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🏗️ Are you building something people want
Inexperience may result in solving a problem nobody asked you to solve
In the world of entrepreneurship, the key to success lies in creating a company and developing a product that effectively addresses the needs and desires of your target audience. It's not enough to simply identify inefficiencies; you must ensure that you're solving a problem that people genuinely want to be solved (or at least are willing to accept). By avoiding the pitfalls of building a product nobody asked for, you can pave the way for meaningful innovation and long-term growth. In this blog post, we will explore the importance of understanding market demand and highlight the value of a positive attitude and a willingness to adapt.
A story: a restaurateur friend of mine told me about a time where a young 20-something guy walked into his store and said “I want to help you better manage your inventory. May I ask you some questions about the problems you currently have?” To which he said “we manage our inventory quite effectively, thank you very much” and then proceeded to return to his day, just a bit more frustrated than he was before…
This encounter sheds light on a common misunderstanding in the startup world—failing to grasp whether you're solving a problem that people actually want to be solved. It's crucial not to become the hero that nobody asked for, but instead, focus on addressing real needs in the market.
In my own experience within the PropTech industry, specifically in multifamily housing, I've encountered clear inefficiencies. However, fixing many of them would be too costly in terms of time, money, or operational complexity. Ultimately, being capital efficient is paramount in this world, and everything else follows suit…that is the north star for startups in this space.
Building a product that nobody wants isn’t always a recipe for failure though…
A notable example is the story of Stewart Butterfield, the founder of two highly successful companies—Flickr and Slack. Interestingly, both of these companies began as something entirely different. Flickr originally started as Game Neverending, a roleplaying game that featured a photo-sharing component. Recognizing that the game wasn't gaining traction but the photo-sharing aspect was, Butterfield made the decision to fully invest in this piece of the experience they had developed. Thus, Flickr was born, eventually being sold to Yahoo.
Butterfield's journey didn't end there. He went on to start another game called Glitch, which ultimately pivoted into Slack, a messaging platform that revolutionized communication within teams, after the messaging component proved to be the most valuable part of the experience. This pivot proved to be a resounding success, with Slack being acquired by Salesforce for nearly $30 billion. Check out this Crunchbase article if you want more on Slack’s origins. These examples demonstrate the power of adaptability and the willingness to pivot when you identify a more promising market need.
Sometimes the most important thing is just getting started…and having the right attitude
While it's crucial to ensure that you're addressing a genuine market need, the most vital step is getting started. Often, the biggest challenge lies in taking that initial leap of faith. However, by having a well-defined idea, a passion for your product, and the right attitude, you can pave the way for incredible success. It's through this mindset of openness and resilience that thriving businesses are born, fostering innovation, growth, and long-term prosperity. The process of building and learning from your customers is usually a great way to identify what it is they actually want…just look at Stewart Butterfield.
So, remember to maintain a positive outlook, embrace experimentation, and embark on your journey of building a business that genuinely fulfills the needs of your target market. It’s okay to change your mind!