Looking For an Idea for a Startup? Ask yourself “What Itch Can I Scratch?”

In 1995, San Francisco native Craig Newmark, decided to create a way to share news about local events. Working as a software engineer, he began posting news about social events in San Francisco for people in the software and computer industries. This newsletter evolved to become craigslist.org, one of the most recognizable websites on the internet today. With billions of page views every month, craigslist is now (April 2008) rated 12th among web sites in the United States.

The Most Successful Ventures are the Ones where Founders “Scratch Their Own Itch”.

Craigslist is just one of countless examples of highly successful companies, founded by someone who just wanted to solve an aching problem or satisfy a need.

Besides the obvious benefit of tailoring a solution to your need, a startup that “scratches your itch” has great business and entrepreneurial advantages:

  1. True, long term interest is the best form of market research. Being the target audience of your product or services, you know your market, and more important, share the point of view of your prospective users. That gives you significant edge in market research. Not only does it crunch research time, it ensures a quality market analysis, that’s based on gradual learning, driven by pure interest in the subject and need for solutions.
  2. Pain writes the best feature list. Sharing a pain with your venture’s prospective users, means you naturally identify with their pains and challenges. Such intimate understanding of market needs is stronger than any market research can be. This is extremely helpful when writing the initial feature list of your product or service as you intuitively know which features will give users the greatest gain.
  3. Regular Usage is the Best Quality Assurance Method. What better way to debug a web application than to use it regularly just like your users do? Following a list of tests for every feature will never reveal the kind of bugs you discover when you use your product as a solution to a real problem you have. And this is a great way to discover not only bugs, but also required (or more important, unrequited) features.
  4. Word-of-Mouth Marketing Becomes Talking to Friends. Going back to the craigslist example above, Craig’s first mailing list opt-ins were colleagues from the software and computer industries. Naturally, it’s easier to invite people from your social circle to be the first to try your new product. When you are highly interested in something, you tend to socialize with people that share the same interest. This gives you an edge in market penetration as your target audience is accessible and and open to your offerings. Another advantage is that by just sharing your idea with friends, you already seed a WOMMA (Word-of-Mouth Marketing) campaign.
  5. When the Going Gets Tough, It’s Passion that Keeps Your Going. Starting your own business is like a roller coaster ride. One day your up and it feels l like you’re “this close” to making it bigger than you ever imagined. The next day, a competitor beats you to the market and you’re so down, you’re considering asking your boss for your job back. In those times of low, it’s your passion for the field and for the solution you are developing that keeps you going.

37signals backpack logoAnother example of founders successfully “scratching their itch” is 37Signals, a small company which Time Magazing recently called “One of the Net’s Rising Start”. 37Signals offers browser based project management, collaboration and personal productivity software. A Business Week cover story 37Signals: Programming at Warp Speed tells how the idea for Backpack, one of 37Signals leading products was conceived:

Fried [one of 37Signals’ founders] and two colleagues were at a restaurant in Seattle at the end of 2004, griping about the difficulty of keeping track of their travel, meeting, and contact info while on the road. They asked themselves: Why not handle it with a simple Web application?

37Signals basecamp logoThe need for better project, time and collaboration management tools, lead to the development of Backpack (organizer), Basecamp (project management) and other phenomenal 37Signals products I use, which are rapidly closing the gap with dated products like Microsoft Project.

How I Got to Scratch my Famous Quotes Itch

QuotesDaddy.com logoI love famous quotes and use them often in writing and lecturing . A good quote nails a point better than elaborative explanations ever could. In general, I find that quotes are a great way to get a message across. When a quote is right on the target, you’re brilliant and when it backfires, you’re not the idiot that came up with it.

Being a heavy quotes user, I needed an easy way to find and save the right quotes for every post, lecture or talk, and a way to later retrieve the quotes I needed. I also wanted to be able to share my favorite quotes with friends in the social networks I use and with readers.

scratching my famous quotes itch with QuotesDaddy.com

Unhappy with the quotes sites available, I decided to make myself and fellow quotes lovers a site that will let us find, save and share quotes easily. The result is QuotesDaddy.com which was recently launched and got me one step closer to happiness…