Starting a business is always a gamble. I still think the odds are better than many assume (not starting one is a gamble too, in a way), but in the end you just won’t know for certain if it will work until you try.
To reduce the “risk”, a lot of advice focuses on making smaller bets and getting quick wins.
It seems a lot of this advice is taken to mean you should always try a “safe idea” to maximize the odds. Try to interview people and see what their problems are. Maybe do some consulting or freelancing instead (vs building a product). Perhaps start an info-product, something easy to make, make sure it doesn’t take too much effort to build. Instead of thinking about a problem, think the other way around: what could get you “rich quick”?
I think this narrow focus on these “safe ideas” is a mistake.
It’s totally okay to have a small scope for your initial idea. It’s very important to be able to launch relatively quickly, because you have no idea whether your product will really work. But that’s always the case, “safe idea” or not.
The biggest problem with reducing the space of ideas people think they can work on is that you stop working on what you feel you have to. It’s great if you really love one of those “safe ideas” of course, but if it feels uninspired or it becomes so much about the quick win, then we we stop dreaming about what we actually want to build. And I believe it’s working on what you feel you have to that really increases your chances of success, even if that’s a harder problem than the “safe bet” easy-win get-rick-quick idea.
You’ll automatically know when you’re working on something and your heart isn’t really in it. In fact, your customers will know it too. Your product won’t stand out, it will feel bland, look the same as the rest, uninspired.
You know that problem that you just have to work on, because it’s where your mind drifts when thinking about solving problems during a walk/shower. It’s the thing you can still work on even if you’re tired (not that you should, but you could!). That means you’ll be able to keep working on it, which is important if you want to succeed. Especially because in every startup there will be many dull and boring tasks which need doing, and it’s hard to stay motivated enough to do all the parts which are boring to you if you don’t really want to work on this problem.
Another advantage of working on your dream idea is that will want it for yourself, so you know exactly what to build. Or maybe it describes yourself. Or it’s a trend you’re part of which is starting to emerge and you think more will follow. It’s hard to time the market anyway, and just coloring within the lines and building similar things to what’s out there is not going to make it easier. Might as well work on your dream and make it stand out enough.
Another important reason to work on your dream idea rather than a “safe idea” you don’t really care about, is that if it actually succeeds, it will become a relatively big part of your life. We can only work on so many ideas after all.
Many of these ideas are discarded because they might feel too unrealistic (or the complete opposite, they might feel like a “hobby”). But those are actually the most interesting. Yes they can completely fail (the advice of finding out quickly is still very important!), but they can also really push things forward. A lot of really interesting and successful things wouldn’t have existed if their creators would have stopped dreaming and just stuck to something “safe” instead.
Work on something you have to, get a V1 out to customers as soon as possible for the type of product, and see if they love it. Worst case you’ve worked on something you had to anyway, no regrets, and move on. Best case they’ll love it and you’ve really added something new to the world.