November 13, 2017

How do you find people's or companies' problems to solve?

Hi all,

I've soft-launched a side project today (I'll talk about this later) but I still have this feeling I don't solve an important problem but just a nice-to-have thing.

I was wondering, how do you guys find people/companies pains. Do you rely only on your network, experience or current personal pains?

I was thinking about searching on twitter "I hate" to read tweets about problems people experience but I don't know if it's a good idea. What are your strategies when it comes to find a pain you want to solve?

  1. 9

    A fun way is to ask people you meet 'What is the hardest part of your job'

    Source -

    They like talking about themselves, and you can get ideas out of it.

    1. 1

      Very interesting approach! Thanks for sharing Joshua!

      To find ideas, find problems. To find problems, talk to people.

      Yes. I should go out more often ^^.

  2. 6

    If you want to build a B2B SaaS, a great way is to actually have a job in the type of business you would be selling to.

    It's such a competitive advantage to be your own target audience.

    My personal anecdote is that I work as a Personal Trainer, and I hate most of the solutions out there for writing client's programs. So I set out to build something that did it better.

    I'm literally using my own product as I develop it... And not because I'm just testing it, but because for me, it's the best solution on the market—The value of this cannot be overstated.

    1. 2

      Thanks for your reply Jarrod.

      I did this with my app Hercules, I didn't find a workout app that could "play" my workouts in an easy way so I built it.

      But now that's fixed I struggle to find other things to fix.

      I totally agree that you should be your very first customer of your own product. It totally helps picking up the next features and doing your best work as you use it every day.

    2. 1

      This is the story of how Qintil - where I work - came around. The product was developed for in-house use and as customers saw the app, they asked the who/what/where questions. Ultimately after a number requested and purchased, app turned into a full fledged business.

      This personal need, testing in real life situations and testing with additional users is a great way to solidly validate the idea.

  3. 3

    Real example: I used to work at a payroll company where we had to fill out a lot of tax forms. We had built a pretty basic internal tool to help set up the form fields, but it still took us quite a while to automate these forms. That was the main reason I decided to build FormAPI ( I built a form editor that makes it easy to set up fields, and then provides a simple API that developers can call to generate PDFs.

    Another example: I just set up a company using Stripe Atlas. The whole thing was automated and easy, so it was a bit of a shock when I realized that I would still have to pay an accountant thousands of dollars for advice, and to file corporate income taxes. That's a real pain point for me. I put this landing page together to see if any other startups would be interested in an automated accounting service:

    I've actually searched twitter for "I hate" tweets in the past, but I didn't find any good ideas. There's also sites like, but I didn't see anything compelling on there either. I think it's important to work on a problem that you care about solving, and build something that you would use ("eat your own dogfood"). In my case, I'm not incredibly excited about filling out PDFs... but it's been fun to build, and I've actually been using the service personally, to fill out forms for visa applications, banking, and taxes.

    1. 2

      Thanks Nathan for your answer.

      I looked for "I would pay" on Twitter and some ideas are interesting. I know ideaswatch website but it's really not well designed or useful for me.

      I think it's important to work on a problem that you care about solving.

      Totally agree with that. I must talk more to people I want to help.

  4. 2

    This is something I find easier with time and networking.

    After 14 years of freelancing and consulting I run into things all of the time through clients that could be better solved with software. A lot of times it just comes up in passing conversation about unrelated projects.

    Here's the catch with pain points though: just because one of my clients needs a better way to do something doesn't mean a bunch of other companies (even in a related field) feel the same way.

    I love the idea of SaaS but on occasion you find a pain point that one customer is willing to spend five figures on instead of something 100 people will spend $19.99 per month to solve.

    1. 1

      Thanks for your answer Brian!

      Yes you're right some services/products are not sellable through a subscription model. So you have to pick carefully something aligned with your goals. Good point, thanks for sharing!

  5. 1

    In my experience, successful business never arise out of brainstorming or going around asking people what their pain points are. It seems to me that the vast majority of successful founders somehow stumble upon their business idea in the course of doing something else. Unfortunately, I don't know how to reproduce this event. My best advice (which I still don't think is very good advice) would be to try a bunch of business ideas whether they're good or bad and maybe in the course of doing those things you'll stumble upon a good idea.

    1. 1

      Hi Jason, thanks for your reply.

      try a bunch of business ideas whether they're good or bad and maybe in the course of doing those things you'll stumble upon a good idea.

      Yes but you can start from some pain points and not just an idea got out of thin air. My question was more about how do you find this first pain point?

      Your advice isn't bad, I'm sure testing a lot of ideas before working on one with some traction is the best way to not lose time working on something people doesn't want.

  6. 1

    Two companies I am on the mailing list for actually do this for us already:

    I’m not affiliated, I just like the services.

    1. 1

      Awesome! I subscribed to both. Thanks so much!

