24 Ways of Brainstorming Startup Ideas.

Purpose Built Venture Studio


  1. Abundance: believe there are many problems and many solutions. You will continue to discover new ones.
  2. Yes And: when in divergent, ideation mode, focus on adding or improving rather than criticizing or ranking. Create a separate time for judging the ideas.

CEO & Founding Partner at Purpose Built Ventures
This article was written by Miles Lasater.
Prepared for publishing by Max Pog.
Ways to generate ideas:
Look for Problems You Have
Develop the habit of noticing what problems or annoyances you personally have and writing them down. Consider how you could turn solving the problem into a business.
Get Out of the Building
Talk to potential customers in your market to develop customer empathy and look for recurring patterns or problems.
(For more on Interviews or Sell It, read Talking to Humans, Four Stages of Epiphany or Disciplined Entrepreneurship.)
Look at Your Superpower
What is the thing that you are best at or know the most about? Focus on deepening that and noticing startup ideas that match that strength. Investors and customers may be more likely to trust you if the company’s mission/product has some alignment with your strengths.
Focus on Non-Customers
Practice looking for the spaces not currently served by markets or companies today. Or as summarized for the Blue Ocean Strategy: simultaneously pursue “differentiation and low cost to open up a new market space and create new demand”.
Live in the Future
Paul Graham says you should “Live in the future, then build what’s missing.
Explore emerging technologies. When there is a new category of tech or a new platform, become a power user. Open new types of accounts or try new products. See what’s missing.
Reframe the problem into a larger or different one. Solve that problem instead.
(See book What’s Your Problem.)
Study Venture Patterns
a. If you become familiar with the mental models used in product and business model design in startups, you may be able to combine ideas in new ways. Steven Johnson notes in his book Where Good Ideas Come From that the combination of ideas is often a source of innovation.

b. Track companies that are interesting on a list. State why.
X for Y Grid
Cross business model with market segment or focus area. Fill out all the squares.
An example here.
Bundle / Unbundle
a. List out attributes / parts of value proposition / complements and substitutes

b. Combine in different ways

c. Cut some or add others
What can you remove from an existing solution or process to create something new?
Extrapolate from Previous Successes
a. What techniques or markets worked for us before?

b. How can we take that learning to a new segment or situation?

c. What capabilities / insights have we developed that could be applied again?
Be Constrained
a. Start with only $x

b. Generate revenue within Y days

c. Global day one

d. No software for first 3 customers

e. And/or must incorporate random technique/market segment/business model
List of Business Processes
a. Stages or steps of a startup or business

b. Other business processes

c. Pick one and list problems and potential solutions
Trend in Society
a. Keep a list of trends in society

b. What will people need if this trend continues?
Mash Up of Existing Companies
a. Keep a list of successful and interesting companies

b. Randomly pair to brainstorm new ideas
Robin Hood
Take things only accessible to rich people and make them available to everyone else.
Wonder Wander
a. Choose a problem

b. For everything you encounter that day, ask how would this organization, person or thing approach or connect with the problem?
Sleep to Wake Transitions
a. First thing in morning after set intention at night

b. Fall asleep but catch yourself in between (Dali’s technique)
The Future Adjacent Possible
a. What technologies are not yet viable but could be soon?

b. What will people want or need if the tech is available?

c. What is the adjacent possible with this new tech?
Study China, US or other markets:
What startup/tech models from China or other markets will be adopted in your market?
Simplify or Improve
Find an existing product and simplify (Henry Ford’s approach). Find an existing product and brainstorm how to improve (James Dyson approach).
Review Startup Lists
Look at lists of new startups and look for patterns. If you think they aren’t approaching it the right way, then how could you do better? Could you run a similar play in a different segment?
Worst Ideas But Better
a. Intentionally come up with “bad” ideas then ask how to make them better.

b. Or just give yourself permission to have a bad idea

c. Or take your lowest ranked ideas and ask how to improve them.
Ask an AI large language model to help you brainstorm on a theme or use these other techniques.
And if you’re a founder looking to start a company, consider contacting us to brainstorm ideas together.

Hi, this is Max Pog, we've recorded a podcast episode with Miles Lasater. Watch it:

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