Successful businesses solve problems. Amazon provided busy people with a way to buy books (now nearly anything) from the comfort of their homes. It offered a solution to people who disliked shopping or wanted to free their time for work, relaxing, or taking their kids to soccer practice. Uber changed transportation, giving people a better way to get a ride. Both companies addressed hidden problems of convenience and flexibility and are now ingrained within millions of people’s lives. Arranging a cab or driver service in advance required a phone call and hope that the car would arrive. Uber shows you the driver’s location, their estimated arrival, and when you’ll get to the destination. It removed pain points with simplicity, accuracy, and innovation. Problem
Entrepreneurs can learn from these success stories by not starting a business for the sake of starting a business. Instead, they need to spot a persistent problem, and then offer an innovative solution. It sounds simple, but the trick is identifying real problems that affect a large group and then having confidence in your ability to craft a viable solution.
Identify and Innovate a Specific Problem
I’ve witnessed the problem-focused dynamic firsthand at our company SKILLR, an app putting experts at your fingers with live and on-demand video chats. Our service reflects modern consumers’ expectations for immediacy, both in terms of results and communication. That’s what SKILLR does, it connects people to Pros when they need it most.
Our founder realized what has become the foundation of our organization. Consumers did not have access to experienced pros immediately to help solve their problems. Add on the benefit of these pros having an effective way to make additional money in the age of the side hustle and you have a recipe for success. The SKILLR platform solves both problems by putting these two groups together and providing them with what they need. When businesses can identify multiple layers of problems, and then offer a single satisfying solution, that’s the gold standard. It creates several sets of users and partners, drives positive word-of-mouth, and enables a brand to expand.
Finding Your Own Problem-Solving Innovation
The first place to look for a problem is within your own industry. Maybe you’re a realtor who wants to create a new company and service. What’s wrong with the real estate industry? What could realtors use that would make their jobs easier while also improving the client experience and bottom-line results? Pay attention to entrenched “that’s just how it works” statements and find ways to turn them around. ExactTarget, now the Salesforce Marketing cloud, started as an email service provider for dry cleaners because they saw an opportunity for improvement. Solutions to small problems can turn into big business.
Think about the connectivity tools available through mobile devices. How can you adapt/enhance those tools to solve a problem? Focus on people’s frustrations that waste their time, money, or energy. Addressing pain points is always a great starting point for innovation.
Solving problems with your app or service requires passion and a personal connection to the issue at hand. Come at the problem with empathy and understanding. Think as a user or partner, not the owner or investor. This will prevent you from inventing a problem that doesn’t exist for consumers or even worse offering a “solution” that exacerbates the problem or creates new ones. Consider needs vs. wants to determine the depth and emotional impact of the problem you’re solving. Once you’ve refined your solution, will people find they need it like millions need Uber rides or the ability to book an Airbnb on a whim?
Once you’ve established a problem and potential solution, then you need the right team for execution. At SKILLR we empower our team to do their roles and encourage them to suggest improvements and tweaks. They understand the problem we’re solving and it’s through their hard work and our CEO’s guidance that we’re able to advance our platform and gain users at an accelerated rate.
Tech and Innovations
Far too often, startups launch flashy products or apps that very few people need. I recommend entrepreneurs remember that with today’s technology, 3-D printing, AI, and other tools, they can pretty much create anything. They need these innovations, but they’re only useful when they’re presented within something that’s tackling problems. It’s the implementation that matters.
There are of course other ways to learn a new skill or receive help out there, but we are the first to offer a marketplace for on-demand personal video chats between consumers and various professionals. With our app, a user who’s unsure about a yoga pose can connect to an expert who can check their form and offer advice. They chat for a few minutes and get back to their “boat pose” while the yoga instructor earns some cash. We simply answered some questions before launching our service. Do people often need expert help? Is that help more effective when provided via live video chat? And do people like receiving money for their expertise? With all three answers a resounding “yes”, our founder knew he had a great idea, and needed to move forward.
The core message for a startup founder is not to do something just because you can. Don’t start a business because you’ve always wanted one, or because your friends all have several ventures under their belts. Identify real, persistent problems, and then present a way to eliminate or redirect that problem. If you can do that, then you’re on your way to creating a lasting and impactful brand.
About the author
Steven Miller is the Chief Marketing Officer at SKILLR, a mobile app built to put Experts at your fingertips™. As a marketing leader, Steven advises organizations to help guide and build growth strategies.
Far too often entrepreneurs launch flashy products or services that very few people need. Steven Miller, CMO of SKILLR, highlights why a company anchored in solving a problem can be a more successful venture for entrepreneurs.
By Steven Miller