Change the world; don’t just build another app/token/platform

Does the world really need another app????

I’ve heard hundreds of pitches for businesses over the past few years — both as part of my role at Hult International Business School and in my time advising start-ups. I’ve noticed a pattern.

If your pitch starts with “an app/token/coin that…”, your business is almost definitely going to fail.

The problem isn’t that apps/tokens/coins/(other nouns) are inherently bad. It’s not that there won’t be killer apps/tokens/coins that make billions for their founders and investors.

The problem is that if your pitch gets to the what before you’ve explained the why, it usually means that you haven’t figured it out yet and you’re not yet ready to change the world.

Building a new business is really hard. You’ll face rejection over and over again. You’ll find competitors you didn’t know existed. You’ll fail many times before your succeed. You’ll be lonely and people will be jealous if you beat the odds and succeed.

Most of your original assumptions will be proven false.

In order to get past the failures, rejections and tough lessons, you’ll need something more than just building “an app that…”

To build a successful business, you’ll need to believe that you’re making the world better — in a way that matters.

Specifically, you’ll need passion. The inevitability of success you see in unicorn founders comes from their relentless commitment to changing the world.

It’s not benevolence. It’s their burning desire to bring their vision — their future state — to life — that makes them exceptional.

Unicorn founders have 1 thing in common. They are driven by their passionate dissatisfaction with the way the world is.
If you aren’t this passionately dissatisfied, don’t bother.

Unicorn founders HAVE TO realize their vision. They see their new, better way to do or to be as part of their identity, their raison d’être.

I believe that there is a potential unicorn founder in most of us. Driven by a desire to improve something that we really care about, that just has to be made better, most of us can move mountains.

I believe that the hard part is clearly identifying what we are passionately dissatisfied about and why.

Here’s my simple guide to finding your inner unicorn that I share with my students and enterpreneurs I work with:

  • Go back over the past year or so of your life and think about things you’ve done or tried to do (or be)
  • Think about what you were trying to do (or be), how the process was of accomplishing that goal and your overall impression of the experience
  • Look for the one where you left the experience passionately dissatisfied — the one you complained about to your friends, that kept you up at night, that made you mad, that you remembered
Find an experience where there was a huge gap between your expectations and your experience
  • Dig into why you were passionately dissatisfied — try to find the underlying reason you were so unhappy
  • Identify how you could change the experience to make you passionately satisfied. What would that experience be like?
  • Figure out if other people are also dissatisfied (asking them is easiest way)
  • Then, ask yourself 3 questions (below). If the answer to each is yes, then you’re on your way to finding your inner unicorn.
Will the world be a better place if people are satisfied with this experience?
Do you care enough to spend the next 5+ years of your life 110% focused on this experience?
Can you explain to a 3rd grader what you were trying to do (or be), why you were passionately dissatisfied and what it would take for you to be passionately satisfied?