Does this simple theory help you arrive at your next startup?

As I have confessed before, I am on a mission to identify a compelling core problem in the market today for my next startup. The criteria is that is should fundamentally excite me and "prove" that there's an inherent demand worth chasing.

Naturally, I've been experimenting with several concepts and looking thoroughly for a unique problem. In that path, yesterday, I came across an interesting blog post on Medium by Ash Maurya. (the guy who popularized the startup concept of Lean Canvas). He claims he discovered a way to arrive at a problem.

I am not entirely convinced that there's a magic formula for something like this but it is definitely worth investigating and internalizing. At the very least, it can spark new synapses in your neural system.

Here’s the basic premise:

“New problems worth solving are created as by-products of old solutions.”

He explains it further a simple example.


Place yourself somewhere in this timeline and think back to what caused you to switch from that solution to the next one.

  • Cassette tapes where just fine until CDs came along and made “rewinding/forwarding to find your favorite song” a problem, and offered “instant access to tracks” instead.
  • CDs where just fine until the iPod (and the 99c music store) came along and made “buying an entire CD for just one song” a problem, and offered “a thousand songs in your pocket” instead.
  • MP3 players were just fine until streaming services came along and made “a thousand songs in your pocket” a problem, and offered you 40 million songs the cloud instead.

He continues to add that the Innovator’s Gift is realizing that there is no such thing as a perfect solution. Problems and solutions are two sides of the same coin. And new problems worth solving come from old solutions. 

It is an interesting model. But it brings me back to the same place where I was before reading the article. I needed to look for a "problem" whether it was created by a previous solution or not, it needed to be a coherent repeatable problem expressed by a given set of people. That is the hard part of this whole equation, isn't it? 

Am I missing something? What were your take-aways from his article?