The other day we were talking with Tina Aspiala, creator of eat.fi, about the state of the world start-up ecosystem. One thing that we discussed was the fact that increasingly, start-ups are “solving a problem” of doing something in a cool and new way as opposed to real world changing problems.
Now before I go on, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy and even use products from start-ups such as Instagram, which I still classify as as useless. They are simply not solving any major world problems and are not adding gigantic value to the community. That being siad – it is not their fault.
There can be a lot of reasons attributed to the blow up of “useless” start-ups, but one that I would like to discuss in particular is what I call “problem inaccessibility”.
Entrepreneurship has become somewhat of a trend among young people who are in or just out of university. Now these guys and gals are very smart and creative individuals, they are problem solvers. Lock a bunch of them in a room, give them a problem and they will probably come up with a dozen start-up ideas around it by the time you are done with your coffee.
What they need is a good source of real problems. Currently the origin for most ideas comes from your own problems and experiences, whether at home or at work. Thirty years ago people usually had a ton of experience in a certain field before they created what can now be considered a “start-up”, this ensured that the problems that were being solved were very real. Our generation lacks experience in real tangible industries such as engineering, medicine, space exploration (had to be included) because they jump into entrepreneurship without first spending a dozen years in an industry where they would get a chance to see, feel and solve real problems.
They want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, so instead they solve the “problems” that surround them and their peers. Such as which new game to play, how to make more friends on Facebook or how to make your sucky pictures look as if they were taken by Ansel Adams himself, etc.
So, I would argue that we simply need to make real world problems more accessible to entrepreneurs. Perhaps this could be addressed by creating a problem sourcing solution that would allow industry professionals to communicate with entrepreneurs and start-up enthusiasts.
Another approach would be to create a “consultancy” approach of going out there and visiting industries and talking to professionals about their day-to-day problems. The problem is making a solution that would be widespread enough to make a difference. Perhaps a network of accelerators that would first define problems and then look for start-ups that would be willing to solve them?
All is not lost however, there are still very cool companies out there that are trying to solve very real problems. I recently spoke to a guy in Helsinki who is building a space satellite start-up. That’s right, they want to decrease the cost of sending a satellite into space twentyfold. At the same time they want to send satellites that will scan the earth’s surfice to solve very real world problems. Much better than another photo filter app, right?