Andrew Hudson

I Have No Ideas … But Now I Know Where to Look

Disclaimer: I read both of the assigned articles for this week but I was too enthralled with Paul Graham’s How to Get Startup Ideas article so this blog post is going to be exclusively talking about it. I’m not sure if I’ll be marked down for this but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

“It is better to beg forgiveness, than ask permission.” – Grace Murray Hopper

Graham’s article reinforced how difficult it is to formulate startup ideas or any idea at all.

Graham reminds us of a good way to not come up with ideas is “to sit down and try to think of ideas.” It’s much like trying to meditate for the first time and you’re told to not think of anything, what follows? Your brain immediately thinks of a million, usually negative, things. Yet people still manage to come up with amazing ideas, how do they manage to do this?

According to Graham, “the way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas.”

Your process must switch from generation of ideas to recognition of problems. Graham continues on to suggest that people “look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself.”

When focusing only on yourself you can confirm that the problem is not, in fact, superficial and that it exists. You know your problems better than anyone else so you should be able to identify how to best fix those problems. Along with that, addressing personal problems allows you to start small and not try to solve the world’s most complex problems during your first try at it.

For example, Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook to solve a problem he had at Harvard, to find girls around campus. Imagine college-aged Zuckerberg trying to create what turned into Facebook by 2018. Where would he even think to begin? Localize first then expand when you’ve acquired some level of competence.


Graham’s thoughts on startup idea generation and how it should be more of a problem-solving method didn’t necessarily challenge any assumptions of mine, but it did challenge my actions.

Why had I not been paying attention to the world around me? Day in and day out I find myself sucked into my phone and ignoring the “real world.” With headphones in, I can’t hear what people on the bus are complaining about. People face daily problems and annoyances that could be resolved if entrepreneurs took the time to notice and recognize problems people have before they ever realize that they have them.

“Live in the future, then build what’s missing.” – Paul Graham

 I could go on forever talking about this but I’ll stop here! I’d be curious to hear what you all think about noticing problems to create startups. Like, please, leave a comment… My last blog post didn’t get any so I feel like I’m talking to myself on here. The Internet can be a lonely place.

One thought on “I Have No Ideas … But Now I Know Where to Look

  1. Your title tells it all and I feel the same way I have no ideas but I know where to look now. Paul Graham’s article. We are very similar because after reading the Graham I felt that I didn’t lack creativity, but I was more so scared of failure and scared to pick my own brain. I love the point that you made that you must localize the issue first then it grows from there. I really wish I would have read your blog before I creating my business pitch, reason being it would have helped me not think of ideas but problems and I would have not struggled creating a pitch. I enjoyed reading your post because it ties in how in a sense we are distracted by media rather music and so on and so forth we miss a lot of problems we could very much solve


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