Being Helpful

I see two major issues with startups these days.

  1. People are looking for a market to disrupt, rather than looking for a REAL existing problem to be solved. Or, inventing a problem to be solved. Here’s an example. There’s an on-demand parking valet service which has failed. Why? When you are looking for a parking spot and you’re late for something, you are probably thinking “I sure wish I had some information so that I could park this car.” But you’re probably NOT thinking “I sure wish I was a movie star and had somebody to park this car for me!” Nobody thinks that way. It would have been better if the “valet parking” guy had thought about how to provide the information that people are looking for, rather than provide a service that he imagined people wanted. Maybe he should have talked to more people before launching? I don’t know. Maybe if he’d talked to more people first, he could have discerned what the real need was, rather than inventing one.
  2. There’s not enough consultation with women going on. How can I tell? Because there’s too much of the tail trying to wag the whole dog. That’s a guy thing. Am I being politically incorrect here? You bet. To me, men are more goal-oriented than women. Women are more process-oriented. To use another startup business as an example here, you have a guy who thought: “I’d like to impress my date by cooking a meal. But I don’t know how to cook, and I don’t know how to grocery shop. I know! A new business which does just that.” Problem was, he extrapolated this to women too. He included women in his valuation. So I suspect that his startup got over-valuated. He believed that everybody is also goal-oriented, like he is (i.e. his goal: home cooked dinner — and take it from there). I believe that most women, however, want to do their own grocery shopping, if they do their own cooking. Being more process-oriented in nature (maybe because we are the ones who process stem cells into babies?), a woman is either a shopper-cooker, or else she is neither. If she enjoys cooking, then she enjoys the process or sets value within the process itself. This means choosing her own recipe and her own groceries. I don’t know of a single woman who would want to cook a meal, but have somebody else fetch all the ingredients, every single time. Consequently it’s my view that the “We will shop for you and provide you with recipes” folks over-valuated themselves. Big mistake. Why didn’t they speak to more women? Oh oh. Let that be a lesson to you, boys. Include us more.

I want to be helpful here, so that more people can be successful. The more that businesses succeed, the better off we all are. Rather than the “zero sum” view of success (i.e. either I win, OR you do) perhaps we need a different model altogether, one that is based on developing more umbrellas with many businesses joining and co-operating together. A new economic model could be “competitive cooperation” which envisions that widespread success is not only possible, it’s more desirable than the dog-eat-dog world that we have now. Milton Friedman has been proven wrong and so perhaps it’s time to build something better.

The above analysis of the “grocery & recipe” startup exaggerated the problem in order to make a point. Ideally we would incorporate both goal-orientation, and process-orientation in the best business model. And including people of different genders and ages in the investigation stage should also perhaps be done. Maybe the above analysis shows that I’m of a middle-aged generation, rather than a millennial. Again, if older folks are not being queried about the desire for a service then a huge market might remain untapped, or the opposite situation (i.e. where a huge market was included, when it shouldn’t have been, in a valuation) could happen which can spell financial doom. The more inclusive you are in evaluating your idea, the more potential you have for success.