A few weeks back, a startup founder came to me to get his idea validated. The origin of his idea was his own harrowing experience as a flight passenger during peak hours He had also spoken to other passengers who shared the same experience. He was explaining how customer service is shoddy and how the airlines were losing customers to competition. He envisioned how his idea would clearly stop this migration.
All that seemed fine until I asked my favourite question “Who is your customer?” and he mentioned the airlines. Given that the number of players in that sector were so few and almost all of them were notorious for bad service, I asked him “Did you speak to the customer service heads of those service providers whether this was a top priority problem?”and to my surprise, he said he hadn’t yet. He then countered my question by another “How does it matter when this idea will solve the problem of shoddy customer service leading to attrition?”.
I then asked him how was the customer service from the other providers and he confessed that it was uniformly pathetic. Ergo, by migrating from one to another only meant that customers were jumping from a frying pan into a fire and perhaps would, on the next occasion jump back into the frying pan!!
When I pointed this to him, he realized that the airlines perhaps saw the shoddy customer service merely as an irritant and not a problem that they would invest to solve. Given that those players were operating as an oligopoly, they were unlikely to do anything on that issue unless it becomes a mess.
He wrote back after reaching home thus:
Thank you once again for your great Insight sir. Your feedback within a short time of just 45 minutes saved me from wasting time and effort and helped me to move my focus on other potential problems
So how is his situation relevant for all of us entrepreneurs?
Many entrepreneurs believe that because they had a problem, there would be others with the same problem and hence it is worth solving. Because they have an itch to solve a problem (hammer), whatever they see would appear to be a problem to solve (nail).
But just because you have identified a problem, it doesn’t naturally follow that it is worth solving and more importantly you should solve it
It is not surprising that the a detailed study of Startup failures has concluded that “Targeting problems that are interesting to solve rather than those that serve a market need was cited as the number one reason for failure in 42% of the startups interviewed”
So, when you have a very inspirational idea the next time, press the pause button and get it validated preferably by a structured service like VoIS.