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How to Combine Ideas to Make New Ones

Sam Parr is the founder of TheHustle (sold to Hubspot in 2021), co-host of My First Million podcast (top ranking business podcast), and serial investor and entrepreneur. We can't be sure if this is what he's MOST well known for, but no profile of him would be complete without crediting Sam as the genius behind the hot dog stand formerly known as Southern Sam's Weiners as Big as a Baby's Arm.

And what do we think Sam might say about coming up with ideas?

"It's super fucking easy"

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Combine Tried & True Ideas

In one episode of their popular My First Million podcast, Sam Parr and Shaan Puri riff on some "formulas for food virality". While the idea formulas are about food, they provide a really interesting point of view for how to create novel ideas from otherwise normal foods.

Here are 4 tactics from Sam for how to come up with ideas for going viral with a food product.

1. "Side ingredient as the main thing"
  • A store that specializes in cookie dough as if it's the main dessert.
  • Cereal restaurants that just serve tons of different cereals and milk
  • Whipped cream store
  • Captain Crunch with just the berries
  • "Anything that's a side thing, make it the main thing."
2. "Normal Food, Different Color"
  • Rainbow bagels
  • Green ketchup
  • Cloud bread
  • Pepsi Clear
These products all tasted exactly like the original, but were visually interesting and gave people a reason to talk about it.

3. "Same thing, but different size"
  • Huge sundaes!
  • Sushirito - just a sushi but bigger
  • a Kit Kat bar the size of a cake!
  • Bob's Donuts - huge donut!
  • White Castle - mini burgers
  • Mini cupcakes
  • Southern Sam's Weiners as Big as a Baby's Arm
This seems pretty obvious, but it works time and time again. Maybe we're all suckers for something different!

4. Combine 2 things that seem like they don't belong together
The strategy in Sam's words here is: "Take 2 things that don't normally go to gether and smash them together." Simple, yet genius!
  • The cronut - a croissant + donut combo
  • Pancake cereal
  • Ramen burger
  • Fairy Bread
  • Dessert burger
  • Doritos Loco Tacos
  • KFC Double Down - use chicken instead of bread!
The strategy in Sam's words here is: "Take 2 things that don't normally go to gether and smash them together." Simple, yet genius!

How To Apply These Strategies

OK, OK, OK, but these are all about FOOD. Most people aren't trying to be the next viral food fad.

Don't worry, we've got you.

Even though Sam explains these strategies for food, they point to an underlying framework that works for general ideation.

For example, let's try (and generalize) Sam's techniques for food with tech startup ideas:

1. Make a feature into a product
One commonly heard criticism of tech startups is "it's a feature, not a product". Let haters hate though, because it can be big business! "Make a feature into a product" is the tech version of "side ingredient as the main thing"
- Twitter - At first people said: "so what, this is just the feed from Facebook!" <revenue> and <users>. Not too shabby for "just a feature"
- Uptime Robot
- Status Page
Arguably also "XXX as a service" including "database as a service" (mongohq), "infrastructure as a service" (firebase) fit into this category, authentication as a service.

2. Change one thing, and amplify it!
#2 Different color but the same and #3 Different size but the same are 2 ways to change one seemingly inconsequential thing, and make that the entire point.
Examples in tech:
- Snapchat - stories, but disappearing
- Twitter - Facebook feed, but open
- Signal/Telegram - Chatting, but encrypted

3. Combine 2 things people already love.
- Uber was "click a button, get a car": Get a thing, conveniently and instantly. After that, tons of "Uber for XXX" were born, including: Soothe (Uber for massages. Click a button, get a massage), and arguably the entire Doordash, grocery on demand, industry.
- Airbnb was "sharing economy for underutilized assets". If it's not earning, can it? Sharing lawn mowers, cameras, expensive stuff.
- Netflix + fancy clothes → Rent the runway. I like borrowing movies. I like fancy dresses. Click and get an evening gown for rent instead of purchasing.

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