  7. 1

    For me, it is always about personal pains. If you expose yourself to enough experiences in your day-to-day to life, you will end up with seeing what pains you have are also pains of a larger audience. The question then is how you select out of all the possible pains you could solve - I have yet to figure this out, but for now I am attempting to solve problems which are related to my professional background and/or my skills, because there is a shorter learning curve.

    1. 1

      Thanks for your reply.

      I thought like you until a week ago. But the issue with thinking that way is that you are targeting people in a general way and I think I'll try to target businesses because they are more willing to pay than people.

      I'm sure I can find some pains to fix for them as I have some of them with my app business Hercules.

      1. 1

        Interesting perspective! If you have available a way to see problems that businesses have, without investing a lot of resources into it, go for it.

  8. 1

    I'm in the exact same position right now, so I'd love to connect over Skype (or similar) and share tactics.

    At the moment, I'm leaning strongly towards canvasing the businesses in my local town. Many of the businesses (insurance, roofing, staffing agencies, etc.) exist in other markets, so a problem I identify for one will likely be applicable nationally. Networking locally will also give me an advantage over doing cold outreach.

    I haven't started formally researching in any way yet, but I've been doing some informal networking.

    In addition to identifying pain points, I also think it'd be helpful to identify what services the business already pays for on a recurring basis. I've heard it's often easier to build a product for an already established market than try to invent the market for yourself.

    1. 1

      Hi Daniel, thanks for your comment, we can connect over skype if you want, I updated my IH bio section so you can add me from there on skype.

      But I'm not sure I can provide any more value as I asked the question so I'm quite clueless as you are ha ha! 😅

      Anyway, I think you're right to start talking to local businesses and learn from them which services they use and you should definitely ask what sucks about them too!

      You may think about going national later but I'm sure there is already plenty of things to do on your local scale (and money to make).

      I've heard it's often easier to build a product for an already established market than try to invent the market for yourself.

      Totally agree with that!

      1. 1

        Great, I've added you as a contact :)

  9. 1

    I'm gonna just break down innovation as I understand it based on what P.F Drucker illustrates are the sources of innovation.

    “Systematic innovation consists on the purposeful and organized search for changes, and in the systematic analysis of the opportunities such changes might offer for economic or social innovation ”

    Purposeful innovation and the 7 sources for innovative opportunity

    The first four sources are are what to look for within an industry or a company. They are therefore usually a lot more visible to people already working within that industry or enterprise. Essentially, they are symptoms. They are highly reliable indicators of changes that have already happened or can be made to happen with little effort

    The Unexpected- the unexpected success, the unexpected failure, the unexpected outside event

    The incongruity- between reality as it actually is and reality as it is assumed to be or rather as it ought to be

    Innovation based on process need

    Changes in industry structure or market structure that catches everyone off guard

    The last three have more to do with changes outside the enterprise or industry

    Demographics (population change)

    Changes in perception

    New Knowledge, both scientific and non scientific

  10. 1

    I look at things that other people have already built and build it better. I'm a native Android developer and I see a lot of prototypes being built as a web app or hybrid. Most of these feel very laggy and slow.

    What I did for my previous successful business was a Malay recipe app for low carb dieters. Most of the low carb recipes out there were very Western. There was one app and it was absolutely terrible... still got 50k downloads. There was a Facebook group with 200k people - too much traffic going on and it was hard to refer anything. And there were plenty of blogs scattered about.

    I just put all of these together and hit about 5k downloads within a couple weeks. By the second month we were making revenue from selling low carb ingredients, which is the next highest pain point for someone who downloads low carb recipe apps.

    1. 1

      I second targeting another language. The field is likely less competitive and you can take product and service ideas that are known to work well in English so you know the product/market fit is likely to be good. First re-create a similar product/service in your own words, run the instructions and copy through Google Translate, then hire a local to clean up the grammar and add local idioms.

    2. 1

      Awesome strategy!

      You need to be very confident in your design and technical skills but in a way you attack a market that is already there.

      And that's a very smart move, thanks for sharing!

  11. 1

    Check this article by Paul Graham out, Jérémy:

    It gives a lot of theory and also actionable advice.

    1. 2

      Thanks Channing for the article, I already read all essays from PG years ago and this one helped me for my first project. I've just read it again. It's still awesome advice, even if it has been written in 2012! PG rocks 🤘.

      I'm gonna focus on my skill strengths and try to notice my actual problems and needs. Thanks!

  12. 1

    It helps to understand/have experienced the pain yourself.

    If not, you can analyse what software a company is using and ask why they are using it and what could be improved. This should get you to a problem that the company is aware of. Make sure to get the company to quantify the problem for you to ensure it really is a problem.

    1. 1

      It helps to understand/have experienced the pain yourself.

      Definitely agree with that.

      Thanks for sharing your ideas about this subject. I may contact some companies to talk to them, via linkedin or something, to get them on the phone next. Thanks!