DON’T JUST START A BUSINESS, SOLVE A PROBLEM09 Nov 2015
As long as people have problems, they will need solutions. Not everyone can solve their problems, and that’s where you come in. Find a creative solution; figure out a way for people to pay you for it, and you win, right? Except it’s not that simple. In this article, we’ll show what you need to start-up, give you a nudge in the right direction, just in case you’ve been unsuccessfully plotting to break out of your boring corporate routine before your boss asks you to work on another ppt.
For those of you who want to jump on the start-up bandwagon, there are a couple of things you should know. What most people do is search for ideas to help them start-up. The way to get start-up ideas, says Paul Graham, is not to try to think of start-up ideas. It’s to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself. The very best startup ideas tend to have three things in common: they’re something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing. Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Facebook all began this way.
“I find out what the world needs. Then, I go ahead and invent it. – Thomas Edison”
The problem that you need to solve can be simple; something you personally need, or it can be the solution to world peace, poverty, or more importantly, the office coffee machine. You can find a smarter way to do an everyday task, or improve on an existing product or service, or give people a creative solution to something they never knew they needed. Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston said in his 2013 MIT Commencement address, “The happiest and most successful people I know don’t just love what they do, they’re obsessed with solving an important problem, something that matters to them.”
Below are the five steps to identify a problem:
STEP 1: Define the problem
This is your first step, without this unfortunately, you have no start-up. Identifying a problem is important, and identifying the correct problem is crucial. Look at the problem from different perspectives. Do you think your customers will pay for this problem to be solved?
The cause of a problem is almost never where the symptom shows. Find the root problem and fix it, not the symptoms. Let me introduce you to a real-life example that explains this concept better. Shippr is a company that transports goods within the city. It is a well-known fact, that the logistics industry in India is chaotic and unorganized, mainly due to lack of improvements in technology and customer focus. The market consists of fleet owners, single truck owners, brokers and contractors. Bringing all these people together to perform a single operation is a difficult task for the consumer. Shippr has recognized this need to organize the industry to make it more accessible to the user. Their first product, the MiniShippr, is a disruptive logistics solution aimed at local deliveries within Bangalore. The service is as easy as calling a cab. It also helps single vehicle owners (vendors) reduce their idle time by 40%, thereby increasing profitability and quicker vehicle turnaround.
They approached the problem by compartmentalizing technology and operations. The problem they wanted to ultimately solve was the difficulty of finding a vehicle for transport and being a cost effective. These are the symptoms; the root cause of the problem is that the trucking industry in India is unorganized and highly fragmented. This root cause is what Shippr focuses on solving, by becoming the Uber of commercial vehicles in India, and providing the customers with an efficient, sustainable and reliable solution.
STEP 2: Ideate
Break down the problem into small components. Each of these components can be viewed as a smaller problem. Find the root causes of all the smaller problems. Once you look at all the root causes and review how things currently work; you have a direction in which you need to proceed. As you keep identifying all the smaller issues, your chances to solve the root cause of the problem will increase. Shippr capitalized on the fact that the current condition of the logistics industry was disorganized. By objectively viewing different components of the problem, Shippr has been able to build India’s first on-demand logistics platform for both B2C and B2B customers.
STEP 3: Generate alternatives
Now that you have a list of problems, it’s time to start brainstorming solutions for each of them. Think of all the potential solutions for solving the problems at hand. These potential solutions are the ones that you will analyze and evaluate later. Potential solutions to these problems can be to save time, or save money, or perform a slow task faster, or simplify a difficult task. Considering multiple alternatives can significantly enhance the value of your final solution. Do not analyze alternatives as they are proposed, or you’ll end up choosing the most obvious one. And hence miss out on the potential to build something new. Two guys sitting in their B-school recruitment event, brainstormed many alternatives to solve the problem of India’s waste management. The result of their brainstorming is Green Power Systems, a company that is pioneering the development of low-cost technology for waste management. They’ve developed a simple installation that converts daily waste to biogas.
STEP 4: Analyze
Now comes the fun part. You finally get to open that excel spreadsheet. The things a skilled problem solver considers while choosing the best alternative to the problem are as follows:
- Will this particular alternative solve the problem without causing more problems?
- Will the maximum number of people accept this alternative?
- How easy or difficult is it to implement this particular alternative?
- Is the market for this alternative already saturated?
- Is this alternative a scalable solution?
You may not chance upon the right alternative at the first shot, but at least you will have made some impact in terms of gaining traction before you try to implement the next possible alternative. Zenparent, a website that provides urban parents with the resources they need for child development, originally began as a child safety device. Overtime, they developed into a one stop solution for quality parenting information on the internet, as they realized that there was a pertinent need to address parenting concerns.
STEP 5: Implement
Now you need to sell your solution so that it gets implemented. The way you execute your solution will be what makes your idea generate revenue. Have the analysis in place that proves your case in a logical clear manner. Help your customers see what the problem is, understand the problem, why it needs solving and how you are going to solve it. Have a feedback loop in place, to track the implementation of the solution, to check if it’s the right one and to test what is actually happening as against your expectations. Zenparent, being predominantly social media driven, has user feedback at the core of its business model. They constantly use this feedback to generate content that is both beneficial and enlightening. The size of the problem does not matter. What matters is the size of the solution and the way you execute it. Find a problem that needs scalable solutions that will make a huge impact.
When these companies started out, they were looking for a co-founders, or technical support and funds. This is where Venture Factory steps in. You put in the grunt work, and Venture Factory will help you build your startup, by providing you with the right support, mentors, and hands on guidance to take your business plan from the table to market.
Your ability to make money is directly proportionate to how well you solve problems for your customers. Few have a knack for looking at a problem objectively, and that’s why nine out of ten startups fail so miserably. Add value to the problems that you’ve identified. A business is successful only when it solves a specific pain point for consumers and other businesses. Know what customers want, even before they do. If you have been able to identify a crucial problem that you can effectively execute and deliver to market, you will be able to create a real business that matters. On that note, I’m off to see what can be done about the office coffee.