Unleash Your Next Big Idea

A Look At AI Tools

Image: Pcess609 / Adobe Stock

SHOT Show 2023 was momentous. Yes, it was a great show, but it also marked the first time artificial intelligence became widely used by the general public. ChatGPT was released by OpenAI Nov. 2022, and by SHOT Show 2023 it had over 100 million active users, which was when I heard about it. Since then, it has absolutely blown up. According to the latest available data, ChatGPT has around 180.5 million users. 

Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI), as it’s called, is now widely used to create marketing emails, provide customer support, summarize news stories and even write magazine articles such as this (Disclaimer: This article was tediously typed by hand on my laptop).

Many of the major companies now provide free AI tools to use in addition to ChatGPT — including Google Gemini and Microsoft Bing Chat. What we’re going to focus on today is how to use these tools for your own business planning. Business planning can include expanding your existing business, adding some product or service lines or just testing a crazy idea.

Developing Business Ideas

In the spring, I teach a business planning class at a prominent business school in downtown Denver. This year marked the first year we introduced a new AI tool into the classroom to help students hash out their business ideas. The tool, called SparkRockets (formerly, GoZigZag), was actually created by a former MBA student who was using it to triage business ideas he deemed worthy of investment.

When your job is to sift through 50 business plans a day to identify winners, it helps to have a few tricks up your sleeve. In this case, the founder of SparkRockets/GoZigZag created the trick to help himself. Luckily for us, it’s now available publicly on SparkRockets.com, and you don’t need to be tech-savvy to use it.

Here’s how it works: Head to SparkRockets.com. Once you log in, you will see a section at the top named “Your Startup Idea.” In this box, enter a business idea. Pro tip: The more detailed the idea, the better the output. For example, don’t just type “I want to open a gun range.” Instead, type “We currently operate a small gun shop and want to expand the business to add an indoor shooting range for our customers.”

Here are some actual inputs you can tweak if you want to try it:

• (same as above) We currently operate a small gun shop and want to expand the business to add an indoor shooting range for our customers.

• Our business currently manufactures and sells gun barrels, but would like to expand our product line to include fully assembled bolt-action rifles that will be sold at high-end retail stores.

• I’m an independent gunsmith operating out of my garage and would like to move to a larger commercial location and add firearms sales in addition to custom-built rifles.

Once you enter your business idea, click the “Unleash Your Startup Idea” button and wait a few minutes. The AI is now processing the idea and generating a huge amount of content, so be patient (this can take some time). Once processing is complete, you’ll see some checkmarks next to the various sections.

Lean Canvas & Critical Hypotheses Sections

In our business class, we focus on two specific outputs from SparkRockets, the Lean Canvas section and the Critical Hypotheses section. 

The Lean Canvas section is a streamlined one-page business plan template that succinctly captures your business idea. This one-page document typically consists of these key elements:



 Key Metrics

 Unique Value Proposition

 Existing Alternatives


 Customer Segments

 Cost Structure

 Revenue Streams

 Unfair Advantage

The Critical Hypotheses section helps identify and prioritize the fundamental assumptions underpinning your business, as well as recommend methods to help validate the idea. 

In our example input about adding a range to an existing gun shop, the software identified three areas that are highly critical to success including Desirability, Viability and Feasibility, as well as named some methods to validate the assumptions.

How do you determine if customers who visit your gun shop are interested in using an indoor shooting range on-site? Well, you conduct customer interviews. How do you determine if the cost of building and maintaining an indoor shooting range will generate enough revenue to cover expenses and be profitable? You perform a financial projection analysis. How do you know if your local regulations and zoning laws even allow for the construction and operation of an indoor shooting range at your location? Ask some experts or local officials.

Into The Rabbit Hole

The SparkRockets tool is so advanced it goes deep into the rabbit hole, providing expanded details for every business planning consideration. For example, when you click on Customer Segments on the Lean Canvas page, it will break down your customers into easily understood profiles. 

Continuing with our example, the top profile it identified was Recreational Shooters and included a persona overview for this notional customer:

Mike, aged 25–45, works in IT in a suburban area and enjoys outdoor and adventure activities on the weekends. He views shooting as a hobby and a way to relieve stress.

The second persona it generated was this Self-Defense Advocate:

Sarah, aged 30–50, lives in a metropolitan area and is a small business owner concerned about personal safety and security. She is interested in learning more about firearms for self-defense purposes.

The tool continues, listing five personas in total. Each one of these personas represents your potential customers, but more than that they represent specific groups you should be marketing toward. 

The SparkRockets page offers a ton of other tools and features, but my class has found those two specifically to be the most beneficial. If you want to have some fun, check out the Startup naming page and the Landing Page. The AI tool actually generates a list of compelling business names and even creates an example website with some AI-generated images … just look for the Landing Page button about halfway down the main results page.

Don’t Forget The “Human” Side Of The Equation

Coming back out of the rabbit hole, I tell my students SparkRockets (or any generative AI tool) should never be used to write your full business plan. A full business plan requires creativity, human thought and actual assumptions checking. AI is an amazing tool to help you with considerations, but it should never be completely trusted to come up with an accurate plan.

If you have been kicking around a business or product idea (industry-related or not), hop on SparkRockets.com and see what the tool generates. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, and it might even help you launch your idea faster.

Other resources: 


Walk-through video:




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