If you want to know whether your startup idea already exists, start by doing a Google Search.
If there’s not much useful information that shows up in your Search Engine Results Pages (SERP), it means that this startup idea of yours is not popular yet. Chances are, someone out there in the world has thought of your startup idea.
How best should you be doing your Google searches?
We recommend adding 3 separate sets of keywords to form a long phase, or Google them separately:
#1 – Problem-based Keywords
Your keywords should reflect problems faced by consumers – begin with the problems that your startup idea seeks to solve.
For example: How do I find potential dates? (Read: Tinder, Bumble, dating services and agencies). These ideas grew out of a problem with sufficient demand – this gives you a big enough market to make money from consumers.
#2 – Functionality-based Keywords
The keywords simply refer to what your startup is looking to do – what sort of platform or core features that your startup is looking to build? For example: Speed dating channels
#3 – Value-based Keywords
These keywords are often the result of functionality, which often tells the benefit that consumers can gain from using your product or service. For example: Getting a nice dinner date.
However, I always believe that even if your startup idea exists, as long as there’s sufficient demand for your product or service, it’s only a matter of how innovative you can differentiate your business from your competitors.
The better question is “Did my startup idea already exist and fail?”
To find out, talk to as many potential customers as you can, describe your idea, and ask them if they have ever seen such a similar product or service?
If they say yes, ask them if they used it. If they did, find out why they stopped.
If they say no, ask them if they would buy such a product and how would they make it better.
If someone else has already implemented exactly the same idea as you but the market does not know much about it, you could win – this is called having a first-mover advantage.
But a first-mover advantage is only useful if you’re able to take advantage of the lapse of time between you being first in the market, acquiring your customers before your competitors come in with a fine swoop at your customers.
If there is another startup that’s providing a similar product or service, and the market knows about this but isn’t seeing any sort of red-hot demand – this is a warning sign. Why would customers buy from your startup if they’re not buying from your current competitors?
Now you are going to say, ‘I can’t run around telling people about my great idea. Someone will steal it.’
What if someone steals my Startup Idea?
Don’t worry. As many others have pointed out – ideas are easy, execution is hard.
If someone else is more excited than you, more passionate and more driven about your idea after just one conversation, then it’s time to get this person onboard in some way – have them be an angel investor, or one of your first customers, or maybe even a co-founder.
We have written an article about this issue and ways to mitigate the problem – What if someone steals my startup idea?.
Get Validation for Your Idea
It doesn’t matter how your business idea is gorgeous – if the market is not ready for it, or niche is full – you will not get any profit, at least not now.
As emphasized in the bestselling book, The Strawberry Startup, to check idea on the “strength” we must give it to the public.
The first way is to try out the idea “offline”. One of the most effective offline methods is pitching ideas.
The essence of pitching – to tell all the features of your idea during 2 – 5 minutes. The benefits of this method are: experts give you advices; the audience is involved in the discussion; you can find potential investors for your business; you will get community support and find like-minded people.
The second way, of course, to try out the idea “online”.
Probably the most effective method to identify opportunities online – to use crowdfunding platforms and B2B, B2C marketplaces for your business ideas.
Crowdfunding: Proven Method to Validate Your Idea Both Psychologically and Financially
The great thing about this process is that you are forced to go with your idea “to people” much earlier than usual. At the same time you are getting feedback and can correct your project much faster.
It is very useful for early stage startups, because it can save entrepreneur’s time in the future and money that he could spend on the “Debug” project. The feedback in the process of crowdfunding can help to understand if the campaign will be successful, or unsuccessful.
Examples: Kickstarter, Crowdfunding for Small Businesses, and recommendations from Forbes Top 10 Crowdfunding Sites For Fundraising
B2B and B2C marketplaces are perfect sources of information that your customers are giving in the form of reviews
The presence of members in the form of “internet community” allows to share information among all market participants.
Online reviews and ratings can be good feedback tools of risk management for companies.
Easy selection of proposals, the speed of decision-making, the way of communication via electronic channels help simplify communication.
Frankly it doesn’t matter if your start-up idea already exists. What matters is whether you’re solving a big enough problem.
What matters is whether your potential customers know of another provider of an equally good solution to your idea. You find this out by asking them what alternatives they know of and why they are using the alternative they currently use (the status quo). This is the first market research task you should perform before going any further.
If someone else has already implemented exactly the same idea as you — but the marketplace doesn’t know about it, you could win, simply by making sure the marketplace learns about your version first — assuming the market really wants what you have. Can you out market the competition?
If there is another provider of the same product already out there, and the market already knows about it, but isn’t buying it, you have a warning sign. If it is the same thing, why would they buy it from you if they won’t buy it today?
If there is another provider already and people are buying it, you’ve got an existence proof that people want it.
But how will you win them away from your competitors? Again, if you can out market them, you can win, even though you are second.
Excel is the market leading spreadsheet, not Lotus 1-2-3 or Visicalc. Word is the leading document processor, not WordPerfect or WordStar.
But competition threats go both ways.
If your idea is really good (will excite a lot of customers when product comes to market) that idea should be occurring to a lot of people at the same time.
f you really are the first, there should be a lot of other people with the same idea by the end of the week, and even more in the next month. If you take a year to come to market there should be ten or more competitors.
If your idea is new and doesn’t attract competitors before you come to market, it probably a bad idea in that it probably won’t excite many customers willing to pay a lot for your product. Because other people probably already surveyed the customers and that’s why they didn’t enter.
Should you be first to market and catch everyone sleeping, if you make a lot of money fast you’ll get a lot of attention.
Having proven that a market exists you suddenly find a lot of “knock off” companies will try to quickly replicate what you have and out market you.
So what matters is not being new, it is coming up with a better solution than your competitors, in a timely manner, and remaining competitive as new entrants enter the market.