Mark Suster drops more brilliance on focusing your energies at real problems (some excerpts below). I has posted previously on the limits of the “quick and easy” startup meme. One version of this is the idea (see here and here) that good ideas come from straight-out-of-school smart developers gathering together, fueled with junk food, and hacking away. There is a lot to this, but there is also something to be said for having some “domain knowledge” fueled grey hair, giving you the experience and chops to aim a problem at real problems and real markets. One current example of this (as Suster discusses) is the Linkedin IPO. Another relevant example is Gilt Group and Kevin Ryan (see recent interview by Chris Dixon).
“No. It’s not all sunshine and candy canes. We are building a lot of stuff now that has no longevity. In a way, startups have become kind of like the video game industry. New stuff gets created, it’s fun to play with and talk about. You want to use it because your friends are doing it and you want to find out what it’s all about. You want to see what’s new. You want the dopamine rush.
You play with it for a few weeks or months. Then you stop. You stop because it was game like. Temporal. Non valuable. Not really helping you do something better. Not improving your life or business.
Not solving a real problem.”
“But what I do see in the market in 2011 is way too many “me too” solutions where a bunch of founders have brainstormed a way to do a better Groupon, a better Gilt Groupe, a better Twitter or a better Quora. When pressed, not enough of these entrepreneurs can answer questions about why users would still be using this product in 5 years, about why their product is going to solve a consumer or business problem that isn’t being solved today. They pitch me features, not value.
I play with features. I’m a tech junkie as much as the next guy. But next month I’m on to the next one.
I would encourage you to think bigger. The market is over-weight in companies trying to solve problems for bars & restaurants. Sure, that’s a fine category. I have no problem with it. But what about education? Healthcare information? Energy? Housing? Auto? Financial Services? There are so many big inefficiencies in this country that need tackling. I feel quite comfortable that our bars & restaurant industry will be just fine.
When you solve a real problem you’ll win the true battle. The battle for share of mind. Challenge yourself to think harder.”
This is where actually having some domain knowledge has some value, perhaps.