Friday, July 27, 2007

Startup: Focus on the problem

Peter Rip at Crosslink has posted a great article about how Teqlo failed and now they are fixing it. I am reproducing a few excerpts, and my comments:
First, let me admit we went down a mashup rat hole. We have a general technology for snapping together web services. "Because they can" is an insufficient answer to "why do people want to create mashups?" We failed to commit to solve a specific problem for a specific market, preferring instead the broad appeal of generality. This has changed.
I have seen so many people having great ideas, looking for problems to solve. So basically, you have a solution, and you are looking for a problem. This almost never works this way, even though it seems (obvious enough) that it should work.
The first thing we did was toss out any pretense of solving everyone’s problem. There is an old proverb that I just invented for this situation -- “The boiling of the ocean begins with a single puddle.” We had to define our puddle. So we did.
Peter has hit the nail on the head. Trying to solve all problems at once is one of the biggest problems you can face. You need to have laser sharp focus on one specific problem area that you want to solve. It is very possible that 80% of your friends will tell you “why don’t you also do this, this is in adjacent space (technologically)”, “if you don’t do this, you will miss out on all the opportunities in that (other space)”. My advice is to tell your friends is “we will get to that”.

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Blogger Vivek said...

I agree about the "Identify the problem first" bit, but I think another equally important aspect is to answer the question, "Will people pay for the solution we are building?"
There are lots of great offerings across the internet, with loads of users - but very few of them lead to stable revenue streams.

The one-thing-at-a-time approach sounds like a good launch practice. It avoids diluting the focus and energies of the larger team - but - from an ideation perspective, the idea engine in the startup must think ahead of the curve - there is always the chance to build a specific/focussed solution, which will also allow, complimentary service expansion to be plugged-in later; but from an engineering design perspective, this is much less of a mess if thought has been applied for future expansion 'upfront'.

Also if a offering is too-focussed on solving a single problem 'and' that space is likely to get crowded with others players, the ones who offer more than plain vanilla are likely to have the upper hand. One exception to that though is someone doing a Google-esque thingy - very difficult to duplicate, yet niche and focussed.

12:21 PM  

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