"I just don't have any ideas." This is the #1 stumbling block for budding entrepreneurs. Here are a few techniques to get the creative juices flowing.
If you have a lack of ideas, you might be mentally discarding lots of things. Ideas don't have to sound good to be successful. If you take a look at this list of ideas from 2008, none of them are original or earth shattering.
If somebody's already doing it, don't let that stop you. Instead, do it better! For years, the technical question and answer site that came up most often in searches was Experts Exchange. But it obnoxiously demands payments all the time, and is notoriously hard to read. Last year, StackOverflow popped up, with its large, user-friendly fonts and zero costs, and quickly rose to popularity.
Ebay is a one stop shop for buying anything online. You could certainly sell gift cards on Ebay, but why go to the trouble when you can sell through Giftah, a whole site devoted to pawning unwanted gift cards. The founders of Giftah were unfazed by the many existing options, and built their site anyway.
This is one of the harder paths of entrepreneurship. Still, if you're smart enough to develop a complete understanding of a complex subject, and translate it into something useful and practical, you can turn obscurity into opportunity. Google did it with PageRank. More recently, Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition is a company that went this route, taking state of the art facial mining software and applying it to old episodes of Star Trek as an effective demonstration of their technology.
Are you selling to consumers? It's a great start because you're a consumer and you know what you like, and its nice to build something that your friends can use. But many startups quickly switch gears and sell their services to businesses instead. Why? Simple scaling. You have to be big to handle sales marketing support, while still finding the resources to develop your core technology. Dealing with ten thousand customers requires a lot more infrastructure than dealing with ten.
Quack.com started off with the dream running a phone portal, to let people call in and get their email, news, and other information using voice recognition. But their first paying customer was the Lycos search engine, and later on they were bought by America Online, which gave them the resources to scale. (Unfortunately things didn't work out under AOL's direction.)
Businesses expect a more complete solution. For example: Kelly sells popcorn to consumers in a mall for $3 a bag, works 8 hours a day, and after rent makes $200 a day. "Grandpa" Joe sells popcorn to business -- for $500 he'll cart his popcorn machine to your corporate event. Over three hours, he'll make cheery conversation while doling out the yellow goodness, and clean up when he leaves, and all it takes is a phone call.
To jumpstart things, use the fortune cookie trick. Take an idea that is traditionally marketed to consumers, and add "to business" after it. It doesn't take much imagination to figure out a way that a consumer business can be converted to a B2B.
The odds are that you will end up building something completely different from what you started with. Mike Lazaridis founded Research in Motion, the creator of BlackBerries, in 1984 to do custom hardware development. An early product was a digital barcode system for Hollywood film editing. Later, they contracted with another company to do wireless point of sale terminals. That worked out pretty well, and they were left with a bunch of radio modems laying around the office. The rest is history.