Don't build what shouldn't be built

Unfortunately, I made this mistake myself more often than I would have wished (but that's a story for another time 😉 )

Nearly every product idea that comes up in your head can be built with the incredible possibilities we have today, but the really important question is if this product has some reason for existence.

Eric Ries made a great point in his book "The Lean Startup". If your product isn't doing something that solves a persons problem you will have a hard time charging money for it. And sometimes even when it solves a problem you can have trouble building a business around it that is profitable.

This happens a lot when new technologies come up and founders try to rebuild existing products with this technology because they can (or find this technologically challenging).
These "Like Typeform but with Blockchain" or "Waterbottle with Face-Recognition" (🤷‍♂️) never work, because they focus on the technology - the "can it be built" - instead of on the "should it be built" or "does ist solve a problem?".

Always make sure you don't get lost in the wrong questions and tasks as you develop your product and build your startup. Always focus on the customer and solving their problems with the help of your product. If you lose sight of the customer and put the technical challenge in the focus, it will rarely end well.

What's your experience? Have you built something in the past that shouldn't have been built?

  1. 4

    How do you weigh "don't build useless things" versus "don't wait for the perfect idea"?

    The above is just an idle thought, not really a criticism of the post. I find myself convincing myself that an idea is not worth pursuing more often than I find myself pursing an idea that's not

    Certainly there is a balance. Ideas sometimes need to be explored to learn if they have merit, but you should certainly pivot once you know an idea does not, and double down when it does.

    1. 3

      Build something that already exists, but improve one or more things. Things that are already out there are proof that a market exists. And there is no one solution.

      The best strategy imho is to build something to scratch your own itch, so you know it solves a real problem (one you have).

    2. 2

      For me personally, while building out Mylinks, I'm looking for places where I'm running into problems and need software solutions. Selling products that solves business problems covers an important requirement — working with customers that're willing to pay. The high costs/success of marketing software come to mind.

      I have software to do the following:

      • warmup domains for cold email
      • send out email campaigns
      • optimize my images and host content on a CDN
      • organize notes and tasks
      • track analytics
      • handle customer support

      I need software that does the following:

      • help manage Instagram messages both in the form of outreach and responses
      • find influencer emails at scale

      Whoever solves the second set of problems is going to earn money (I don't think I'm unique in looking for these solutions), because they're building products that're going to help other people make money.

      Mylinks so far isn't looking like that :(

    3. 1

      Don't build useless things! ;-)
      But I got your question. I think that people (including me again 🙈) often start building too soon because we just love building.
      Before you write the first line of code you should evaluate the problem (user interviews) and maybe test your solution with existing tools first before building everything your own. That way you know before building it, that it's not useless.
      So I would say: Definitely pursue the ideas that you have but be more strategic: Don't just build things but check first, if it should be build / if there is a customer and a need for it and if you know how to make a business out of it once you have built it.

  2. 2

    Thanks for the post. Maybe we should add another dimension to this.

    The most precious finite thing we possess is our time. So if we treat time like currency, questions like this will be much more easier to approach and answer too.

    It will boil down to whether project X is worth Y amount of time you are planning to invest in it. Y is now your opportunity cost. Given the above if you still think it is worth it, go ahead and build it. Let the markets decide.

  3. 1

    The cynical side in me says there's a loophole:

    "does this solve a problem?"


    "can I get this funded?"

    In a perfect world those two questions are the same. But products like Juicero, and so many crypto products prove there's a gap.

    1. 1

      Yeah, unfortunately that could be true for a small number of startups and founders. But eventually their products will fail.
      And of course I hope that most of the founders choose to build a solution where they can solve a meaningful problem and not just having a good time spending money and building a product they don't believe in.

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