Blog Post

According to this study, many startups (35%) fail as they make "something nobody wants" thus they struggle to get customers, and hence have to shut shop. Since this is the biggest reason for startup failure YCombinator tries to emphasize this again and again. But this is not the whole story.

Of course, making "something people want" is a necessary condition for building a successful company but it is not a sufficient condition and it misses a lot of other important considerations. Let's talk about the further nuances of what this means.

If you are building "something people want" it is highly likely that the need is already established and the market is crowded with the solutions for the same need(or want). Just google for anything people want and you will get 100s of links. Hence you are playing in the "red" competitive ocean. The obvious ideas are already taken and are being promoted with millions of $ of VC funding. How will you rise above the noise?

Ok, you still want to make something similar to what already exists, then the question becomes can you make a "10x better" solution than the already existing solutions?  Have you clearly defined the flaws in the current solutions? Why will people adopt your solution and not the already popular & tested solutions? This is again pretty tough to execute unless you are an expert in the domain.

Just because you have identified something that people want, it doesn't necessarily translate "to something people will pay for". There are many things that have a high demand but don't make a good business. People like reading blogs a lot and watching videos a lot but nobody will pay for them. The ad revenue is minuscule.

Also, the other factor to think about is the personal motivation side of the project. There are 1000s of things people want. So do you randomly pick anyone and start building? Are you okay building something that is harmful to the larger society like online betting games/apps? Hell, many people "want" to become rich quickly.

So what can be a better mantra? I would say "Solve an unsolved problem or solve a problem with a fresh and 10x better approach.". The best would be to fulfill a totally unmet need and create a one-of-its-kind product with no look-alikes. I really despise product description as Uber for X, Amazon for Y, etc. It shows a lack of original thinking.

There was no Twitter before Twitter, no TikTok before TikTok, and no Reddit before Reddit. They worked on uniquely identified needs and fulfilled them beautifully. Can you do that is the question?

So, one has to appreciate the difficulty of creating a product that will get adopted and create a sustainable business is way beyond just the simplistic "make something people want" message. It all starts with strategically choosing the problem, providing a much superior value to the customers, and putting yourself into a long-term differentiated position.

Without it, it is an uphill battle.


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