I sat down with a graduating senior from college recently to talk about startups. At first, I thought we were going to talk about the startup ecosystem in Atlanta. I didn’t know he had an idea that he wanted to pursue. Actually, he had three with two of them already in flight.
He had a lot of questions about how best to begin highlighting two ideas. One was a very complicated business. It would require building up significant trust between two markets. On the one side, it would have been a lot of manual work to move forward. Because of the idea, there would be significant legal implications. Read: there would need to be significant legal work upfront – not a cheap proposition.
Meanwhile, his second idea was based around a SaaS business with a single buyer. Here, he was already working with a friend technologist. The team was working on this idea with a free customer already – or at least, an agreement once the application was built. The pain point was a little clear, but could use some refinement and focus.
After speaking about both ideas, he started to realize how much easier it would be to develop and build the second idea. Though the first idea was complicated, that’s not always a bad thing. If a team is able to get past the hurdles that makes the idea so difficult, there could be good upside. This is the case for many successful companies including Uber, Airbnb, WeWork, etc.
However, there was little customer discovery in the first idea vs. the second. They already had a business that was interested in a solution to their problem, and it sounded like there could be a strong market. This would be simpler to get off the ground while enabling the team to do the proper customer discovery. As it stood, the pain points were mostly known. However, this is where digging in to truly understand the problem would be beneficial. He and his partner should work with several stakeholders who are impacted to understand the grander problem – understand what other businesses and personas could be experiencing similar problems. And how big of a problem? Read: what was the problem costing the stakeholder/ customer? What’s the value of a solution.
There’s a lot to consider for the soon-to-be-graduate. However, digging in early on the details of a focused pain point will help the team be experts for real customers. Meanwhile, tackling a more transparent issue has the added benefit of being able to find, market, and sell a solution faster.
Whatever happens, don’t go broader. Dig in on a focused problem area. Set a grander vision once initial success is achieved.