Solutions vs Problems

A lot of really smart ambitious people love solutions. They get excited about amazing solutions and start building with them. Most of them fail to accomplish anything meaningful.


Because problems determine the success of a venture, not solutions.

The size, scope, intensity, definability and cost of a problem matters more than the cleverness of a solution. If you find an intensely felt problem in a sufficiently large market that is clear enough to understand, how you solve it isn’t that important.

I remember when I was pitching venture capitalists for the first time and I boned up on all kinds of engineering details of a platform we were building. I’m no a coder myself, but I thought they’d be grilling me about the nature of the solution we were building.

They didn’t. At all.

They didn’t care in the least about the specs of the solution. They cared about my ability to identify and define a clear problem and the provable value in solving it. Then they cared about whether I seemed like the type of guy who could rally some good tech talent to decide the details of how.

They had it right.

Most endeavors fail because someone stumbles upon a really cool solution to a vague problem of unknown size and value, and never really wants to commit to paring it down to something clear.

The problemification process is painful.

Asking things like: What problem is this solving? Who is this a problem for? How many of them are there? How big of a problem is it? How common is the problem? How much would they pay to have it solved? And repeating these questions until you get down to something tangible is annoying.

If you’re never allowed to talk about or explain solutions, how far can you get? Can you paint a problem picture that is so compelling it’s a no-brainer for someone to say, “Oh wow, if someone solved THAT, they’d have a huge business”?

If not, keep trying.