In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about what founders should do when they are just starting out on their journey.

Choosing an idea for a business is one of the most exciting and fundamental parts of starting a business. However, it can be one of the most difficult things to do as most founders have many ideas and struggle to choose the best one to go with.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten share their thoughts on how founders can choose an idea for a business when they are just starting out, why having many ideas is a blessing, and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:43 Why this topic was chosen.

01:19 How choosing what to do can be a challenge sometimes.

01:47 How to choose an idea for your business.

02:40 The first thing to do when you’re trying to decide on an idea for a business.

02:47 Why it’s important to figure out the next action you’re going to take.

04:11 What you should do after figuring out what your next action is.

05:39 Why it’s important to figure out what you’re trying to accomplish.

06:15 How your motivation and circumstances can inform what you do next.

06:45 Why this isn’t a problem.

08:14 Why you need to cultivate the skills to turn your ideas into a business.

3 Key Points:

  • Everyone has lots of ideas. Everyone!
  • Your motivation and circumstances matter because they inform what you do next.
  • Figure out which idea is most likely to succeed when you take that action.


Steli Efti: All right, everybody. This is Steli Efti.



Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah, and today, on the Start Up Chat, we’re gonna talk about something that you’re gonna think only applies to you, if you’re just starting out. It’s just not true, but the topic is, I’m Just Starting Out, I Have So Many Ideas of What To Do, What Should I Do?



Steli Efti: Yeah, too many ideas, right?



Hiten Shah: Too many ideas.



Steli Efti: Too many ideas, and the reason I wanted to talk to you, one, I mean there’s many reasons. I know that you’re brilliant, you’re gonna have a lot of experience with this, but also, you’re the master of too many ideas. You have a shit ton of ideas all the time. And has helped so many early founders, kind of picked one and get the ground running, hit the ground running. But, the reason why this came up just recently and I wanted to talk today about it is, that somebody that I just became really good friends with a few weeks ago, who’s working in a really, really kind of high level executive position, a billion dollar business, has had a tremendous career, has told me just recently he’s thinking about leaving. He wants to become an entrepreneur and his biggest challenge, the thing that’s stopping him from starting a company right away is, he has just too many ideas and he doesn’t know how to pick one. So I thought, well let’s break this down for people who have this problem, and give them some solutions.



Hiten Shah: Awesome, I love it.



Steli Efti: So what do you say to somebody that comes to you, Hiten, and says, “I have just too many ideas, I don’t know which one to work on.”



Hiten Shah: This happens a lot, especially people who are really early staged, and this is what I meant, about to say what I meant, by like, it’s not just early stage. Everyone has lots of ideas. Everyone. I could ask you right now, “Hey Steli, for your business, what are your ideas of what you do next?” And you’d give me a lot of them. You just would. It’s on your mind all the time, you’re thinking about this stuff all the time, right? So I think the first step is to really think through, like, “I have a lot of ideas, but what is the next step I’m looking to do?” So I’m starting backwards with like, “Oh, you already have a business, you have a lot of …” just on purpose, because it’s the same thing to me. In your business, you have a lot of ideas. You have a lot of influence to change the direction of your company, and what features you’re gonna build, or what products you might launch, or what marketing you’re gonna do. I really start with, “Well, what’s the next thing you’re looking to do, Steli?” What’s the next action, not the next thing, the item, but the next action. So there’s a difference between items and action, I think we confuse the two. So items are ideas. Actions are like, “I want to build something people will pay for.” That’s an action. So I wanna know what’s the next action. So in your case it might be like, “Hey Hiten,” and I don’t know if this is true or not, it doesn’t matter but, “There is a bunch of people who have come into our market and they have a lot of, you know, they’ve copied our features, right? And I wanna make sure that we keep our core what it is and always get better at it. And I have these five ideas on how to do that.” And I’m like, “Okay, great.” Now you have an action. Your action is, keep up with the market. Actually, lead the market. And so, if you’re gonna lead the market, then those five ideas, you just bet way on which ones are most likely to help you lead the market. And then you get into all these cool things like, well how do we know that? How can I go find out? Blah, blah, blah, right? So when someone comes to me with a new idea, I’m like, “What’s your goal? Are you looking to make money? Are you just looking to not be bored?” Because there’s some people with ideas who have money, and they can sit on their couch all day, you know, it’s not rare actually these days. It’s possible, because they have some other income stream, or somebody else works in their family, or whatever, right? And it’s like, “Well, what’s your goal?” And the best goal when you have ideas is, “I want to see my ideas come to reality, and see other people sort of benefit from those ideas.” Okay, so you have all these ideas. You have some kind of heuristic or action that you wanna take. So now you can weigh, well which one is more likely to succeed when you take that action. That’s it. And I think people don’t think about it like that. They just think about, “I have an idea. I wanna work on something.” Well, why do you wanna work on something? What is that next action? What is that thing that you’re aiming for? What’s your goal? You could consider that a goal if you want. I like action, just because early on, people don’t like having goals. So what’s that next action? Launch something, get some customers, something like that. So then you can just think through the steps. And really, what you’re trying to do is, out of those ideas, where are the ones that are most likely to help me succeed? And all kinds of things come out of that. Some people, they just really wanna work on something they’re really passionate about, or they have like, it’s a hobby for them or something like that, because they feel like if they work on something like that, they’re more likely to see it through and it to succeed. And I respect that, and that’s great, so then you would narrow down your ideas to which ones are you most passionate about? Which ones do you have the most draw towards. Which ones could you, you know I love this answer, or this cool, this way to think about it. Which one would you work on if you weren’t getting paid to work on it?



