New Idea Opportunity

Many start-up training is focusing on having a “new idea,” but having an idea is easy, and everybody can come up with a new idea. In my class, I teach students to find the “Opportunities” based on the needs of customers. It does not have to be a new idea or even a new invention, but it must SOLVE a problem to MANY people.

Students often have an idea based on the technology that they learn in school. They like the technology but often do not pay attention to the market that determines whether people will buy it or not. I told my students: “Steve Jobs did not create any new technology, but he understood the needs (Low-cost computer, convenience music listening device, integrate many things into one convenient device, etc.) Basically, he took a basic product and made it better by integrating many things together. (Computer, MP3, camera, mobile phones.) It is possible to take a simple product, like a cup of coffee, and make it into a “special experience” like Starbuck. If a product does well in one place, transport it to another and adjust to the local market. For example, McDonald sells different types of hamburger in different parts of the world. You can buy a Curry Hamburger in India, A Kimchi Hamburger in Korea but you cannot buy it in the U.S. or Europe.

One of the fundamental concepts that I also teach in the start-tup class is expanding and scaling to capture the market. Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon are not just doing well in the U.S. but keep growing to many places of the world for more customers. Some of my students started their company to meet the needs of a local market, then scales the business for national and even global access. They must learn to think big because an entrepreneur must keep on expanding to capture bigger market and never be content. In this highly competitive world, if you stop you will not survive. For example, Amazon starting as an online book seller but keep expanding into selling many things and eventually everything. Its success is based on the ability to let customers buy everything they need in one place.

I always tell students: “To do a start-up, you must focus on the business success by excellent execution and the quality of the product and services, rather than the new idea. A simple idea with perfect execution is better than a new idea without customers. If you want to start a company, focus on the opportunity first and make sure that you do it well.”


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University
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