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12 Fearless Founders on Where They Find Inspiration

The founders who made Inc.’s list of the 25 most disruptive startups of 2017 know a groundbreaking idea when they see one. They’re working on everything from growing diamonds in a lab to transporting people from Chicago to Detroit in just 25 minutes. So Inc. decided to ask these innovative founders where they turn for creative inspiration.

Some entrepreneurs say they bat around ideas with a trusted friend or colleague. One thing they can all agree on: You often get your best ideas when you least expect it.

1. Get moving.
“I ride my bike. I’m constantly thinking about work, but riding clears your head and allows you to approach problems in a new way.”

–Mike Cagney, co-founder and CEO of alternative lending startup SoFi

“Sailing, walking, skiing, paddle boarding etc. Probably anywhere outside, taking exercise, with a big, clear sky overhead. Gives great clarity of thought.”

–Richard Jenkins, founder of autonomous boat startup Saildrone

“While I love the buzz and energy of our offices, I usually don’t get my best idea sitting at my desk. My breakthroughs to tough problems and creative ideas that unlock value usually occur during my Saturday walks on the beach with my dog, Sunny. Every day is the best day of her life, and I try to approach life like my dog.”

–Emily Leproust, co-founder and CEO of biotechnology startup Twist Bioscience

2. Enjoy the outdoors.
“I do something that has nothing to do with technology. One of the reasons I love being in New Mexico is–and this is going to sound really hippie of me—but I’ve begun to form a personal relationship with the mountains here. There’s a certain energy that I really enjoy. The rhythm of nature is something I go and listen to. I don’t make a plan, like I don’t have a book I’m gonna read up there, I don’t have work problems I’m going to work out. That quiet time in nature is really important to me.”

–Mark Johnson, co-founder and CEO of satellite imaging startup Descartes Labs


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