Marry the problem, not the solution
— Hiten Shah at MicroConf 2012
Ideas come easily to me. Unfortunately, ideas are worthless on their own. What matters is finding a set of customers who have a specific problem that they will pay you to solve.
Building software is fairly easy for me as well, although I have to push through that “anal retentive chef” stage of architecture and design.
I want to launch something real. I don’t care what it is, how big or how small. It just has to be something that solves a problem for real-world customers and makes some amount of money > 0. The rest is just details, but obviously a more interesting problem is more fun to work on.
With Hiten’s help at MicroConf this week, I was able to take an idea and figure out the problem it appears to solve for conference organizers (lots of other people helped, too – Mike, Rob, Jason, Dave, …). The next step is to talk to customers. A lot of them. So that’s what I’m doing.
Here is my scorecard:
Customer Discovery Conversations
as of 5/11/2012
Conference/event organizers: 11
Conference/event sponsors: 6
Conference/event attendees: 8
I’m using the discovery method Ash Maurya details in Running Lean. In short, don’t tell customers about your idea or your solution – simply ask them about their pain points and listen, listen, listen. If some of their pains are obviously addressed by your proposed solution, then it’s fine to ask them about it at the end of the conversation and see if they would pay money for it. When you talk money, Jason Cohen is emphatic that you must be specific on price.
So far, everyone I have spoken with said they would consider paying my price for the solution I described. That’s a polite way of saying no. However, they were genuinely intrigued. I’m onto something, but I don’t know what it is yet. That’s the point of discovery. There will come a time when I have to mock up some screenshots the way Patrick McKenzie recommended at MicroConf. At that point, I should have at least 10 people say “Shut up and take my money” or I need to keep digging.
This is unbelievably fun. I wouldn’t say that I’m married to a problem yet, but I’m certainly dating one … and she seems quite pretty to me.
“… and makes some amount of money > 0” – I strongly believe it’s quite easy just to make a buck or two. Just launch something on the Windows Phone Marketplace, paid app or advertising supported. It’s replacing your dayjob that’s immensely hard.