Successful Startups: Identify a Problem First, Create a Solution Second

Posted by Nate Andorsky on Aug 11, 2016 10:00:00 AM


“I have a great idea for an app!” I think every entrepreneur has heard these words from colleagues, coworkers, and friends who are looking for the “next big thing.” These conversations are usually well intended, but more often than not, they are focused on the wrong thing. 




The majority of startups as they exist today are not the idea by which they were originally conceived… and that’s why they’re successful. Thriving startups find success because they find a way to solve a problem, not just build an idea.


Think about the products you use every day and the underlying problems they solve. 


Want an easy way to get around town? The problem Uber is solving is your need for access to an on-demand car. Uber happens to be the most efficient way to obtain the on-demand car you’re looking for; it is the best app on the market to reduce the friction between your problem and a viable solution. 


Oftentimes entrepreneurs start out by defining a product before they have identified an actual problem, and yes — I’ve been guilty of it too. When this happens, you start to build a product, find a way to market to it, design an attractive website, only to then discover you can’t acquire users. 


A process called design thinking can assist with this process. Instead of identifying a solution first, the initial step is to identify the problem. The key here is to be very specific about the problem you are identifying. For example, let’s say the problem you’ve identified is: “I cannot find a fun bar to go to at night in my city.” Start digging into deeper specifics of the problem.


Define a “major metropolitan area.” Define what the term fun actually means to you. Is it loud music? Or is it a quiet atmosphere with quality drinks? Also, who is your problem referring to? Males? Females? Singles? Millennials? Generation Y? I could provide more examples, but you get the gist.


design-thinking-model.pngDesign Thinking


Once you’ve identified the problem, the next step is to ideate possible solutions, and they don’t have to necessarily be technical solutions. Then, from those proposed solutions, create prototypes and begin to test each one. Continue testing and refining the prototypes until you have enough validation to move full-steam ahead with the one that is working. Narrowing down your prototypical solutions through trial and error is incredibly important before advancing forward with your idea.


So before you hatch an idea, first hatch a problem. Define the specific problem that you are attempting to solve and not the idea that you want to build and test — if you don’t, you’ll end up with a really nice solution and no one to use it. 



Topics: Startups