You can only solve a big problem that changes the world if you solve a problem that is deeply personal to you.
Two great examples and why they worked:
Roy Raymond was a sad pervert. He'd buy bras and panties at the department store and all the clerks thought their thoughts about him.
Roy felt embarrassed. He wasn't really a pervert. He just wanted to buy lingerie for his girlfriend.
So he solved this major problem he was having. He created a space where men could feel comfortable coming in and buying sexy lingerie for their partners. He called it Victoria's Secret.
But Roy, by solving this important personal issue for himself, apparently solved the same issue for many other men. First year sales were over $500,000 and he quickly opened up three more stores.
In 1982 he sold Victoria's Secret for one million dollars before trying multiple other businesses that ended up failing. One MILLION Dollars.
A decade later Victoria's Secret was worth over a billion dollars but Roy Raymund was nearly bankrupt and had missed the huge run-up in it's value.
Picture New York City in the late 1800s on a rainy day. It was disgusting beyond belief.
150,000 horses transported people up and down the busy streets. Each of those horses, according to Super Freakonomics, dropped down about 15-30 pounds of manure. That's up to 4.5 million pounds of manure A DAY on the streets of NYC. And now imagine it raining.
Would you cross the street?
How long could this last? How long would the city survive without being infested with crap and all the diseases brought with it. What would happen as population of both men and horses increased?
Was someone working on inventing a gigantic manure scooper? How would this problem get solved?
It never got solved.
Instead, Henry Ford invented the assembly line to mass produce cars. Every horse lost their job. People began to drive cars. Manure problem solved.
In both cases there is a common theme. Someone outside the industry solved a problem that was personal to them that then changed an industry forever.
Roy Raymund wasn't a fashion designer or a retailer. He worked in the marketing department of Vicks, which makes over the counter medications.
Henry Ford, I don't think, ever worked in the manure industry.
Instead, each person focused on a problem that was important to them. A problem that excited them at that moment in time. Raymund wanted to avoid being embarrassed in the future. Ford wanted an efficient way to make cars.
The ONLY way to change the world is to solve a problem that is important to YOU.
They had to choose themselves for success before they could save the world. Raymund had to convince himself that he didn't belong in the marketing department of a division of Procter & Gamble. He borrowed $80,000 and took the big risk of starting a business.
Ford had to survive numerous failures and bankruptcies in order to find a cheap way to make cars. He would abandon investors, people who supported him, and even companies named after him, in his quest to solve his problem in his own way.
Nobody gave them permission. And neither of them set out to change the world. They only wanted to solve a problem that was personally important to them.
It's unfortunate that often we forget that choosing ourselves is not something that happens once. It has to happen every single day.
Else we lose track of that core inside of us that solves problems and is able to share them in a way that makes the world a better place.
Ford forgot this and became obsessed with Jews. Ford is the only American that Hitler mentions in Mein Kampf: "only a single great man, Ford, [who], to [the Jews'] fury, still maintains full independence...[from] the controlling masters of the producers in a nation of one hundred and twenty millions."
And what happened to our embarrassed marketing manager that has ignited the passions of men and women for the past 30 years?
Roy Raymund saw the value of Victoria's Secret jump from the one million he sold it for in 1982 to over a billion dollars a decade later.
He failed in business after business. He got divorced. Then at the age of 46, my age, he drove to Golden Gate Bridge, jumped off it and killed himself.
Before you can save the world you have to save yourself.
But you have to relentlessly do it every day.
Sometimes the train wakes me up at night and I feel scared. What will the world be like for my children? I won't always be able to help them. I don't even know if I do enough to help them now.
And then I remember. I'm alive for another day.
There is no right answer to what product you should build; that will be different from person-to-person, your passion, your skills etc.
Here is a quick list of ways to generate ideas:
1. Talk to a teacher (or figure out what you can train others to do!)
2. Interview people. Ask what are the top 3 things they are facing today that they'd LOVE someone to solve.
3. Find something massively popular and sell it better.
4. Piggyback off something massively popular by selling a side-product/service.
5. Craigslist for what people are wanting.
6. Check marketplaces (eBay, Amazon, Etsy) for what is hot.
7. Ask Friends/Family for what they would want.
8. Go to a coffee shop and do some recon with the locals.
9. Check out online, newspaper, and magazine ads
10. Look at successful crowdfunding campaigns and compare to what is unsuccessful. Check who their backers are, see what those creators backed, etc.
11. Find out on Google what people hate
12. Google "Business ideas"
13. What'd you do last weekend?
14. What did you buy in last week?
As for validating it, ask your target audience to buy it from you before you build. Until you have money in hand, you have not validated anything. Though you should proceed with caution, Reddit can be very powerful in doing this.
You've pretty much answered your own question. Go find a target market you believe has a problem you can solve, and interview them about it.
What can you fix for them that they value highly?
What would they jump up and down right now and say, "Absolutely I'd pay for that!" about?
Then kickstart the thing by taking orders.
A great place to start is by looking in the mirror. When you do, what do you see? (answer should be your first customer)
Build something that you feel passionate about! But where does that stem from..?
Well, ask yourself, what do you find yourself spending the majority of your day thinking about? Once you've answered that... now ask yourself how you could make it better or where do you find it currently lacking...
For us, we spend that vast majority of our day working with companies that we have a stake in. Naturally, each time we decided to develop a new product ourselves, we began to then focus our time developing tools that would make us more successful when working with our portfolio.
If you invest your time building something you find value in, then you will immediately receive a return on investment. From there, all you'd need to do is share you vision (or MVP) with extreme clarity to others... collect their feedback... and then tweak from there.
By crafting a well designed survey experience, youll not only collect actionable product information, but also develop a phenomenal qualified lead list of your initial paying customers!
Message me if you'd like to explore the process in more detail, Id be more than happy to walk through an exploration of answers.
That's an interesting question.
It's good that you asked and not just followed the gut feeling.
I have done both. Built something that I like and other products (WordPress plugins) based on some research or finding that somebody had a problem that needed solving.
Keep in mind whatever you pick you'll need to stick with it for at least 4-6 months to see some results. It also depends how much time you'll put into marketing to make it successful.
As I mentioned in my previous answers go to a local Startup Weekend event and look for potential ideas, co-founders, suppliers etc.
Ok to answer your question. Do some research in areas that you're most passionate about, research competition, find out how you can be better and different. Then create a STATIC site that shows what your app is going to be about.
Then go to potential clients (or attract them via ads) and ask for feedback....you can also ask them to pre-order....that will be a great validation.
And finally, make sure you feed you mind with good entrepreneurial content ( Mixergy, EO Fire, Smart Passive Income, Ask Altucher etc) so when the times get tough you'll be prepared.