What problem are you solving?

The answer to that question is the basis for so much of what you do as a founder and what I do as a marketer. It is far more important than the answer to the far more general question: What does your company do?

Let me give you an example.

Q. What does G3 Partners do?

A. “We help startups achieve real business goals through marketing, PR and other services related to growth.


Q. What problem does G3 Partners solve?

A. “There are thousands of startups across Asia with great ideas, great products, and great teams. But they don’t know how to tell their stories to the right people, especially people outside of their home markets. Sometimes that’s because of cultural and language barriers, but just as often it’s simply not having the right skills and networks internally to do effective marketing, to tell good stories, and to reach the right people. We partner with those companies to help them achieve real business goals through marketing, PR and other services related to growth.”

I don’t have to tell you which one is more powerful.

Your Problem is More Important than your Technology

But to be honest, at least half of the founders I’ve talked to answer the question, “What problem do you solve?” by talking about their technologies or their products, rather than the actual problems. Most of these founders set off to do something cool, with a technology that interests them. But they didn’t first take the time to define a real problem.

And that, in itself, is a problem. It’s a barrier that will keep these founders from actually making money. It will keep them from thinking creatively about the applications for their technology. It will keep them from building the right features for people who need them.

But all’s not lost. If you started focusing on a technology without considering the specific problem you solve, simply take a step back. It’s quite likely that 90% of what you’ve developed so far will still be relevant.

Why define your problem?

1. Defining your problem helps you focus. If you’re creating a new technology in big data or AI, focusing on solving a specific problem will push you to develop a specific feature set and also give you a real-world way to test what you’ve created.

2. Defining your problem gives you customers. When you create a technology with multiple applications, you can wrap it in a ready-made solution for a specific set of people who will benefit. Those people become your customers.

3. Defining your problem frees you to think creatively. Rather than constraining you, defining your problem actually opens more possibilities. If your first attempt at creating a huge new technology takes three years and ultimately fails, your company probably won’t survive. If you focus on solving a problem instead, you may find dozens of potential solutions that take your technology in a new direction. Having a problem to solve lets you fail fast.

Problems in the Real World

One of my favorite examples of a company that’s working on a big technology but using it to solve one problem at a time is Fluenty. They’ve developed an AI engine that can mimic the way actual people use language. It has potential applications for customer service, car automation, assistive communication for people with disabilities, and more.

But the first problem that Fluenty is solving is this: People are busy. We don’t always have time to think of witty and appropriate replies to our text messages, let alone time to type them out. Fluenty’s chat bot lets you reply to messages on your smartphone with a single tap, and it makes you sound like James Bond.

That’s right. They’ve taken their big technology and used it to make a chatbot. That doesn’t mean that their only product ever will be a chatbot. It doesn’t mean that the problem above will be the only one they ever solve using their technology. But it gives them a starting point. It gives them a way to test their technology. And it gives them a stream of customers and revenue.

So, what problem are you solving?

Send me a message using the form below, and I’ll help you figure it out.

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