Startup execution is by now a well understood process. The Customer Development model does a good job at delineating the different steps necessary to determine if something is a scalable, repeatable and profitable business model.
Prior to any of that however, you need an idea. You need an idea that you yourself are passionate about, a vision that will resonate with both partners and customers. A mission and vision that you can stick to through the good and the bad.
As an engineer with passion for technology and anything tech-related, I find myself at a disadvantage when it comes to coming up with good ideas. I'm stuck in the Silicon Valley bubble with other tech people. We care about things like GitHub, Rails, Hacker News, Vim and other crap that the average person couldn't care less about. Grandma doesn't care about the latest Lisp dialect.
My "best" ideas are basically rehashings of existing services: "mint.com for foo", "facebook for bar" and so on. I don't know what problems real people face out there every day, no idea what big challenges I can undertake that will improve people's lives or make a big difference in someone's business. I also never feel like I'm headed "where the puck is going", instead I'm always chasing after something that's already hot.
What do I do? Has anybody had a similar issue and figured out how to overcome it?
I want to build a sizeable portfolio of potential business venture ideas so that not only I'm not stuck with the first one I come up with (fool me once), but I can hopefully choose the one that I will personally identify the most with.
Thanks for the great tips, everybody!