trail in Moab, Utah. Sadly we will be without an Internet connection (or even cell phone access) while we are away, so there will be no logo design news update this week. Look forward to double-packed edition of news next week. Until then, here’s a quick look at the landscape I’ll be riding through for the next couple of days:

White Rim Trail

Island in the Sky

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Start a Business — 17 Ways to Find Startup Ideas

Coming up with an idea for a new business isn’t hard.

Or it shouldn’t be.

But a lot of people struggle to come up with the “right” idea. This is partly because entrepreneurs tend to overvalue business ideas and undervalue the effort it takes to turn them into successful companies. We want to find the right idea—the million dollar idea—that is certain to succeed.

But ideas don’t succeed by themselves. Hard-working entrepreneurs succeed. At least some of the time.

Million-dollar ideas are just ideas that someone has worked hard enough on to succeed. Sometimes they get lucky and the idea becomes a billion-dollar business.

Having said that, if you’re still looking for an idea to start a business with, here’s the most comprehensive list you’ll find anywhere. This isn’t a list of ideas for businesses that you can start today (like florist, cookie maker, or gutter cleaner). Those aren’t particularly valuable, in our opinion.

Rather, this is a list of ways to find the right idea for you—the places to look for startup inspiration. So check them out and get inspired:

Finding Business Ideas1. Search Google for “Business Ideas”.
Okay, this is pretty obvious. This approach to finding an idea for your startup is hit and miss. With a lot more misses than hits. You’ll find plenty of lists of ideas like: “55 Business Ideas You Can Start Today” and “101 Small Business Ideas”. The problem is that most of these ideas require specialized knowledge (bookkeeper, direct mail marketing service, and genealogist for instance) or have dubious prospects for turning a profit (candlemaker, cake decorator, and chimney sweep). Yes, all of those “business ideas” are included on the various lists Google turned up. They simply don’t apply to you. We even found a list that suggested “Lady Gaga Impersonator” as a viable business idea. Suffice it to say, this isn’t the most effective way to find an idea you’ll succeed with, but if you want to try it, here’s a list of 999 where you can start.

2. Turn Your Skills into Your Business
This one is easy. Turn your skills and time into money by creating a business around them.  Do you know how to create and program websites? Are you famous among your friends for being able to troubleshoot their computer problems? Can you write or design or create something others need or want? Do you have a collection of recipes you love to make? Do you have specialized skills using email, or PHP, or drupal, or preparing tax returns, or book keeping? If you have a skill that others are willing to pay for, you can turn it into a business.

3. Turn Your Knowledge into a Business
Do you know something valuable that others don’t know, but need? Then you might be able to turn that knowledge into a consulting business or create and sell content online (ebooks and educational courses). That’s what high school teacher, Rob Percival, did. He created several online web development course and an accompanying web hosting business. And made more than $3 million in less than a year. What do you know that you could teach others? Answer that and you have the beginnings of your startup.

Incidentally, we offer an online course that covers everything you need to know about logo design. It’s free. If interested, click the link.

Smart Ideas for Startups4. Watch for Good Ideas that Others Are Working On.
There are several services that collect the latest entrepreneurial thinking and business ideas and let the world know about them. Springwise is one. CoolBusinessIdeas and IdeasWatch are similar. You can sign up for regular emails or follow their RSS feeds. While you’ll find lots of solid ideas to start a business here, someone is already working on them, which means you’ll have competition if you decide tackle the same thing. But it’s also a good indication that there’s a market for the ideas you find there.

5. Watch for Good Ideas that Others Aren’t Working On Yet
Y Combinator has published several lists of ideas they wish entrepreneurs would tackle. Here is their latest one. Similarly, Requests for Startups is a regular email that focuses on what a particular investor is interested in funding and wants to see someone start working on. Most of these are very big ideas that a single founder is unlikely to take on. Here are a couple of other lists of ideas people say they want (some better than others): IdeaWishList, Lone Prairie, Wise Sloth.

6. Check out ProductHunt.
ProductHunt is a massive collection of existing products, apps, and software recommended by people to solve various problems. They’ll send you a daily email of new ideas every day. There are some great ideas here, but many could be improved upon. It’s those “could be better” ideas that you might consider turning into your own startup.

7. Get Ideas from the Future Before They Happen
Trend hunters are experts at evaluating and sometimes even predicting emerging trends before they become popular. Watching as trends develop and focusing your startup on meeting the needs they will soon create can be a great way to start a successful business. Check out Trendhunter and Faith Popcorn for ideas about what’s coming in the future.

