Through what I’ve seen and experienced myself, it seems domain expertise and passion are two of the most crucial ingredients for coming up with startup ideas and getting a company started.
There are opportunities everywhere…it’s just a matter of having enough knowledge to know what problems an industry or customer segment has, and being passionate enough to pursue solutions.
You can have domain expertise, but if you don’t have passion, nothing will happen. If you have enough passion, you can overcome lack of domain expertise. The two go hand in hand…to obtain domain expertise you probably have to be passionate about the domain.
Here’s what I mean by domain expertise and passion and the role each of these play in starting a company:
Domain expertise simply means knowing a lot about a certain area. It means having a deep understanding of a customer segment or industry.
At Startup School, Chris Dixon said the best startup ideas come through direct experience with technologies and/or problems.
In addition, domain experts often have existing industry and customer relationships. For example, CMOs know other CMOs, and have worked for companies that could be customers. Therefore, finding customers for customer development interviews, and to eventually sell/market to, will be easier.
A domain doesn’t need to be an “industry.” One could have “expertise” in the process of finding new restaurants, and therefore know the inefficiencies based on experience and how to solve them.
Starting a company is hard (surprise, surprise ha). It requires long hours building product and acquiring customers. Getting started may entail long periods of being broke. There’s a ton of uncertainty. Having passion helps push through all the challenges.
A startup is more than something you do from 9 to 5. It’s something you have to fully commit yourself to.
Even at the micro level of finding customers to interview. It requires stepping out of your comfort zone and making a lot of asks. You will have to ask your friends, family, and professional network for everything from sharing your stuff on Twitter to introductions to investors.
Some people can just put their head down and execute no matter what the situation, especially if there’s financial upside. But it seems for many people, that it requires being truly excited about something.
You might have a great idea, but if you don’t have enough passion to even go find a customer to interview, growing the company is probably going to pretty daunting.
With enough passion, I believe one can overcome a lack of domain expertise. With enough passion, one can dive in and learn faster, and be enthused enough to find customers, partners, etc.
Key takeaway: Startup ideas don’t grow on trees. They come from having domain expertise and/or extreme passion. To get startup ideas, think about where you have expertise or passion. Solve your own problems, or the problems of a group of people you’re passionate about.