April 10, 2019

How do you do "problem" research?

Alyssa @Ajoy

How do you find a problem to fix? How do you go about to see if the thing you want to make, or the business you want to start is actually viable? How do you "know" that what you're creating is "different" enough (if your market is crowded) and that you can get a slice of that market share pie?

I feel like I come up with all these ideas, but the more I dig in and research I find someone or many someones have done it. Either my ideas are consistently lame, or I'm not doing my problem research properly.

(Hi all, btw. I'm new here.)


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    Hi Alyssa,

    I am tackling a similar problem like you are.

    In February I have decided to start working on a new project and said I will try to realize one of my ideas.

    There are few things which you can do in order to improve your odds of understanding whether you will make it or not.

    1. Understand the market

    How I am approaching this is trying to understand the market in which I want to launch my product/idea. There is one powerful advise somebody gave on Indiehackers long ago. Even if there is something similar you want to build, you can always go more niche.

    iex. Like Skype was king of chat communication 10+ years ago, Slack went more niche and started addressing companies with communication.

    1. Talk with potential users

    Even if they use a competitor of yours, try to understand their value and what they are missing. Quickly you will start noticing patterns on what customers have problems with and get an idea on what can be solved.
    Exciting part is that sometimes you will pitch one idea and realize there is another bigger pain in an industry you might solve. If these people you are talking with want to pay in advance for your product when you launch, you have a pretty good indication you are building something people/companies want.
    This is the biggest thing you can do in order to understand on what you can build.

    1. Listen to experts in the field

    If you have ideas in markets where you don't have domain knowledge, try to find people who are experts and listen to their podcasts, read blogs or follow them on Twitter. You can learn a lot from them and it will give you a better overview of the market.

    1. Launch and try

    You can never be 100% sure. Try to launch a product which solves a need with minimum effort from your side. This way you will quickly know whether your product has a place on the market.

    I am currently building something in remote market which was not the initial idea I had. However through talking with 20+ people I realized what are current biggest pains for people in that industry and how products on market is not solving problems for them.

    Have I found the right thing? Not sure, however I might pivot and try something else after all. We can only learn after all from our fails :) Will let you know more in 2 months.

    1. 1

      This is excellent advice. I think #4 is what scares me the most. I try to be efficient and not "waste" time - and not everything (read, most things) I've done has worked out. I believe I need to build a stronger research phase and then just commit to launching something. Thank you!!

  2. 1

    I talk to others about it. There is always someone who can throw you a good advice.

  3. 1

    I think the first question you asked is the right one. It's about finding a problem to fix, not about seeing if your idea is actually viable. I think you need to talk to people face to face, better if in person. Really dig deep, ask questions, understand their workflow and possible pains. When you find a real pain, it's usually clear. The reaction are usually phrases like "that would be a life-saver" or "I'd pay gold for that", or things like that...

  4. 1

    How do you "know" that what you're creating is "different" enough (if your market is crowded) and that you can get a slice of that market share pie?

    At the start, you can't know for certain. You just have to try. You are asking how deep is the lake before you jump. It is impossible to know unless you jump.

    I find someone or many someones have done it.

    If you pick a big lake to jump into, chances are others have jumped in already. That doesn't mean you cannot enjoy the lake...

    Dispel the notion that you need to do something completely unique in an untapped market to succeed (i.e. find a big lake which no one has discovered yet). It will take forever for you to find this mythical opportunity.

    Instead, just pick a big lake, jump in, and focus on out swimming everyone in it.

    1. 1

      Basically going to steal this metaphor. ;) This is great. I have a few people I can bounce my idea off of, and see if the problem matches.

  5. 1

    I've said something similar already in the past:

    If you're lucky you're going to spend the rest of your life building this startup that then eventually becomes a small or big company.
    So it should be something you're passioned about. Lot's of people are solving the same problem: look how many restaurants there are, how many mechanics, how many phone operators etc.

    It should always be clear to you WHY you are doing is, and believe me, the main driver for you will always be your profound passion for a topic or area.

    There are going to be an unreal amount of problems (sorry) and things you'd rather not face, so having this one WHY and the main vision and purpose of your company right in front of you, is what will eventually get you out of bed every morning and keep going.

    Focus on something that you like, a topic that you're passionate about, something that you're able to talk to others about, speak at conferences, teach, get others excited for, ideally for the next 40 years.

    We're all the same, if you like something, there's someone else who will like it too; if you have a problem and you're envision to solve it in way X, there is someone out there who loves your solution too. That's gonna be your customers.

    1. 1

      This is so true. I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who had purchased a small business and built it up to a pretty decent success. He could've done it for the rest of his life - except for the fact, was he wasn't passionate about the industry, which led him to resent it, and eventually hate it. He spent every waking moment concerned about its success - and it turned into a monster for him. He sold it which was great, but still. I think this is a strong lesson about starting something because you can make money or turn it into a success, versus doing it because you love it AND can make money and turn it into a success.

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