What are the best ways to think of ideas for a startup?

Answered originally on Quora here: What are the best ways to think of ideas for a startup?, this answer has received over 3500 upvotes and it is still going strong!

If Ideas were even worth a dime, I'd have made more money in my dreams than Bill Gates will in his whole life

IDEAS ARE SHIT! The moment you realize that entrepreneurship is 99% about Execution and 1% about Ideas, you are on the right path for chasing your dreams. Until then, you can keep enjoying your mental orgasms.

Today, I am an Entrepreneur who sleeps peacefully at night and works with people who inspire me to keep getting better each day. Last year this time, we were college students who were plotting each day to take over the world like ‘Pinky’.

Why should you read this?

We had closed our first round of funding close to a million dollars before we even graduated. There’s a method to this madness and I am here sharing the secrets to thinking of ideas that are executable.

Which Idea is best depends on who you are, what you can do, with who you can do and how much time you have to do it? For example I'll talk about students.

The limitations of students are pretty high as compared to others.

So we’ve to fight these and then see how best we can equip ourselves to not just put in a good fight but also win the war.

Before playing any Hand, one must realize the cards that he has been dealt.

There are 4 key parameters that one must first evaluate before even Thinking of an Idea.

The only Idea that ever changed the world is Religion; everything else needs execution to see the light at the end of the tunnel. To be honest even religion needed shit loads of execution.

Being a student is the best time one can Start-up.
In the course of this answer, I’ll answer why.

[This is you being bound by Time, Money, Skills, Network. But always look up, cause there are solutions once you know the problem]

Corners of Entrepreneurship


Even the mighty earth needs a year to just take a circle around the Sun.

In all, when you ask yourself how much time you have to change the game?

You should be able to answer with

In the latter case you should resort to watching True Detective, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Foreign language movies, Naruto, Liverpool football matches

This is not a joke actually, there’s much to learn from art. You cannot simply think of creating an impact by giving anything less than 100 hours/week

Short Story: Once upon a time there was a ‘Z-Rex’; he was T-Rex, but with a Zing. He lived happily with his friends and family. Like all other dinosaurs, he was also a cold blooded reptile. When the temperatures started to drop, they needed to migrate to warmer lands to keep their body temperature in check and survive as they had always done.

That’s when Z-Rex came up with an idea to dig deeper to find heat. Everyone laughed at him and they planned to move East in search of warm lands the very next day. I still remember that was a long and painful night for our hero. He had to make a choice - either let go of his idea or his love. Eventually 3 of them stayed back, unfortunately She did not.

They decided to dig deep; each hour they would work as a team in alternate shifts and work 48 hours each day! 16 hours each of them. As they continued to dig deeper they faced several problems

In less than 100 days. They had found a cave warm enough for them to live.

What happened next was unimaginable!

Soon, the whole planet was covered with ice and there was no place left to migrate for other dinosaurs. With different surroundings and a will to fight, Z-Rex evolved and so did his succeeding generations.

Dinosaurs were now something else - they could swim, they could go on land at times, they could crawl and as land became warm later, they could even fly! Z-Rex was the father of all modern reptiles, unfortunately we have all forgotten this story. 99% of your DNA is common to both you and him; just that he wanted to try his idea and he gave it all the time he ever had.

Key learning:


If you can do everything, it probably means you are not very good at anything.

You might have a lot of passion and you might even be a rockstar, but if you cannot quantify your skills you will need to be comfortable working in ambiguous environments.

What are skills?

You need to know what you can do, but more importantly you need to know what you can’t do! This will help you putting together a team which can supplement you and help you limit the ideas which you can execute for real.

Being an entrepreneur is the fastest way to learn a lot of skills that you don’t even know exist. But even before you start, you should be able to lay down your plans and allocate job responsibilities. To maximize returns from this, it’s very essential to realize who’s specializing in what, and what (s)he loves to do.

Ideas need to know what your skills are and what you cannot do; also ninjas are excellent story tellers if you can get them to speak.

The Storyteller’s story

“What do you want to do?” – She asked him.

“I want to be the strongest man on this planet.” - He replied.

That’s some ambition, but what are you good at?” – She asked.

“I am a great story teller and I also have a great smile!” – He exclaimed.

She laughed, “I doubt that’s going to be enough.”