Another Idea for Starting a Business8. Find a Co-founder with an Idea
Often you can find someone else who has a great idea, but doesn’t have all the skills to make it happen. If you have skills that compliment theirs and are willing to work on someone else’s idea, this can be a good option for founding a startup. Or you might find a startup idea that you can execute better than the person who came up with it. (Ideas aren’t copyright-able. If you can do it better, go for it.) Check out Founder2be, CoFounderLab, or FounderDating to find people working on new ideas.

9. Attend a Hack-a-thon
Hack-a-thons are meetups for people with programming, product development, and marketing skills or ideas that might become viable businesses. The purpose is to concept and build a basic product in a day or two (often working through the night). Most end with a presentation of each team’s product. Some result in real businesses. When you go, you’ll see lots of ideas that with a bit of tweaking, could be great businesses. You might even help create one.

10. Check Your Local University’s Tech Transfer Program
University researchers often invent new technologies that can be turned into viable businesses. But they don’t always have the business know-how to make those ideas successful. So, many universities have created tech transfer programs which license inventions and technologies to entrepreneurs and companies that can take the ideas to market. You’ll be partnered with the university and the inventor, but you’ll have access to patented technologies.

11. Consult the Yellow Pages or Wikipedia’s List of Occupations
You don’t need to re-invent the wheel or come up with something no one has ever done before in order to start a successful business. In fact, doing something that others have already proven works is a good way to give yourself a chance at success. Browsing the yellow pages or a list of occupations may spark an idea or open your eyes to existing businesses that you hadn’t considered before. If you live in a small town, are there businesses in larger cities that simply haven’t arrived in your area yet, but would be viable?

12. Review “Buy a Business” Sites
There are several websites designed to help people buy and sell their businesses: BizBuySell, BusinessMart, and Flippa are among the most popular. We’re not suggesting that you purchase one of these (though this may be the right way for some people to get into a business), rather visit these sites to get ideas you might use to start a business. One caution: many of these businesses are for sale because they haven’t been successful enough to earn a profit. So if you find your idea here, make sure you can make it work.

Bright Idea for a Startup13. Listen to Others
If you don’t have your own ideas for something to fix, listen to other people talk about their problems. Talk to customers and front line employees where you work today. What problems do they have that your current company isn’t meeting? Have your partner or spouse do the same where they work. What do they say takes too long, is too expensive, or doesn’t work like it should? What do they wish they had?

14. Reverse Assumptions and Think of an Old Business in a New Way
This is a great way to invent entirely new products and discover new customer needs. The inventor of the ATM asked, what would a bank look like if it didn’t have tellers? How would we do that? Jon Coon, co-founder of 1-800-CONTACTS, asked why people had to buy their contact lenses from their doctor (and pay a big mark up for the privilege). Think about the businesses you’re familiar with. Is there a different way to do things? How can technology improve the way they operate? Can you take an existing business online and create something better?

15. Turn Your Hobby or Passion into a Business.
If you have a hobby or pastime that others do for money, you could turn it into a business. Do you collect baseball cards, make t-shirts, or blow glass? Can you sell what you create or teach others how to do the same thing? Then your passion may be a potential business. But be careful, once you start making money doing what you love, you may find you don’t love it the same way. You might lose your hobby in order to start a business.

16. Read a Book
We’re big fans of reading, but to find great business ideas, you can’t read just any book. Start with The Idea Hunter: How to Find the Best Ideass and Make Them Happen, which promises to show you how to how to find the best ideas for you. Then check out The Business Idea Factory: A World-Class System for Creating Successful Business Ideas. These books, and others like them, will help you develop a habit of identifying new ideas that you could use to start a business.

The Very Best Way to Discover a Great Business Idea:

17. Find a Problem that Needs Solving.
Does something bug you? Not work right? Is there something you wish you had? Find a process that is broken, a food that doesn’t taste right, a market that isn’t being met, or something that works today, but could work better with a few tweaks. If you need a new product, there’s a good chance others will need it too.

Startup guru, Paul Graham, says it this way: “If you find something broken that you can fix for a lot of people, you’ve found a gold mine. As with an actual gold mine, you still have to work hard to get the gold out of it. But at least you know where the seam is, and that’s the hard part.”

