StartUp Founders: Separate Your Solution From The Problem

December 17, 2022 2 mins read

In the voyage of entrepreneurship, understanding and articulating the problem your startup aims to solve is a paramount task, often more crucial than the solution itself. I’ve observed that many founders lead with their solution, extolling its capabilities, features, and functions. This approach, although not entirely misguided, often obfuscates the real issue at hand. My recommendation is this: separate the problem area from your solution. Let’s delve into this principle.

When analyzing a problem, strive to answer these essential questions: What is the problem? Who is grappling with it? How pervasive is it? What are the current methods to mitigate it? The answers to these queries create a comprehensive picture of the problem landscape. It is crucial to recognize that while you may be accurate about the existence and severity of a problem, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your solution is the optimal one.

First-time entrepreneurs often get enamored with their solution, pouring immense effort into illustrating how their solution will resolve the issue. However, it is key to maintain enough flexibility to understand that there may be multiple solutions to a problem. Moreover, your initial solution may go through several iterations before it precisely addresses the identified issue.

A popular anecdote that encapsulates this concept, though apocryphal, is the story often attributed to Henry Ford. When faced with the problem of slow transportation, if people had been asked for a solution, they might have suggested a faster horse. However, the true innovative solution was not a faster horse, but the invention of the car. This example illustrates that there are numerous ways to solve the same problem – a car, a rocket engine, better roads, more organized traffic, fewer pedestrians, and more.

This story, however inaccurate it may be (Henry Ford himself never said it), underscores the point that there are myriad solutions to a single problem, and the first solution you conceive may not always be the most effective one. As Satya Nadella, the transformative CEO of Microsoft, is known for saying, “We need to be on the right side of technology and use it to build inclusive and sustainable societies.” This implies not just focusing on your solution but understanding the broader context of the problem and the many ways it might be addressed.

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