Startups, ask yourselves, are you selling convenience or not?

Photo by  Greg Tockner  on  Unsplash

Photo by Greg Tockner on Unsplash

As a modern day tech startup, it's easy to get caught up in the nitty gritty but miss the most fundamental question: are you selling convenience or not?

Capitalism 101 in understanding a free market's first principle: People buy convenience.

Technology makes selling convenience faster and to everyone.

It’s a rather abstract term but generally convenience means saving one of these two for people: a) TIME b) MONEY

The no.1 task before going about building a startup is challenging your problem hypothesis. Your new product or service will only be welcomed into the marketplace if you take a particular popular task and:

  • Make it easy (help people save time)
  • Make it faster (help people save time)
  • Make it cheaper (help people save money)

But how do you identify the “task” that’s causing inconvenience to people so you can build a startup around it. That is the million dollar (must-have vs nice-to-have) problem almost every founder struggles with at one point or the other.

From my own personal experience, I learned that although it seems like a simple thing to do (give people what they want, right?) but it is really really hard. 

Most founders scan across a customer’s daily life and assume a thing or two about what kind of problems he/she has. But that’s a slippery slope because you can never really speak to people’s inconvenience from the outside in. It always is an unverified assumption no matter how intuitive it might seem. It’s like watching the NBA and assuming all NBA players need bigger chairs by the sidelines since they “seem” so inconvenient on TV trying to sit on those tiny metal chairs being an average of 6'7'’ tall. Or another example is assuming all NBA players must have a “back problem” with all that slouching they do when they walk (since they are so tall!) and wondering if you can help them by building a state-of-the-art back stretch gadget. In both cases, what might seem like true can lead you down the rabbit hole.

Here are a couple alternatives that I recommend:

1. Walk a mile in the customers’ shoes.

Nothing substitutes the wisdom and the nuanced know-how of actually living the problem. Find a problem where you are a customer yourself. You will know the taste of inconvenience. More importantly, make sure this problem you are facing is shared by others like you. That will guide you towards building a solution that can alleviate the inconvenience. 

2. Walk a mile next to them while they wear their shoes.

In case where you can’t get the first-hand experience (like in B2B functions), be as close as possible to the customer and observe his/her pain points. This is ridiculously hard because you have to find a customer who is willing to share their day-to-day intricate details with you (and not the general gist of their job). They have to be willing to admit with accountability what kind of pains he/she is facing, This one takes time and effort. If you are persistent, they might tell you exactly what their top inconvenience is and you can work on a solution accordingly.

Remember, business is serving others’. Don’t skip the basics. Always ask yourself, are you selling convenience to people or asking them to do more work? 

What else? What are your suggestions to help first time founders minimize assumptions?