In a world wherein overwhelmingly most founders and startups fail as a result of a lack of product/market fit, and incubators, University startup programs, and mentors, are flush with “ideas” that genuinely warrant, “that’s already being done,” perhaps the advice to start with the problem (or solution, for that matter), is wrong.
Think on it: starting with the problem means starting with presumptions.
I have a problem. I have a ton of mosquito bites driving me crazy. So… go. Do a startup.
Or a more realistic example, my phone battery dies too quickly. That’s a problem. So, just there you go, fix that.
From that classic visual of a light bulb suggesting a new idea, a broken light bulb isn’t a problem necessarily warranting a completely new venture. Most often, we just need to replace the light bulb.
You start with marketing, and something like a competitive analysis.
- Is there really a problem??
- Does anyone really care?
- Will anyone pay for the solution you have in mind?
- What are competitors doing??
Starting from the problem means you’re investing in my itchy leg problem despite having Cortaid we could use to solve it, and despite millions of dollars being spent to help better manage mosquitoes. You too think phone batteries suck? So go on with your bad self and just start designing a better battery… despite all the phone manufacturers and batter companies investing billions to do it, you’ll do better just setting out.
And don’t misunderstand that tongue-in-cheek criticism! It’s not meant to imply that you can’t nor even shouldn’t actually tackle mosquito bites nor batteries! I’m trying to illuminate how the focus and fixation on a problem is just blatantly wrong and bad advice.
Can you afford to compete with Samsung? Do you know if there is a patent that will prevent you? Is your solution actually better than work being done?
Why would you start anything without knowing first if your perceived problem is actually a problem that anyone cares about or that you could actually be successful in addressing??
You don’t start with the problem. You don’t even start with the solution. You start by determining IF there an opportunity.