Be problem-driven

There are quite a few really good arguments for why you should focus on the problem rather than the solution, when you’re trying to build a successful company. But there is one that I think takes the prize as the most powerful one:

By focusing on the problem, you broaden the opportunity for yourself, your company and your future success.

Why?

Because you start being less solution-focused. Not agnostic as such because there will always be something that you do that you need to put into the product to give it the real edge it needs. But less solution-focused.

You may start out developing and shipping one product, get a good reception and perhaps even some decent traction. And once you can see that the core fundamentalt of what you’re doing seems to resonate in the market, you can lift your gaze and start thinking about what’s next.

And this is where focusing on the problem rather than the solution enters the picture:

By focusing on the problem, you will see more opportunities just by looking. And others may present themselves that you would otherwise not have noticed. And this gives you opportunity.

Instead of being strong in a niche, you can become stronger in a space – and maybe even grow to become dominant of an entire industry.

Because you chose a laser like focus on the problem.

Looking in retrospect, most companies don’t become wildly successful by just doing one thing or having one product. They become wildly successful, because they understand the market they are in, the jobs, pains and gains of their customers and constituents – and the problem space they’re working on.

You should apply that approach to yourself and your company too.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Your idea is not about you

One of the hardest things to do when you’re trying out an idea for a new venture is to separate your own feelings from the data.

After all, you probably came up with the idea because you thought it was great – perhaps even the greatest since sliced bread. And now you’re bringing it doubt and jeopardy by subjecting it to some sort of validation in the actual real world.

Frightening.

But fear not. Because chances are that not everything is wasted.

Your idea might still be great. But the present application of it is not the optimal one. Wouldn’t it then be rather nice to get that insight through data, so you can change the application and move towards the iteration that gives both you and your future customers most ‘bang for the buck’?

Of course it would.

But still; the idea of finding out that your initial idea wasn’t the optimal solution for your customers can hurt and sting. Just make sure you realize that that’s ok; it is all part of the plan.

After all it is about the application of the idea – not you as a person.

If you think it’s too much to deal with, and – more importantly – you’re in danger of closing your eyes to the data and just venture on with what you originally had in mind, consider getting some sort of outside help or perspective. Someone with a clean slate and a fresh pair of eyes, who can help put it to you more gently – but nonetheless put it to you.

It might prove to be one of the best investments, you can make.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Arghh, it’s good enough

“They will love it, when they see it. And they will realize that this is just what they have been waiting for.”

Trying to build something for a market that’s nascent is super hard on so many levels. Yet, it is also one of those areas where time and time again, I meet founders who seem determined that their novel idea is going to take the world with storm, once they unleash it.

It is almost as if the future customers have just been waiting for this new breakthrough. Without knowing it of course.

Reality is it seldom happens that way.

Breaking into a new market let alone creating a new market and a demand in it is super, super hard. And founders who think it’s just a matter of making the technology work are doing themselves and their chances for success a big disservice.

Because what you’re up against is the most dreaded practical barrier of them all:

Good enough.

While they may not be using the optimal solution today, maybe what they have just works for their needs.

Maybe they have become so accustomed to nothing happening in this particular space, that they have stopped looking or even hoping for something better.

Maybe their habits are just so engrained in them that the very thought of doing something in a novel way is somewhat frightening.

The point is that there could be a lot of reasons but that the end result is the same – for the time being:

What I have is good enough.

Overcoming that dreaded barrier is not only a question about making technology work. It is also – and perhaps to some extend more – about packaging it right, getting the message right and getting it out there in front of future customers using the right channels at the right time.

And so much more.

The real important lesson here is that although the opportunity can seem huge, and there seems to be a big void in the market for something new, getting something new going in that void is going to take skill, experience, muscle (aka money) – and some degree of luck.

Don’t ever underestimate that job.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The real drivers for success

One of the general misconceptions about startups is that too much value is being placed on the idea itself or the work you have already done, and not enough value is placed on what’s needed in order to get to where you want to be with your company in the future.

It is so easy to scoff at a product vision, but the reality of the matter is that when you define a bold and daring vision for your new venture, it becomes more apparent all the things you need to get in place in order to have any chance of getting there.

