What is more important, an idea or a problem?

My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is “Fall in love with a problem, not with an idea”. Here’s why.

If you get excited about an idea and decide to start a venture around that idea, that concept and the business around that concept may or may not work in the market place. Success of the idea and the business depends on a lot of factors apart from the quality of the idea.

However, if on the other hand if you focus on a problem or an opportunity (Facebook is not necessarily addressing a problem.. it was addressing an opportunity to connect people meaningfully), then it allows you to address that problem or opportunity in multiple ways and allows you to explore different ideas and concepts. I.e. your success or failure does not depend on the success or failure of that one idea.

Let me illustrate with an example. If you were excited with the idea of creating healthy but tasty fast food counters in colleges, it seems like a reasonably sensible idea which may have a good business case. The success of this will depend, as with many other ideas, on the quality of the execution, pricing, brand personality, the quality of the snacks, competitive environment, the team’s ability to execute in a multi-location set up, etc. However, if instead of healthy but tasty fast food outlets in colleges, you were to own the problem/opportunity of “making fast food healthy” or “making healthy food tasty and appealing to young people”, you could have many more concepts and ideas to choose from… you could do one or some of the following:

  • Of course you can start food outlets in colleges
  • You could supply pre-packaged meals (to colleges and hostels, even offices or paying guest accommodations, etc. on monthly contracts)
  • You could create a brand of cooking classes to teach young people how to make healthy food tasty
  • You could create an online portal for healthy but tasty food
  • You could create a brand of healthy fast food that is retailed
  • You could do a catering service for birthdays and parties that serves healthy and nutritious meals

In short, when you take a step back from the idea and think about the problem or opportunity that that idea was solving, it expands the scope of what you can do and gives you a variety of choices to execute on. And your success or failure does not depend on that one idea that you originally had in mind.

Author: Prajakt Raut

Prajakt Raut is the founder of Applyifi.com, and author of the book for startups - ‘Starting Up & Fund Raising’ Prajakt personal goal in life is to encourage and assist a 100,000 people to become entrepreneurs. _____________ Prajakt is the founder of Applyifi - an online platform that provides startups a 36-point scorecard and assessment report on the venture's investment readiness [www.applyifi.com], and helps them improve their odds of getting funded. Prajakt is also the founding partner of The Growth Labs, a platform where growth-stage companies get sharp, incisive advice from senior professionals and experienced entrepreneurs. [www.thegrowthlabs.in] Before starting Applyifi, Prajakt was the head of operations at IAN, founding member of a leading incubator, and the Asia-Director for TiE (2004 - 2007). Previously Prajakt had co-founded Orange Cross, a healthcare services company, and was part of the founding team member of Idealake Technologies. While in college Prajakt had founded a printing business and has spent over 10 years working in leading advertising agencies. Prajakt’s book, ‘Starting Up & Fund Raising’, helps startups understand an investor’s perspective, and helps them improve their odds of getting funded. The book also helps entrepreneurs understand the building blocks of a business.

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