In building Damn Good Digital Products (DGDPs) for a living 😜 I come across a lot of innovative ideas by young entrepreneurs wanting to change the world. Some are viable, some not so much. I think the question of our day (in software at least) should not be “Can it be built?” but rather “Should it be built?”
I was recently pitched an app idea by a non-technical founder. In his mind, the app would solve a painful problem for bikers--passing others.
His idea in a nutshell (details modified to protect the original idea)--a Bluetooth enabled app that bikers could install that would alert a rider if another rider wanted to pass.
A dozen red flags came to mind immediately as I heard this pitch:
- Mass adoption required. Every rider must have the application. On multi use trails this will require every hiker, dirt biker, mountain biker and equine rider to have the application. If <100% of people on the shared trail are not actively using the application, a false sense of security could lead to terrible accidents.
- Geolocation limitations. How accurate and responsive can gps and bluetooth be? How does it know the users are approaching? Ever had an annoying problem making bluetooth connections? Me too, sometimes it's frustratingly janky. Is the other party a companion or a stranger in danger.
- Liability. It will be difficult to charge a high price for an application that requires near universal adoption. And at the same time, if the application fails to prevent an accident the injured party may seek to be compensated. The business will be buried in lawsuits.
Why was the founder so passionate about his app idea? Because he had a classic case of “Falling in love with the solution, not the problem”. From my experience, this is the number one reason that tech startups fail. An inability to find product/market fit paired with a fixation on a particular solution or technology.
You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to sell it. -Steve Jobs
Fall in love with the problem and solutions will come. Free yourself to be creative and innovative in finding the right solution, which might not necessarily be the sexiest but will ultimately be the best for your customers.