Idea Generation

3 Important Questions: What, How, Why

Businesses exist to offer solutions to customers’ existing problems. The more pervading
the problem, the more customers will flock to your app to solve that problem. Simon Sinek, bestselling author of Start With Why articulates this well. Here are the first questions you should ask are:

What problem are you trying to solve?

Commonly, you find that there are myriad of problems that you face on a daily basis and you may be able to think of ways a mobile app can be harnessed to make your life easier.

How will you solve the problem?

What is the solution are you proposing for the problem you have? How is it different to what is currently out there?

Why is it an important problem to solve?

Tap into your intrinsic motivations. Why are you embarking on this project? Why is it important to solve this problem?

Get those ideas out of your head with brainstorming

In order to answer these questions, brainstorming is the best way to go. Effective brainstorming is simply the dumping of all the ideas you have in your head out on paper. You may want to whiteboard, mindmap, post-it or list the ideas you have. From here, it’s easy to organise and toss around ideas that come to mind. Essentially, you are clearing the haze of your mind and making room for good ideas to form.
Answering these questions is not a simple exercise, and it shouldn’t be. Take a few hours of uninterrupted time to flesh out the initial ideas you may have. The most important thing to keep in mind for this process is to create a no judgement zone for your thoughts and the thoughts of others. Write down everything you can think of.

Ask for Feedback

In the idea generation phase, you may want to talk to family and friends who face the problem you are planning to solve. However, you should be focused on asking them questions surrounding what is important to them in a solution, not pitching them your idea. When talking to them, listen with a grain of salt, as their opinion may be biased towards validating your idea (you’ll conduct proper market research in the next phase).

Formalising Your Ideas

After brainstorming the answers to the questions above, it’s time to prepare for idea validation. This involves organising your ideas and forming a coherent scaffold.
At this stage, it may be worthwhile to narrow down each of your what, how and why answers to 1-2 sentences. From these sentences, you should cut this down further to a simple sentence. It might be difficult to cut down these already short statements, but what you are trying to essentially achieve is an encapsulating sentence – the ‘elevator pitch’ for your business.

Lean Canvas Business Model

At this point, you will also want to start the preparation of your business plan. One scaffold that might be of interest to you is the Lean Canvas Business Model. This business model was derived by Ash Maurya and designed to be completed within 20 minutes.

Customer Segments

Smartphone usage is universal, so you have the potential to reach an incredibly extensive audience. However, it is important to narrow down a segment of this market when you are launching.
You will be able to focus on delivering the most value to a particular group of people, who can vouch for your app to likeminded people. These are your early adopters and they are incredibly important for the growth and momentum of your app launch.
“When you try to market to everyone, you end up marketing to no-one”.


You must now write down the three specific problems your customer segment faces and how these problems affect them. You should also write down how the problems are currently being “solved”. What alternatives are out there that attempt to alleviate the problem? This will be helpful when you come to complete a more detailed competitor analysis.

Unique Value Proposition

How will you grab the attention of your customers? What is the solution you are offering for their problem? However, you do need to be careful about using marketing words that are overexuberant. Your unique value proposition should be specific and accurate. You are after something that is short, concise and engaging.


How do you plan to solve the problems you have identified? For each problem you have identified, outline how your idea directly mitigates the problem for your consumers.


In order to reach your audience, you need to define the channels you will use to market your app. This may be through avenues, such as organic and paid marketing. You can use this as a basis to create a more detailed plan surrounding how much effort and funds you will dedicate to nurturing each of these channels.

Revenue Streams

If you are looking to create a profitable app, you will have to consider how you will make this money. Consider your target audience when you are filling out this section. The pricing point of your product will be a differentiating factor, drawing in different types of customers. Looking at how your competitors or alternative solutions are priced is a good indicator of how much consumers are willing to pay for a solution to their problem.

Cost Structure

In the same vein of revenue streams, you will also need to consider what costs your business will incur building this app. Consider the fixed and variable costs that you are anticipating to facilitate the design, development, launch and operation of your app.

Key Metrics

How will you measure your success? Although it is important to include quantitative measures of revenue, signups and downloads, there is also value in considering the “why” you ventured to start your app. How will you measure whether you achieve your ultimate objective?

Unfair Advantage

“A real unfair advantage is one that cannot easily be copied or bought.” – Jason Cohen
This is where you you differentiate yourself from the competition. These unfair advantages may not necessarily be product related, but related to your own personal assets. For example, personal network, specialist skills in the area, etc.. Whatever you think really sets you apart belongs here.


Drawing this out will help you refine your ideas and you’ll have an excellent foundation for the aspects you’ll want to test in the idea validation phase. If you would like to dive deeper in the The Lean Canvas Business Model, you can learn more at


Idea Validation