Generate Ideas by Solving Real Problems

Now that I’ve had the experience of attending two startup weekends – one as a participant and one as a speaker, I’ve been exposed to pitches from several other startups. Add to that, all the news on startups coming in from sites likeTechCrunch and AngelList and I’m starting to notice a disturbing trend.

People are focusing on ideas, rather than solving problems.

The focus should not be on “What startup should we create?“, it should be on “What problem should we solve?”

The good news is that we are not asking you to solve world hunger or broker peace in the middle east (although that would be nice). All you need to do is solve problems that real users have.

How do you find these problems?


Take a look at your Facebook and Twitter streams and see what people are complaining about. Join forums and discussion groups to see what kinds of problems people are having.

See if you can do any of the following:

  1. Take something that is complicated and make it simpler. Perhaps by reducing the number of steps involved.
  2. Take something inconvenient and make it more convenient.
  3. Take something that is currently expensive and find a way to do it for cheaper, or even for free!
  4. Take something that is of low quality, and create a higher quality version that you can charge more for.
  5. Take something that is currently boring, and make it more exciting.

When I listen to a startup pitch, it should be clear to me what the problem is that they are solving. Let’s take a look at some famous examples.

It’s clear what problem Evernote is trying to solve. People tend to forget a lot of things. Evernote helps them remember by making it easy to take notes.

Facebook solves the problem of us losing connection with our family and friends, as we live our busy lives.

Both these products are quite clear, and require little convincing. As a result, both companies are huge with millions of users around the world.

If you have to explain to me what my problem is, or try to convince me that I have a problem that I previously didn’t know exist, then it may be hard to get traction.

Better yet would be to find users with the problems you are solving and introduce your product to them directly. If they continue using your product, you know you’re onto something. If they don’t come back, then follow up with them and find out why.

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