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How Did You Know Your Startup Idea Was "The One"?

Scott Gerber
Scott Gerber

If you're like me, you've had that light bulb moment more than once -- in line at the store, in a cab, maybe even in your cubicle at your last "real" job: a business idea that seems like such a sure bet you can't wait to start plotting out next steps.

But ideas are easy to come by. What's a lot harder is figuring out which ones are worth pursuing (or adding to your current business), and then finding the resources you need to execute them.

Curious about how other entrepreneurs settled on their own startup concepts, I asked several founders from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to share how they knew their latest idea was the right one for them. Their best answers are below:

1. I Solved a Real Problem for Myself It's simple, but the best ideas are almost always the ones that directly solve a real problem that lots of people have. If your idea solves a real problem for you in a way that's better than anything else out there, it's a good sign you've got a winner. - Matt Ehrlichman, Porch

2. I Adapted and Changed

Things are going well, and it would appear that I have hit on a great idea. But I don't feel that I have found "the one." "The one" does not really exist. You have to always be adapting and changing to meet market demand. If you found the one killer idea, odds are you should try to exit fast before the world changes! - Andrew Angus, Switch Video

3. I Started With Passion, Followed With Value

I was determined to find a business model involving something I truly enjoyed. PiCK was spawned from one of my passions: wine. After working at a retail wine store in college and being a serious consumer for the last decade, I knew the business from various angles -- retailer, distributor and consumer. But I needed to find value for all parties, which came with lots of testing and time. - Adam Callinan, BottleCamo

4. I Realized It Could Change Lives

The first day I came to China to learn Chinese, I knew that it would change my life. I also knew that if I were able to easily provide this experience to others, it would not only satisfy me an entrepreneur, but as a person as well. I am always inspired when I see people having a great time in China and feel satisfied that they learned a new language in months instead of years. - Derek Capo, Next Step China

5. I Executed Our Idea Expertly

Ideas are cheap and abundant; execution is expensive and rare. If you think your idea is "the one," you've already lost, and here's why. I would rather take the worst idea in the world expertly executed than the best idea in the world horribly executed. We didn't know our idea was "the one," and to be honest, we still don't know. But we do know how to execute on that idea, and that's the key. - Liam Martin, Staff.com

6. I Experienced Immediate Excitement

The first time I spoke publicly about my business and the core service that we provided, I had a new client within two minutes. I literally sat down, felt a tap on my shoulder and had a Post-it note reading, "I want to hire you." We're still serving that client two years later. The immediate understanding and excitement for the idea validated it so that I could move forward with confidence. - Kelly Azevedo, She's Got Systems

7. I Knew People Were Willing to Pay

When we started, we just put our idea on flyers around town, and the calls came pouring in. Do all the market research you want, but at the end of the day, it all boils down to whether or not people are willing to pay you for your product or service. The only way to find out is to try. - Nick Friedman, College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving

8. I Had an Idea With Mutual Benefits

I saw that the idea solved a problem for multiple counterparties at the same time. My company, Cater2.me, helps local providers get catering orders with local businesses, which results in better food for employees. When I came up with the idea, I was one of those employees. I realized that by solving my problem (bad office food), I was also solving a problem for my company and food providers. - Zachary Yungst, Cater2.me

9. I Recognized a Need for Our Help

I knew we had a solid business opportunity when we came across so many entrepreneurs who deeply needed our help. They were stuck and overwhelmed with their marketing automation systems and needed someone to swoop in and save them. It's been revalidated over and over again by happy clients spreading the word to their friends. - Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

10. I Had Strategic Advantages

Honestly, there are very few original ideas out there. While you might have a great idea, it needs to be the one that gives you have an advantage. I knew I had key advantages to opening my wine store in Bushwick based on my knowledge of operating a brick and mortar operation, understanding neighborhood dynamics, existing customer relations, timing and, of course, oenophile experiences. - Henry Glucroft, Henry's / Airdrop

11. I Realized We Had a First-Mover Opportunity

After we examined the use cases for Blippar's proprietary image-recognition technology, we realized that we had a tremendous first-mover opportunity -- not only to connect the physical world with the digital, but to enable brands and publishers to actively engage with consumers. The potential uses for our technology and our vision to create an entirely new behavior has been a winning combo! - Jessica Butcher, Blippar

12. I Saw Growth in the Industry

I've been a part of both growing and shrinking industries. Here's what it looks like: Growing is a scenario where there are enough customers to go around, and there will be even more potential customers in five years. Shrinking is a scenario where there is more competition than customers, and prices are dropping. It's best to look at the overall industry and rise with the tide. - Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff

13. I Saw the Excitement

When I started telling people what I was doing, I saw their excitement. When you chat with a random person on the street and you know he wants to get your product when it's ready, you know you have a winner. - Ioannis Verdelis, Syntellia

Answers are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. 

Image Credit: Monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images
Scott Gerber
Scott Gerber,
business.com Writer
See Scott Gerber's Profile
Scott Gerber is the founder of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Gerber is also a serial entrepreneur, regular TV commentator and author of the book Never Get a “Real” Job.