Steli Efti: I love that. So, to recap, one of the things I really love about the answer here is, A, it’s the attitude that you have, which is like, this isn’t a problem, right? Just relax. Let’s just ask ourselves some simple questions. What are you trying to accomplish? What are the actions and the goals that you have? And do you think that, in this particular case with someone who hasn’t started the company yet, you know they might say, “Well, I wanna start a business.” Cool, but what kind of a business? Do you wanna make a ton of money really quickly? Do you just wanna have the freedom to leave your corporate job, and you don’t care about becoming wealthy necessarily. You just wanna maintain your lifestyle within a given timeframe that you have? Is it that you wanna build something that will have a tremendous impact, independently of how that enriches you? You’re like, what are your financial restrictions or not, what are the drivers? What other experiences do you wanna have, what are the things you wanna learn? Is it about learning and growing, more than it is about making a ton of money, or is it all about making a lot more money than you make right now, and you don’t really care about what it is or how much you learn. Motivations and your circumstances matter, because they inform what to do first and what to do next, but the other thing that I really wanna highlight is that, this isn’t a problem. Because my friend that brought this to me, and I’ve heard this many times before from other people as well, the mind frame to have, the frame work to have is, “I have too many ideas and that’s a huge burden, that’s a problem that stops me from getting what I want, is all these ideas in front of me are making my life harder.” And it’s like, if you step away from your own little bubble far enough, you realize that it’s a ridiculous thing to say. That basically you’re saying, “I’m too creative, I’ve too many amazing things that I could work on or that I’ve thought of.” That’s not a problem, that’s a beautiful thing. And more likely or not, if you stay and cultivate that creativity as you go along and start a business or multiple businesses, that will never stop. You will always have more, and more, and more ideas. It’s not a problem, it’s not a burden. It’s a blessing. And now, what you have to do is build the skills, the entrepreneurial skills, the thinking skills, to organize all these ideas and to attack them. And some of them you’re gonna work on, some of them you might pass on to other people, and many of them you’ll discover, are not as brilliant as you thought. Or, you’re not as excited about them as you thought, once you started digging a little deeper, doing a bit of research, or working on it a little bit, and that’s totally fine as well. Not all ideas that feel brilliant end up being brilliant, or the right ideas for you. But learning, cultivating that skill of, “What do I do with all these ideas that I have?” That’s an incredibly useful skill and one you’re gonna need your entire life. And if you’re not at a point where you’re ready to leave your corporate job in this instance, and start tackling some of these many ideas you have, awesome. The first skill that you’re gonna have to cultivate, is gonna be the skill to pick and choose, organize, prioritize, and attack. And attack means, you’re gonna have to stop being in your head, thinking of more and more ideas, or thinking about all these ideas and how brilliant they are, and you’re gonna have to step into action, which is why I love that you were like, “What are the actions we need to take?” Because the moment that you step into the real world, and you take action, you try things, and you research, and you do things, prioritization takes care of itself. Things that seem mystical or hard to decide on, will become very easy and obvious to decide on. If you take action of some of these ideas, things will happen. Some of them will gain natural momentum, and some of them won’t, and then it’s gonna become easy in a few months. It’s gonna crystallize very easily what you’re gonna work on and why, versus now where everything that’s happening up in your head, and it’s just mental and visualizing and thinking things through on your own, it becomes overwhelming or it can feel crowded or hard to choose from. You just have to step into action, and then things will clarify very, very quickly, usually.



Hiten Shah: Yeah. I love that. I think it’s a skill. That’s why I don’t want people to think this is something you’re burdened with early on. This is something you have to deal with all the time. It’s a matter of figuring out, what you should be doing, when you should be doing it, and it’s not just about lots of ideas. You’re always gonna have lots of ideas. If you’re any good at running a business, any good at starting, or any good at even working, you’re gonna have lots of ideas. It’s just the way it works. If you’re out of ideas, it’s usually because you’re burnt out and tired. Otherwise, as humans, we have lots of ideas. I can sit here and be like, “Oh,” and I know you said this about me. “Oh, can I think of ideas? Yeah, that’s easy. Are these ideas important right now? Well, that’s a different story. How do I figure out which idea to pursue? Well, that’s also a different story.” But if you don’t know where you’re trying to get to as a next step, you’re not gonna be able to do anything.



Steli Efti: I love it. All right, I think that’s really everything we need to share, to get somebody from a place of, “I’m overwhelmed with ideas,” to what needs to happen next. I’m sure that some of you that listened to this will have some objections in your mind. “Well, but you didn’t cover this problem.” Well, it doesn’t fucking matter. No matter what you would say at this point, typically in the discussion, Hiten and I would probably go back to what we said earlier. We’d just ask you again about, what are your goals, what are we trying to accomplish, how can we take some actions right now. Today, tomorrow, get going. Create some results, create some insights, and then everything else will clarify itself over time. So, go at it and do that, and then come back and let us know how it goes., We always love, love, love hearing from you. Just had an email an hour ago, of one of you listeners sending some praise our way, and telling us how much he learned from listening. We love to hear from you guys, so if you take some action and you attack some of those many ideas in your head, please let us know. We always love to hear from you. Until next time, we’ll hear you soon.



Hiten Shah: See ya.