Why Your Next Startup Idea Won’t Come from Brainstorming


Paul Ruderman is the founder and CEO of Update Zen and is available on Clarity to discuss team productivity, efficiency and execution, and budgeting. 

My new startup, UpdateZen, has just entered BETA this summer. It has been an incredibly challenging and rewarding experience getting UpdateZen from concept to BETA in under a year. Difficulties and big decisions every single day. But the beginning – the epiphany – came very quickly, and very easily.

The reason, pure and simple, is because I decided to solve a very sharp pain that I was experiencing in my prior company, a pain which no other solution on the market had yet solved. I didn’t have to conduct myriad brainstorming sessions with friends and colleagues to figure out what kind of company I should start next. I knew the problem, and I knew it inside and out. I was essentially Customer #1.

Getting Started

I asked myself the most important question a new entrepreneur should ask: Why does the world need your idea? In my case, why does the world need UpdateZen? What problem are we solving? Why would someone care about what we’re building? How are we improving people’s lives? Why should they spend their money on, and more importantly invest their valuable and limited time learning, yet another new software solution?

Why MUST UpdateZen be built?

Before I put myself, my family, my colleagues and my bank account through the myriad hurdles our startup would ultimately face, I needed to know the answers to these important questions inside and out. So I delved deep into the WHY. So here’s how my thought process flowed.

For us it all begins with “Information Overload”. We all accept it as a given, right? That’s just the way life is today. It’s the price of doing business in 2014. The higher up you are, the more information overload you need to deal with. CEO’s, Executives, VP’s, Directors… basically anyone who has multiple people reporting up to them understands the information overload challenge.

The Art of Executing

To be an effective executive, you must have your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in your company, or on your team. But how, as a busy executive or manager, do you keep up with everything important your people are working on?

You probably receive dozens, if not hundreds, of emails a day from your extended team. You get Word docs or Excel spreadsheets emailed to you weekly by your people. These summary docs are meticulously maintained, compiled and updated by your people throughout the week, and then boom – 5pm each Friday you get these summary reports sent to you.

You get updated throughout the day and throughout the week in multiple ways; via emails, texts, IM’s, phone calls, in-person meetings, remote meetings, conversations in the hallway, and on and on.

In my prior company, I was one of these people. I co-founded LiveProcess, an enterprise healthcare software company, ran day-to-day operations, and was responsible for managing people and departments across the company. I made it my business to keep abreast of what my key people were working on. So I sat down with each direct report weekly or bi-weekly – in person or remotely.

And we went through each and every important project or activity they were responsible for. It was often an arduous and dreadful experience for me, but one I found necessary. And it was surely an arduous and dreadful experience for each of my direct reports, but one they understood, if reluctantly, was necessary for me to keep my finger on the pulse of my company.

The plain truth is that these regular update meetings are necessary, but nobody looks forward to them. Not the executive, and certainly not the people updating the executive.

I knew there had to be a better way. I looked high and wide for a solution out there. I tried various project management applications, email applications, executive dashboards, team communication software, and everything else you can imagine. But I could not find what I needed.

The good news was that I could picture the exact solution I needed. It just didn’t exist. And so I’ve decided to build it, and thus, UpdateZen.

What is UpdateZen?

UpdateZen provides beautiful visibility into everything important your people are working on. We make the entire process of updating and being updated effortless, enjoyable and stress-free. And in so doing, we help the executive keep his or her finger on the pulse of everything they need to know about on their team or in their company.

So we’ve built UpdateZen. We’re now in BETA. And we’re now targeting the very people with the very same problem that propelled to start the company in the first place!

Now go find YOUR biggest pain!

So figure out your number one pain at your current job, make sure no other solutions solve that pain really well right now, and then go start a company to solve it! Good luck.


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  • entron

    The article does not even answer the question in the headline?

  • JohnPackel

    It’s implicit in the close that there is a better way: “figure out your number one pain at your current job, make sure no other solutions solve that pain really well right now, and then go start a company to solve it!”