GUEST BLOG BY HART CUNNINGHAM, CHAIRMAN AND CEO OF INTEGRATE
While I can’t speak for other entrepreneurs, nor do I subscribe to a universal process for developing successful business ideas, I have identified patterns among my personal endeavors and those of others.
First, very few lucrative businesses have resulted from an individual that only had a single idea. Most successful entrepreneurs are serial inventors at heart—they’re obsessive individuals that constantly observe people, communities, industries, and technologies to identify problems they can solve or processes to improve. They fill the idea pipeline on a daily basis, vetting each possible solution to a problem, vacancy, or inefficiency until they find one idea containing benefits that far outweigh possible roadblocks. The identification of such opportunities requires a self-fueled tenacity and work ethic because the vast majority of ideas will come to nothing.
Of course, acquiring relevant knowledge is necessary to judge the idea’s viability, and much has been said about the importance of observation and market research. Entrepreneurs must be aware of and understand market trends and conditions, recent technological innovations, the competitive landscape, consumer attitudes regarding the problem at hand, among others, and should definitely seek to become experts in the idea’s respective industry. Yet, my successes didn’t simply originate from market research, and I doubt few successful ideas have.
I’ve never successfully launched a business that I wasn’t passionate about. Startups manifest financial, emotional, personal, and even physical drains that are nearly impossible to manage unless the entrepreneur derives a great deal of satisfaction from the idea itself. Both the idea and business operations must be intrinsically valuable to the entrepreneur. When vetting startup ideas, I try to identify such values by asking: Will I be developing something of great benefit? Will the product improve lives or facilitate innovation? Will the business enable me to work within a thriving industry among other innovators? Would developing this idea require me to perform tasks I find enjoyable? Success, money, and recognition rarely provide the motivation necessary to bring an idea to fruition.
Lastly, successful ideas often originate from entrepreneurs’ specific advantages. Resources such as capital and connections, while extremely helpful, don’t represent the only benefit an entrepreneur may possess. A preexisting expertise in an industry, technology, or process is incredibly valuable, facilitating the operational agility and efficiency that so often dictates a business’ success.
There’s no single recipe for a great business idea, but continually vetting and refining numerous problem-solving ideas based on not only an understanding of the market, but also personal strengths, advantages, and interests has been key to each of my successful endeavors.
Hart Cunningham is the Chairman and CEO of Integrate. He co-founded Integrate with Jeremy Bloom in 2010. Hart received an MBA from Claremont Colleges shortly before launching his first global company at age 24. His entrepreneurial achievements have been featured in over 75 major newspapers, qualifying him as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist in two consecutive years.
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