Creating Opportunities not just finding problems

Note to future self…

I’ve always thought that investors and founders over-index on figuring out what problem startups are solving. Take this from someone that created a site on finding “interesting problems to solve.” I think that some of the most successful companies of our time (e.g. Facebook, Slack, Netflix, etc.) were not created to solve a super-specific problem even though in hindsight you could reconstruct the exact problem that they were solving.

Today I came across an interesting article making the argument that you can think about a company in one of two ways. First, in terms of how strong is the problem that they’re solving. Second, in terms of how much opportunity these product could create.

When evaluating ideas, you should certainly think about how much they are solving a clear problem. But also think about what new opportunities they might be creating. Your conceptualization of the business will be very different depending on how much of each you have.

It’s important to note that as a founder or investor it might be easy to deceive yourself and think that a startup might create a lot more opportunity than it really can. It’s easier to figure out if you’re solving a pain point than it is to accurately forecast how much value you can create.

Nevertheless, thinking of startup ideas in terms of 1) problem solved and 2) opportunity created can help expand anyone’s toolbox for evaluating companies.

Now back to work…