How I'm Starting a Start Up: Part 1 - Looking for Problems

I started this 3 part series (Looking for Problems, Staying Focused, and Finding Your First Investor) the morning before my first investor meeting. This is about 3 weeks after finalizing my startups concept on Feb 26th and pumping out my Minimum Viable Product (it’s March 18th today), but 4 years of previous failed attempts.

Know that this series isn’t about getting a meeting fast (or at all), it’s about positioning yourself to start grabbing opportunities as early as possible.

Build Passion by LOOKING for Problems

Iterations of different problems I thought I was solving since 2012

It’s said that 90% of startups fail, which sounds terrible. But that’s 1-in-10 over the entire field - including unprepared startups. It’s also said that you shouldn’t look for problems. But when building a startup you must look for them.

You must.

Not only must you look for problems, you must look for problems lots of other people are having. Scratch-your-own-itch type problems sometimes work and can be a good starting point, but in order to increase your chance of success from 1-in-10 to 1-in-9 or better you need a large community of people with needs (and willing to pay to fulfill those needs).

So step one, find problems.

Problem Lists

I happened across my problem by chance. In a book I was reading called The Launch Pad by Randall Stross, Paul Graham (co-founder of Y-Combinator and the guy that runs Hacker News) makes a reference to a list of real problems that need fixing.

After a bit a research, I found these lists of problems compiled by people willing to invest for those problems to be solved!

You’ll want to expand on these idea. You’ll also need to research who else is working on the idea and gauge any weaknesses. In fact, you’ll probably want to research if it is in fact a profitable problem (investors see a lot of companies, but that doesn’t mean they know everything).

For example, I’m trying to fix a problem I see with Wikipedia. When I do research, I watch documentaries, message Wikipedia editors, and bookmark related news. I also use Wikipedia and similar tools to see what can be done better and get involved in related discussions.

You need to find a problem, but you also need to find a better solution than anyone everyone else.

So read a lot. That’s step two.

Reading. A Lot.

Before I get out of bed each and every morning, I go through my news feed on Feedly.

Feedly - or any other RSS reader - is the only way to consume massive amounts of information quickly. You’ll want to add feeds of your interests, your competitors, and the overall problem you’re trying to fix.

I also have Pocket installed in my browser. Pocket is a great way to save articles in plain-text for reading later, boosting focus and productivity.

But we’ll get to that in the next post.


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