How often has it happened that while you are walking around the house doing some chores, an idea comes to you. I’m not talking about some fully formed thoughts, just something different that you know could help you along.
For me it happens every time I have to use a dustpan. The last thin line of dust that I can never seem to get no matter how many times I re-position the broom. That is my moment of ideas.
Luckily for me and the thousands of people who get bothered but that dustpan line, Swiffer exists. But I can’t imagine that the creator of it, starting off with anything more then that same frustration I have had.
Paul Graham has a theory on this. He is the creator of Y Combinator, a startup incubator.
” The very best startup ideas tend to have three things in common: they’re something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing ” says Graham.
More then this, Graham believes that all good startups solve a problem. Take an object that is next to you and ask yourself does this solve a problem?
Most likely the answer is yes. In my case, that object is a pair of gloves so the problem that needs solving is: my hands are cold when I walk.
A startup that I believe truly represents this theory is AirBnB. Started in late 2007 by Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia their idea was simple:
They had just gotten to NYC for a conference and all the hotels were booked. So they decided to buy a few air mattresses and set up a small site called “air bed and breakfast” offering one of their mattresses to guests. Once they realized that this was more then just a weekend side hassle, but a true business model; the company was born.
If we are to listen to Graham’s theory their problem could have been that there were no cheap places to stay in hotels for people looking for a one night only deal.
As soon as AirBnB moved from an idea to a product, Gebbia and Chesky decided to put it out there. This was still in the early stages of development but it had a niche following big enough to sustain them through the their expansion.
It is important for a startup to solve a problem because if us who had the idea can’t find it, how can we expect our costumers to want it.