The thing that kills most startup is losing motivation to work on your startup. It can come from multiple sources such as your founders relationship doesn’t survive, you work on a problem you don’t really care about. The first thing to think about when choosing a problem is to hack your personal motivation. How can you pick up a set of problems or users that not only you’re fighting for today but when you’re really tired, frustrating, low on cash 10 years from now? Don’t work on a problem because it’s cool today but not tomorrow. Now, let’s look at the exercise.
What problems are you solving?
Most founders often focus on their ideas and often times they don’t even know why. For Justin.tv, at first they made TV shows, the problem was people watching TV shows. If no one was watching, it didn’t solve the problem. Later on, the problem became: Can we let anyone broadcast live?
Can you state the problem clearly? If you can’t you don’t know the problem.
Have you experience it yourself? Lots of founders solve problems for someone else that they never met, talked to, or knew if they existed.
Can you define your problem narrowly? At first, you can’t solve the problem for everybody who has it. At Justin.tv, they couldn’t let anyone broadcast because it required lots of things to setup and get it running. What can you address immediately? How can we get an indicator that this thing is working?
Is the problem solvable? Poppy tried to make it easy for parents have their children babysit but the problem itself was not solvable because it was hard to people to trust strangers and if one were employed full-time, they were basically professional babysitters. It wasn’t like Uber at all.
Who is your customer?
Unlike (or even) social media, it’s not everyone. You need to figure who are the first customers or who need it the most.
How often do they have the problem? Who is getting the most value out of this product? It’s really to help someone who has this frequently.
How intense is the problem? For example, Uber solves a problem that has both intensity and frequency. It’s intense because we have need and we need to move. It’s frequent because we move a lot.
Are they willing to pay? Starting with a price, instead of giving it for free, is often better. For people who want it the most, they might think it’s a good deal. For people who don’t have the problem or just want to try out, most will come and go. If you’re gonna learn form these people, it often leads you stress.
How easy are they to find? You can’t build something and expect them to find you.
Which customers should you go after first?
Instead of going after the hardest customers, look for easy ones. It’s okay that your MVP is bad. That said, the real question is: How can you find people who are willing to use a bad product? Who is the most most desperate customer and how can you talk to them first? Who is going out of business without using yours? If you think you’re dealing with impressive customer (big enterprises, have more money, take months to talk to) instead of desperate ones, you’re doing it wrong. Move on.
Don’t use your friends or your investors as indicators to “Am I solving the right problem”. They are helpful but they will leave you astray.
Additionally, you want to run away from customers who are blasting your support, constantly complaining and very costly to deal with.