Finding and Solving Problems

Maze

By Tom Fedro

Ultimately, all business is about solving problems.  From the earliest trade to the most recent, a problem is identified (or even created) and someone comes along with a solution to that problem in order to create value.  Sometimes, the problem isn’t easy to envision as such.  Video games were created for entertainment, right?  Where’s the problem they solved?  Well, in that case the problem was boredom.  In fact, entertainment options and their availability made boredom more of a problem than it was before.  A mind not entertained now is almost unbearable to most Americans.

From the perspective of a start-up, there are three crucial elements of this business reality.  First, a start-up needs to solve a problem.  If you’re not looking at your product as the means by which a problem is solved, you’re not in the world of technology.  The most beautiful code in the world, if it doesn’t solve a problem, is effort that won’t help you.  Sure, you might create some elegant code but the esteem of your fellow tech heads isn’t going to get you far with your banker. Ultimately, a technology start-up is a solutions start-up, and it’s hard to create a solution when you’ve no idea what it is you’re trying to solve in the first place.

That’s not enough, though.  A successful startup has to recognize why the problems exist.  I love to think of automated backup as the perfect example of this.  Really, how hard is it to press a button at the end of the day and backup data, right?  Still, the automation was created to fix the element of error created by the human factor.  Someone had to understand the problem before a solution could be presented.

A good technology startup solves a problem and understands the human aspect of it.  Then, and also critical, a successful startup determines how to sell the solution to the people with the problem. Without this last part, the other two are irrelevant.  A successful company needs to identify the problem, solve it, and then convince someone to both see the problem and the solution.  Otherwise, we’re spinning our wheels.  We’re creating beautiful code and earning pats on the back instead of profits.

What problem is your startup addressing?

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