Let me mention a couple;

In-depth knowledge about the market, market dynamics and the customers, you’re addressing so you know what’s needed from the product(s) in order to get in front of the right future customers and actually convert into sales.

The talent needed to make things happen, so you make sure you have all the right competencies in place, which – if they are just remotely good at what they do – will have plenty of other options on the table than to join your merry crew.

The money needed to make the vision come through and fuel both the roadmap and the growth you have envisaged in order to get to the position, you want to get in.

And these are just to name a few.

The easy thing to do here is to just not care about these things, save them for later – and run into big, big trouble later on.

That happens;

When you build something nobody wants or there is just not a big enough market for. It remains the primary reason startups fail.

You cannot attract the talent you need because they have all chosen to join the other companies where they have a better feeling of what they are aspiring to do and they’re moving more diligently in the right direction.

Investors will turn their backs on you because your basically not fundable for above reasons or for something else.

See the connection here?

The best decision, you can make, is to focus less on past achievements and more on what is needed – not from you yourself necessarily but from everybody else – in order to get to where you want to be in a few years time. And then work towards ensuring that can actually happen.

That is going to make all the difference to your success.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

R.I.P. Quibi

A mere 6 months after launch and after burning through a good portion of the 1,75B USD it had raised from investors, the short form streaming platform Quibi is closing it’s doors.

Why? Because even if they were almost too big to fail they still managed to hit the one big pole, other entrepreneurs work their butts of to avoid ever getting into an infight with:

No market need.

Well done.

Quibi founders Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman even kind of admit so in their open farewell letter on Medium:

Quibi was a big idea and there was no one who wanted to make a success of it more than we did.

An open letter from Quibi. to the employees…

Exactly, you were pretty alone in thinking this would be a spectacular hit.

Ouch.

Quibi was an exercise in hybris. It was an exercise in the power of the idea alone; that if you build it, they will come.

Again from the open letter:

Although the circumstances were not right for Quibi to succeed as a standalone company, our team achieved much of what we set out to accomplish, and we are tremendously proud of the award-winning and innovative work that we have produced, both in terms of original content and the underlying technology platform. 

An open letter from Quibi. to the employees…

Customers never really came. And those that did ran away as soon as they were asked to pay for it.

It is easy to poke fun of a grand idea flawfully executed. But you could also feel enraged;

That while aspiring entrepreneurs with truly great ideas looking to solve real problems, investors throw money at something that is…well, you get it.

This is what happens when people who don’t “get it” think they can become successful entrepreneurs if they just throw enough money at it.

This is what happens when the smartest people in the room decide to show the world just how smart they really are.

As such Quibi should be a lesson to all with no respect for the grind of trying to build on an idea and achieve product-market fit while at the same time be conscious about ressources spend.

It won’t be. It will happen again. And again.

Because Quibi will be forgotten soon.

That’s how ‘big’ an idea it was.

(Photo: Screenshot)

New life to dead markets

Dead Sea Markets.

A fascinating term. A term that suggests a market that has pretty much killed every entity in it (due to various reasons) but could still serve as a fertile ground for new entries and perhaps entire ecosystems.

Why is it so fascinating? Because it essentially provides a ‘firehose’ option. An option where if you can come up with the right thing, the right solution, customers will already be flocking looking to try and perhaps even buy. You don’t have to build and convince people there is a market, which is a huge advantage.

And yet, we often overlook these opportunities. We tend to find these industries and verticals slightly ‘tired’ and even ‘boring’, because it seems like every bit of oxygen has been sucked out of it.

And it may have been – if we look at the incumbents already trying to play in the industry.

But isn’t that exactly what we are looking for; a tired, boring incumbent underserving or even sunsetting a market, we could have the opportunity to serve way better?

My point here?

Don’t only look for highly profitable markets looking for opportunities to disrupt them. Look also for the ones that seems like they are dead, without air or any kind of energy.

Ask yourself this: Is it so because there really isn’t anything there at all? Or is it just because the ones already there are not really there?

Often you will find it’s the latter. Which should be your signal to consider an entry. Because chances are nobody else is having the same idea. Or just feels it is too hard (which, full discretion, it may indeed turn out to be).

And because you might be able to turn a Dead Sea into a Blue Ocean.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)