But, with just a wonderfully knit story, he knew what they wanted to hear. He knew when to speak, what to speak and how to touch the cords of their hearts. Yes, He Could!

Oh man! And was she wrong. Soon America had the 1st black president - the story teller who made everyone dream charmed his way to become the strongest man on living planet.

Any resemblance to any person dead or alive is purely coincidental.

Key Learning


Friends, All your base money are belong to us

As an entrepreneur you will have to learn to work with minimum resources, but there are some things that’ll need money at the end of the day. So, fundraising for bootstrapping is also an important skill. At Zostel, we bootstrapped around 2,000,000 INR. We did everything from borrowing from friends, stealing from them, taking multiple student loans and in all ranges from 500 to 100,000.

No money is small enough to say no, ever.

It is extremely important to know how much money you can raise because it’s not something you can google. It will decide what ideas are worth refining and what are worth zilch right now.

Ideas need to know how much money is possible before being born.

It’s said that one must know the length of the blanket he owns. As an entrepreneur you must know the length of the blanket that can be sewed from all that you have around, anything less would leave you cold feet and increase your vulnerability.

Short Story

Sam always wanted to make a movie. He would go to people and tell them his wonderful story. But, everyone was busy with 'bhai'. Bhai’s movies made shit loads of money and so no one wanted to invest in Sam’s movie. After years of struggle Sam died and there was no movie.

Key Learning: There’s an inverse proportionality between Ideas that can be executed and Money required for them. Limit your ideas, challenge yourself to innovate or think radically to get better results with even bare minimum requirements.

Moral of the Story: Don’t struggle for that one dream. Reduce your risk and try something that works before going for the big hunt.


If you know the right people, you’ll be on the right path.

You might hate it, but if you are the son-in-law of the leading politician in India, chances are your start-up is going to beat the shit out of anything that ever existed without any expertise whatsoever. You’ll be making more money each second that any sane human can spend in a year. That’s the ground reality.

Be Shameless. If you know someone, go out and ask for help. Call your alma mater and discuss your idea. Call your childhood friend and ask for 25,000. Tell your parents to help you guarantee an application.

Here’s where having an IIT/IIM background would really help you crack a lot of networks with much less resistance. The same might be true for MIT, Stanford or Harvard in the west.

Alma mater helps in connecting people - nobody says no to an open honest heart, at least not when you are asking for help. So once again, it’s time to be shameless and exploit the maximum of your alma mater.

Short Story
: Once upon a time there was a beautiful girl and she had an idea to sell fresh vegetables online. It was a difficult job since she did not know:

Three Whatsapp Smileys later,

1. There was a guy finishing the website of freshabzi.com,

2. Another was busy uploading high resolution pictures of all the vegetables,

3. The third was dealing with vendors to deliver the vegetables to the desired addresses.

Later, it became a marketplace like snapdeal, but for vegetables. In due course, they also added fruits to their catalogue.

Moral of the story: If you know you’re hot, forget that not. Also, the networks that you can influence can decide the factor between a success and a failure.

Team Multiplication Factor

If I work 100 hours a week and my competitor works 40 hours a week, my growth will be 2.5 times his.

Elon Musk famously said this. Just imagine if you are 4 individuals each working 100 hours a week. Your growth will be 10 times the competition!

Time, Skills, Money, Network
: All of these get benefits from having a passionate team which is ready to go all-in.

Having said that, make sure to work with people who share your vision and passion. Most startups don’t fall from the pressure outside, but from the pressure that develops within. Communicate well with each other, use the technologies of Whatsapp, Skype etc. if you are geographically separated. If you want to do it, there’s nothing that can stop you from doing it.

Message to Final year students/ PPO Holders/ Job Seekers

People like you have done a lot.

Entrepreneurs in the last 5-10 years have changed a lot in India specially.

It’s an ongoing process and the least I can do is let the final year students in colleges know of the secrets that lie hidden in plain sight. No Job is satisfying enough except the one that you create for yourself.

Use your time right now to free yourself. Take risks. If not you, then ask yourself who could? If you already hold a job offer, it basically means you’ve 10-12 months of uninterrupted time to experiment and innovate. Go ahead. Do it, now!

I have actually removed big chunks from this blog-cum-answer, but there’s a lot that can be done to improve it further. I’ll like to work on the theory in discussion, but that needs your support to improve.

