It’s crazy when I hear some startup founders say, ‘I think the problem we’re solving with our product/service is X’. Hold on a second… you ‘think’? The surprising thing is that if you’ve temporarily forgotten why you started your startup or business, you’re not alone.
It’s easy to forget the problem you’re solving with your product or service
As an early-stage founder, it’s at times beaten into us that we need to deliver our elevator pitch as quickly as possible and it has to pass all the worldly standards of know-hows. Yes! it sounds like a good idea — we got one mouth and two ears, both for a reason. But there’s an unintended consequence: when we spend so much time summing up the details, it’s so easy to forget them altogether & quite quickly.
We account all the problems, issues and frustrations that originally motivated us to dedicate our lives to solving them as a whole, and we find a general theme as an escape route, forgetting the minute details which later prove out to be necessary. The result of this is a generalized problem statement that’s both technically true and carries a high-value ratio. And this is where the issues alongside a pinch of ambiguity start.
Generalized problems are TOXIC
As we, as founder grab a habit of talking about a general problem over and over again. It’s a little hard to question a general-but-crucial-sounding problem statement. It appears impressive, attractive and big.
But, here’s a thing. Compressing a set of specific problems into a summary is like shrinking a photo into a 300×300 thumbnail. As soon as you try to go back to the core (or where you initially started), things start to get very blurry and confusing.
On the way to discovering the right product-market fit, more specific problems appear within your general theme, and it’s further easy to get confused about which were problems you were addressing to be solved with your idea and which aren’t.
You can’t measure a problem statement by how it sounds, instead, by only how it feels to end listener/reader
Here’s your takeaway, the generalized-problem paradox is this: it’s easier to pitch a general problem to an audience, but consumers (or end-users) purchase to solve a specific problem.
How to Reconnect with the ‘REAL’ Problem
To reconnect with the ‘real’ problem you focused on initially, you must time travel before you founded your company. To get there, ask yourself the following questions:
- Where were you working and living?
- What were you pursuing before you started your startup?
- What were your goals back then?
- What specific sequence of events happened to you that made you so frustrated on solving this problem?
We all start businesses because we’re frustrated about something that needs a fix. Once you’ve found that frustration, it’s time to dig deeper into it:
- Why were you so frustrated with it?
- Did you hack together a temporary solution to that problem?
- How often did you feel frustrated with it?
- Did you search online for a better (& feasible) solution?
- Why did the problem piss you off so much?
- What’s the nearest thing you found?
Yes, all founders are pissed off at something, admit it. Embrace the emotion that’s bubbling up inside of you.
Don’t generalize. Instead, stick to your specific situation & circumstances which you are facing in the industry (no matter how neurotic or crazy it might sound). Write down your answers and align your work alongside them.
To help you break down the generalized-problem paradox, I recommend sharing your ‘story’ with the world in any suitable medium, be it a blog or a podcast or a video.
But doing this at times feels uncomfortable. It’s personal and specific and most importantly, you want to solve it first. It exposes your innermost frustrations, your mindset, your values, and a whole bunch of assumptions. It opens you up to a lot of embarrassments, corrections, and confused looks… and it sounds a whole lot ‘smaller’ than the polished summary you’ve been pitching for the last few months. But at last, it’s genuine. And that alone makes it way more powerful.
Back to the Roots
Now, over to your own story, you have to set it free and make it count. It takes courage to do so but, in the end, it’s worth it. Allow your readers to give you their necessary feedback, their criticism, their solidarity, and their valuable perspective.
Be open with your idea that there may be other ways to solve a particular problem that you might have not yet considered. And let it remind one last time to you that the part of your mission as a founder is to eradicate this frustration from the world, and not become a part of it.