There is a long list of successful entrepreneurs who have followed this path to success. A few examples:

Cliff Bar was invented by Gary Erickson after a 170 mile bike ride during which he ate five Powerbars. He was at the point of bonking and desperately needed energy, but he couldn’t choke down the processed goop of a sixth bar. His idea: a better tasting energy bar made from natural ingredients. Today Clif Bar is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Morgan Lynch was a marketing manager who needed a logo designed for a new insurance product he was launching. But after working several weeks with a design agency, then several more weeks with freelancers and still not getting a logo he loved, he started his own online design firm—which eventually evolved into Logomaker.

Tivo was invented by Mike Ramsay and Jim Barton in part to fix what was wrong with how video recorders work. Their invention allowed to change the way they watched tv—shifting viewing from when broadcasters aired content to when customers wanted to watch it. And allowed them to skip annoying commercials. You probably have a DVR connected to your television thanks to their foresight.

Many of the best new businesses are the result of fixing a problem.


Of course, as we mentioned above, coming up with the idea is actually the easy part. There are thousands of good ideas for businesses (and millions of bad ones). The real questions are:

Can you make money doing it?
Are you the right person to take on this idea?
Will anyone buy it?

Do you have another resource for finding great business ideas? Let us know in the comments!


Photo Credits: Sean MacEntee, A Bennettnhisman, C Potter.

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12 Quotes for Startups and Small Business from PluralSight Co-founder Arron Skonnard

Aaron Skonnard Startup QuotesAaron Skonnard’s first experience with a computer happened the day his father brought home an early model Apple computer. Together, they spent time learning how to code games for the machine. But at the time, neither could have imagined the impact that experience would have on the younger Skonnard. Years later, he co-founded PluralSight, an on-demand training company with a massive library of 3000+ videos focused on software development.

Pluralsight is one of those companies that is a ten-year, overnight success. Founded in 2004, the company’s founders bootstapped their growth for close to a decade, before taking more than $150 million in venture funding to fund several acquisitions—and they’ve been on a tear since.

Along the way, Skonnard has written several books (on programming) and was named the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year (Utah area) in 2013. This year, Pluralsight was named the Utah Startup of the Year by Beehive Startups. Along the way, Aaron has shared a lot of advice about learning to code, building a great culture, and starting a business. Here are a few things he has said that we think are most inspiring:

“Because the world is moving so fast now that people who stand still will be passed by. Knowing more than the next person has become a major competitive advantage in every industry.”

“Coding is becoming a basic form of literacy—everyone should at least be exposed to it.”

“Although coding and computer science are still marginalized in the K-12 education system, it’s clear that the ability to code has become as important as other basic forms of literacy like reading and math.”

“You’ll find that when you let others tackle difficult decisions, they take on a lot more responsibility than you might expect.”

“It’s easy to focus on the glamor of entrepreneurship, as startup worship is turning a growing number of once Average Janes and Joes into global celebrities. But, the truth is, starting a business is incredibly hard work. Even the savviest entrepreneur can’t perfectly anticipate the challenges of growing a company.”

“Fear is an enemy of innovation. Fear-based cultures may temporarily make people work harder to avoid negative consequences, but in the long run, they make them less likely to take the type of risks that are necessary for new ideas and progress to flourish.”

“Make sure you’re fully invested in your cause since, after all, it’s what you will be eating, sleeping and breathing for several years… When we realized that passion would sustain us, we quit our day jobs and got to work.”

“In the startup world, venture capital brings peer validation, industry kudos, and much-needed cash flow to a young business. But taken too early, it can also dilute ownership, reduce autonomy, and weaken focus and resourcefulness, so the timing needs to be right.”

“Where you are today is a reflection of the education and skills that got you there. The question is, where do you want to be tomorrow? You won’t get there by coasting on what you already know.”

“The road to startup success is littered with the remains of companies that were either complacent or too comfortable with the status quo to pivot on their business models.”

“Bootstrapping at the start makes revenue and profit king, and keeps you connected to your company’s financial statement. Only when revenues and profitability increase do you then green-light new opportunities, more staff, increased risk-taking, and growth acceleration.”

“Hire people who are smarter than you. This point might bruise your ego but, in the words of Bill Nye, ‘Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.’ Companies stand to gain from bringing new perspectives, different backgrounds and brighter minds into the fold.”

—Aaron Skonnard, Author and Co-founder, Pluralsight

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