Whatever examples of successes or failures you would like to discuss, or something that you tried yourself would bring a lot to the table. Please share in the comments section.

I have tried here to help students and entrepreneurs break down their ideas and make them executable, because a lot of times we are not able to see the next step and then we feel that the people who are doing it might just be a different breed altogether.

You’ve nothing to lose, you’ll either be fucking rich with money or experience. Either way, it’ll be a great addition to yourself :)

Now that you've read this far, I have a personal message for you. I don’t get much time to write, but I strongly feel it's my duty to share the knowledge I have been lucky to gain. I don't think I have worked hard to gain such insights, I have just been lucky to be in the right place at right time. The same goes for you as well, if you know people who'll benefit from reading this you need to share this with them. Guess what! I am making several promises which I intend to keep unlike last Indian government. So, it's a Win-Win for the world we know :)

Have you ever wondered Where do Avengers really Live? Team | Zostel [Only on Desktop/Tablet]

Exciting Stretch Goals for the Answer and the brilliant author!

I shall complete all of the completed ones as soon as I write next.

Update: 30th October: I have been pretty jammed, but I am completing few of the Goals and I give you my word I shall complete others ASAP. The Batman is a tough nut to crack :)

1. 50 Upvotes: I will add “How to Become Batman?” using the above theory :P

- Reached in 9 hours, will do ASAP.

2. 100 Upvotes: I will dissect any 2 success start-ups from the comments, break down their successful execution and how the 4 Key points actually were vital.

- Reached in 15 hours, Guys! Anybody wants to suggest any start-ups. Else I'll go with Snapdeal, RedBus or something else.

3. 200 Upvotes[Completed]: I will add original artwork all across the blog – like a cool cartoon every alternate paragraph!

-Reached in under 40 hours as per my info. Apologies for the backlog guys, this is going a bit faster than I imagined :)

-I am in talks with with some awesome friends who would like to work on bringing this art to reality.

4. 350 Upvotes: I shall add the beginning of Zostel and how we worked our way to near perfect execution using Time, Skills, Money and Network.

5. 500 Upvotes: I shall explain in depth how the theory works even on other projects inside a company or personal life via the most successful marketing campaign of the Year – Best Internship from Zostel.

6. 650 Upvotes: I Shall add why my 2 previous start-up attempts failed and what I learnt from them.

7. 800 Upvotes: I shall dissect any 2 unsuccessful start-up attempts with the theory. Also, I will add more stretch goals :D

8. 1000 Upvotes: I shall share my experience of "How I achieved 2 of my lifelong dreams, one overnight and another in 10 years."

9. 1200 Upvotes: I shall share all the code that I had written for my 1st Startup "IPL Cricket Game" and make it open-source for anyone to build a great game out of it.

10. 1500 Upvotes: I shall share my first job interview and the whole story with it. Believe me, it's worth it.

11. 1800 Upvotes: I shall make my 2 Original Game Designs Open Source. Free for anyone to read, dissect, build and make shit loads of money!

10. 2100 Upvotes: I shall make a short animated video to explain the whole concept that we discussed here alongwith fun stories and examples, that'll help to inspire many more budding entrepreneurs who are too lazy to read!.

11. 2400 Upvotes: I have given a couple of interviews in my life and trust me they are hilarious and interesting, I shall make them public :)

[One of Them: Dharamveer Singh Chouhan's answer to Common Admission Test (CAT): How was your IIM interview experience?]

12. 2700 Upvotes: I shall publicly share initial confidential email conversations of the beginning of Zostel. They should be fun to look at now!

13. 3000 Upvotes: I shall mentor any start-up that is interested to discuss their execution from the comments. I am not the best person, but when I was there I always loved talking with entrepreneurs. So, for anyone who's interested.

14. 3500 Upvotes: I shall share my thoughts of why I never wanted to end up at Business School.

15. 4000 Upvotes: I shall share the secrets my grandfather passed on to me which made me solve myself and become a better entrepreneurs. Lessons from History, Mythology, stories and experiences.

16. 4500 Upvotes: I will start a never ending blog where I will add my learnings of things to do to become a better individual. Might be philosophical, but hey I'll do it anyways!

17. 5000 Upvotes: I will write a book “Inside Zostel: What happens inside, must come out!” with a better title.

Writer, DV.