It’s all about the problem you are solving

The founding team has to rise in unison to solve a 'validated problem'. That's the key for a strong vision.

By Ashok Subramanian

Many a startup founder has dreams. But what is the dream about?

The dream is about being a ‘founder’, ‘running a firm’, ‘getting investors’. Then what?  Now these are ‘inward’ dreams — dreams about what the founder wants to be or how he is going forward.  Here is where most founders flounder.

Working with a few founders — at different stages of their organization — one can easily find that their focus in how to ‘solve problems’ and then build an organization that is capable of solving that problem.  The need is the diagnosis — the identification and validation of the problem.  The deeper the pain the problem causes, the more valuable the solution perceived to be.  Here is where validation comes into play — validation is about analysing the depth and spread of the problem, and the impact — or the pain that the problem causes.  When a person is impacted and acknowledges the impact, then the solution is automatically sold — as the solution has created a perceptible value by the ‘problem acknowledgement’.

One of my clients says: “I had to only put my head into the pains that my customer goes through — and if I can experience it myself, then I have found what I need to solve it — and therefore, my solution is ‘prefabricated’ to solve.”  And I have to only remind the customer of the experiences that they have gone through in tolerating or trying to mitigate the problem.  And when I build my product or service as a solution to this, I get my customer appreciating — hence price is never an issue.

Discussing this over many cups of coffee with customers has given many startup founders deep insights into problems. So the solution pitch is so strikingly clear and closer to the diagnosis.

As a founder, one should embrace the problem that one has to solve — that is called the ‘founder’s dream’. An organization that synergies to delivering the solution then is an impactful startup — and both investors and customers can relate to — in simple, tangible means.

Three things that a founder has to focus, therefore:

  1. Identify a problem that is in you can relate to. Write the problem down and revise the statement — till you feel that you have perfected it.
  2. Use time and resources to validate the impact, depth and spread of the problem. Discuss with various influencers, customers, stakeholders and other aspirants. This validation will help decide on the next steps.
  3. If the problem is close to your core competency, then define the solution — and test it. Otherwise, find somebody who has the time, resources, and passion to do it with you. Validate it through step 2.

After you have taken care of these things, then think of starting up.  Starting up, then has a cause — and then comes how to make a business out of it.

A ‘founder’, who dreams of a problem, is the one who can sell the solution, and makes the business better.

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