Generating Ideas For Software Projects


Almost every day I try to think of ideas for the next thing I want to build. Specifically, for the past year or so I have been really focused on coming up with a good, focused, high-quality SAAS app that I can build.

It is easier than you may think to come up with ideas, all you have to do is ask people about their jobs. Eventually, you start to hear some common themes about slow software, software that doesn’t integrate, complicated processes, or even things that are still done on paper. In almost everyone’s job you can find a crazy amount of pain points.

Often, I talk to people with problems that they are not actively trying to solve but are actively complaining about. To me, this signals a place to start to digging in deeper. Anyway, when I do hear of a specific problem like this I usually respond in one of two ways:

  1. Have your tried <insert one of 20 competing products in the problem domain>? I hear it is pretty good.
  2. Wow, that is new to me, I think I’ll research that market a bit.

Whenever I end up with #2 I am almost always inevitably humbled by the sheer quantity of very specific software solutions that exist out there. Which means, I am back to #1. At this point, I start wondering the real question: if all of this great software exists out here to solve these problems, why are these potential customers not using it?

Which, is so interesting it is worth repeating: if all of this great software exists, why don’t people use it? I have a friend that runs a small business and he and his employees manage all of the paperwork through a combination of google calendar, email and google docs. They just never have invested in a serious project management system because they are doing well-enough with their ad-hoc system. It seems to me that so many businesses operate like this, which makes coming up with software ideas tricky.

On the other hand, It seems to me that if I were to build a system for this niche industry that my friend operates in, with a UI that was intuitive and used language these users understand and I offered it up for free, I would get users. Somehow people will start using advanced tools if you drop them into their laps for free but otherwise, they will be content to stumble along with the business equivalent of crudely sharpened sticks.

The point of these ruminations is this: almost any valid business problem is probably a decent enough idea to base software around. If you build just about anything that can add value, and do it well, and sell it, you can probably find people to sell it to.

Written on August 26, 2016