Solving Real Problems For Real People

David Greiner of Freshview, the company behind the great email newsletter service Campaign Monitor, has posted up his thoughts regarding building a business around paid software/services after a lot of people at the Sydney Barcamp felt it was impossible to charge anymore.

People were giving examples of Flickr and YouTube, saying that everything had either been done already, was free or wasn’t worth paying for. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

The primary problem he noted was that so many of these people and startup companies were focused more on money or technology than on solving real problems for real people.

The web and software development community has a nasty habit of looking in on itself and forgetting about the other 99% of the online population. While everyone else out there is building for the early adopter crowd and going to bed dreaming of getting TechCrunched, why not look outside this circle and try to solve a real problem that real people are having.

Too many people I speak to are focused on technology instead of a solution. “It’s gonna be really cool, we’ve got RSS feeds, a neat tagging system and the whole thing runs on 3 lines of Rails code”. Now take a deep breath, and realise that none of that means a thing to your customers. They want to leave work 5 minutes early, they want it to take 2 steps instead of 5. They don’t want a tag cloud.

Of course all this focus on money and technology creates this drive to create something BIG, when in fact the opposite approach is the better path to take.

Instead of trying to build the next video sharing or social networking site, why not narrow your focus a little more. There are loads of simple problems out there that are waiting to be solved online.

And then he provides four recommendations on how to solve a specific problem for a specific group of people which in turn will create something useful that people will pay good money for.

BTW a beneficial side effect of focusing on real problems is that it helps to build a great culture for your company, as it shows you honestly care about the people you’re trying to help instead of focused on the almighty dollar. Yes, businesses need money to survive but they need a soul (or mojo) to thrive.