How would you discover problems to solve?

Assume you wanted to start a SaaS business, but do not work in a business where you can seek problems "adjacent to" your day job.

Wow would you go about finding folks with have expensive pain to solve?

One challenge: folks with expensive problems have high salaries and are behind gatekeepers.


patio11's avatar
almost 3 years ago

One challenge: folks with expensive problems have high salaries and are behind gatekeepers.

People overestimate the degree to which that is true. Bill Gates has a gatekeeper, certainly. How many people do you think read the inbox of e.g. the head of application security at AppAmaGooFaceSoft? My prediction: one. Which is probably less useful from the building-things perspective (you're not going to sell to that person first) but is extremely useful to know about the world for e.g. career purposes.

Working in industry will expose you to problems very quickly. Failing that, talk to people. Complaining about work is a time-honored passtime. A surprising number of people will let you shouldersurf them when working; no engineer who has ever done that has said "Ahh you are working in the optimum fashion; such a pity software could not do this better."

Stepping back a bit, problems feel a bit less important to me as time goes on. The world is awash in problems. Problems you care about are just so much more rewarding to work on, and they pull better work out of you. Problems experienced by people you care about quintuply so, because if you start a SaaS business you'll spend much more time talking to customers and getting in their head than you will be on e.g. modeling their workflow in Ruby or optimizing your AWS spend.

So I'd suggest most people asking this question instead ask "How do I find a user population that buys software that I would enjoy having in my life five days a week for 5~10 years?" My answer for that, after a lot of soulsearching, is "I enjoy helping software people a lot more than I enjoy helping undifferentiated professionals. Maybe I should just do that. Maybe no maybe." Your answer may vary.

4 points

This question is part of an AMA with Patrick McKenzie.

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