What problem are you solving?

From Solutionists by Pat Kinsel:

It’s become clear to me that there are two types of entrepreneurs. One type of entrepreneur presents a problem, discusses the research they’ve done, and offers a solution… The other type of person, the solutionist, is obsessed with their solution above all else. It should go without saying, but you don’t want to be a solutionist. So, are you one? And what can you do about it?

1. Describe the problem you’re trying to solve in 3-5 sentences. Actually write it out. Talk about people (or organizations – which are comprised of people) and how they can’t do something or need something.

2. Describe the opportunity in broad strokes, but don’t mention anything about a solution. This should be entirely about the benefit to your customer. Imagine your product were built and you were trying to explain the value proposition to the target customer, why would they buy it?

3. Describe your solution, but keep this about the customer as well. This should simply describe what you’re going to do, not how you’re going to do it.

This seems somewhat obvious. But, you’d be surprised how many [potential] entrepreneurs’ ideas clearly fall apart when examined against this framework.

(1) Many of us aren’t solutionists, we’re just lazy about explicitly articulating the user need we’re addressing.
(2) Explicitly articulating the user need and the proposed solution exposes your assumptions and makes it easier to test them (eg. with a survey) and entertain alternative solutions.
(3) This isn’t limited to product. In Seeking Alpha, we often talk about backing into the question. “Hey, I’ve had this great idea!” “What question is that idea answering?” “Ah, here’s an even better answer to that question…”
(4) Cf. Is your company truly disruptive? Try this simple litmus test.

5 thoughts on “What problem are you solving?

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