I can see the future — and the future is digital.
But it’s not quite that simple.
Start-ups are an essential part of our world as it exists today. Without start-ups, we’d have no computers, no Microsoft, no Dropbox and, god forbid, no Facebook. Yet, to shape our world, the founders of these start-ups had to see our world from their old world. It seems like a pretty tall order.
The order gets taller when you start looking at advice from start-up investors or experts. Paul Graham, founder of YCombinator and startup investor, advises in his article, “live in the future and build what’s missing.” He takes it further, “build what’s interesting.”
What does that even mean? Well, to build what’s missing you have to recognize what’s missing. Where are the snags in your routine? What would be so much easier if you just had a something? It’s really up to you to train yourself to see. If you can’t see, listen. Listen to your friends, your neighbors and your family. Let them vent about the most counter-intuitive, cumbersome or stupid part of their job. Be open to ideas.
It makes sense that the most useful startups solve an immediate problem. The best startups are useful. You need to know who you’re serving and why. I love Graham’s quote, “Who wants this so much that they’ll use it even when it’s a crappy version one made by a two-person startup they’ve never heard of,” because truthfully, that’s where you’re going to be in the beginning.
The future is digital
Clayton Christensen, with several others from the Harvard Business School, wrote in an article for Breaking News, “newcomers are doing the same thing: delivering a product that is faster and more personalized.” Disruptors like BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post saw the future. They found an underserved population, millennials, and instead of telling them how to receive their news, they tailored it to the trend. The trend is digital.
According to the Pew Research Center’s State of the Media report, 9 out of 10 adults read news online. Digital advertising revenue is increasing as non-digital ad revenue decreases.
Graham suggests that everyone learn to program, simply because digital is the it-media of the foreseeable future. Quoting Marc Andreessen, Graham promises, “software is eating the world, and this trend has decades left to run,” and the trends Pew is reporting back him up.
Developing for digital
Christensen’s article takes a “jobs to be done” approach to this question. It goes back to knowing who you are serving. Once you know who you’re serving, you have to know how other organizations or platforms have been serving them, what they’ve liked about your competitors’ approaches and what they haven’t liked. Bear in mind, they might not know what they don’t like. With a bit of intuition and a look at their user habits, you can start to see.
For example, millennials like slick design. We’re gravitating to websites like Refinery29, Twitter, WeddingWire and Eater. They gave us intuitive interfaces, personalized content and ways to engage. Software might be eating the world, but millennials only lap it up if it appeals to our taste. The same can be said for any demographic. Make sure your digital startup tastes good to your audience.
After all, startups are meant to solve problems. Do you see it?