Business ideas

Five Ways to Discover Business Ideas That Work for the Greater Good


John Schnobrich on Unsplash

For many entrepreneurs, the main motivation for starting a business is to try to solve a daily problem or inconvenience, often a problem that you have encountered yourself. It can be a great motivator, helping to provide the passion you need to avoid burnout and successfully overcome the many obstacles that will come your way.

However, many find their entrepreneurial ventures to be even more fulfilling when they find an idea that truly works for the greater good of society. While finding a way to support yourself financially and help bring about societal change can feel like they’re in direct opposition to each other, it’s far from impossible to combine the of them.

This became clear during a recent interview I did with Cat Noone, Founder and CEO of Iris, as well as a conversation with Mike Kogan, Ambassador Relations Manager at Compel America. Here are their thoughts on finding business ideas that work for the greater good:

1. Start by solving your own problems

As with other successful startup ideas, a business concept focused on the greater good will usually begin when you recognize a need (or a gap) in your own life or community.

“The idea for Iris came from the fact that I was in the position of a user,” explains Noone. “I was living abroad and I looked at my boyfriend and realized that if we were to have a car accident or something catastrophic at the time, we would be screwed.”

In Noone’s situation (waiting for a permanent visa), his passport wouldn’t help much with the police after something like an accident. If she were to go to the hospital, she would have no way to reach her family, nor would her doctors know who to contact immediately.

It was a serious concern, and one where she was certainly not alone. This led her to start developing the emergency communications app that would become Iris. By identifying notable issues in your own life or community, you already have a good starting point.

2. Speak with your audience

Beyond just solving your own problems, you can also learn a lot by better understanding the challenges of others in your community. Take the example of Mike Kogan.

“Our goal at Compel America is to help eradicate bullying,” says Kogan. “But what we see is that often anti-bullying efforts only focus on one group: children who are being bullied. The problem is much larger than that. It involves parents, educators, employers, and even the bullies themselves. When looking for validation of a socially responsible idea, you need to be aware of the multitude of groups that are impacted by your core issue.”

It can be helpful to take a step back and examine your business idea in a larger context. While there may be one group that you primarily focus on, any concept centered around the common good will have an impact that goes beyond that initial target audience.

Talking with other people who would be affected by your product or service will prove essential to better understand how the concept would work in the real world.

3. Use your network

For Noone, using his own connections was a valuable initial source of validation and feedback.

“I’m lucky that there are a ton of people working on the road in the tech community…the majority of them have older parents or older grandparents that Iris would apply to. In my journey in technology and design so far, I’ve made it a point to really network,” she explains.

Noone adds: “I’m not one to really take advantage of favors, but at that point I reached out to everyone I knew.” This mindset has even helped her connect with medical professionals, another key audience for her emergency notification app.

“I was also in contact with a doctor who worked in my grandfather’s team when he was hospitalized with terminal cancer. You don’t forget these people, and depending on the storyline, they usually don’t forget you either,” says Noone. Taking the time to build relationships now, regardless of what stage your idea is at today, will help you find the best people to help you through the validation process.

4. Do as much outreach as possible

Your own network will often not provide all the answers you need.

“You have to be willing to put yourself out there for feedback,” says Kogan. “Emails, phone calls, even outreach on social media. When you explain in detail the problem you’re trying to solve and how you hope to solve it, you’ll be amazed at how many people will be willing to give their opinion. »

These sentiments were also echoed in my interview with Noone, who noted that she used connections at medical startups and even posts on Twitter and Facebook to connect with doctors. While not every outreach attempt results in a response, expanding your reach will help you better gauge the potential impact of your idea.

5. Start building

As important as it is to seek validation for your idea, you can’t present a theoretical concept without possibly having something concrete to back it up.

According to Noone, entrepreneurs need to ask themselves, “When are you over-validating? Are you asking the right questions that actually get the answers you need, or are you asking the wrong ones? Did you get a lot of noes, did you get a lot of yeses, are there mixed feelings about it? There has to be a point when you cut down on the validation work and finally get to building.

When you start building your own solution or partnering with an existing franchise business that targets the problem you want to solve, you’ll be able to gain better validation in your local community when people start interacting with your product or service. Continuous iterations and testing will ensure that your idea achieves your original goals.

Entrepreneurs can truly make a significant difference through focused business. By using these principles to discover and validate socially responsible ideas, you’ll create solutions that can have an incredible impact on your community, and perhaps the world.