Entrepreneur, Detective or a Problem Solver?

This is the first in the series of posts I will be writing to document my experience in working on my project related to cancer patients.

I need help with getting connected to Cancer Patients. I have mentioned the reason in this post. Please comment on here or email me at jois.vaishnavi@gmail.com, if you know any Cancer Patients or Survivors.

Today’s world is inspired by the stories of young college grads, and working professionals who have turned into super successful entrepreneurs. This has pumped many people up to explore the field of entrepreneurship.

My understanding till now is that — If I am aspiring to be an entrepreneur, then I am not just about coming up with the strategies and huge business plan documents about how to bring in the revenue.

First, I need to be a detective. I need to find the problem — the actual problem.

Next, I need to be a problem solver who, through well designed experiments, finds out the best possible solution to the problem that can scale and also bring in revenue.

Many a times, this becomes a chicken and egg problem. An idea strikes a person at the most unpredictable moment. Instead of finding the problem this idea going to solve, they usually get too attached to the idea and start “building” it right away.

This is dangerous because they don’t know exactly what problem they are trying to solve. They may end up wasting all efforts and resources in solving the wrong problem, or a problem that may not even exist.

According to me, the right approach would be to first answer the question: What is the problem that this idea trying to solve?

Next, make that problem your hypothesis or break it down into hypotheses.

To make it easier I use the questionnaire suggested in the appendix of the book —Talking to Humans [free ebook available for download from the original website]. Most of my friends use Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas. [First canvas is free and there are tutorials available to help you learn how to fill it up]

The added benefit of using the hypotheses system is that you create the first version of your business plan in less than 30 minutes. Now, how cool is that?!

My Project

Currently, I am working on a project that aims at helping Cancer Warriors by improving their experience during the journey of treatment.

I was fortunate enough to get a chance to observe a couple of OPDs in a cancer hospital to understand that there exists a problem. I could speak with 3–4 patients [read Warriors] too.

Reading the available literature online like blog posts, TED Talks, other videos by cancer survivors [read conquerors], current warriors and the relatives of the warriors did help me to a great extent. Also, looking at the available products and support groups gave me a fair idea about the problems that they are trying to solve.

But, nothing can replace a live human being providing the answers you’re seeking.

So, I need to get out of the building more! [It is not just an expression. It is what one needs to do in order to validate their hypotheses.]

So, I am now in the process of getting out of the building and doing something called the Customer Development Interviews where,

  1. I recruit people who I think may be facing the problem — Cancer Warriors.
  2. I interview them using a set of well designed questions.

This will help me analyze what the exact problem is.

The most difficult part in this process is to find and recruit warriors and survivors. Approaching an institution like a hospital seems to be a very easy route to take and that is what I did, only to find two huge problems; the Concept and the Environment.

The Concept

Customer Development Interview is a concept that most people struggle to understand and thus, trying to make the management of hospitals understand it becomes super difficult and time consuming.

Good News: I have found two institutions that have agreed to help me.

The Environment

To counter the good news, the hospital environment is bad for this kind of a conversation [read Cust Dev Interview]. I have seen the warriors and their families getting conscious of the environment and holding back whatever they have to say.

This is not limited to just the cancer warriors and survivors. In my experience, the above stated problems come into play even when you are approaching someone for the interviews for validating other kind of ideas and hypotheses.

Hence, in all the previous Cust Dev Interviews I have done [for other projects], I have always recruited people for the interview as a referral by a primary/secondary contact. I have also made sure that I speak with them in a more casual environment like a coffee shop.

Currently, I am asking all my contacts to refer to me a friend/relative they know who is currently a cancer warrior or a conqueror, preferably from Bangalore. My goal is to interview at least 50 warriors and 20 conquerors.

Please feel free to comment on this post or email me at jois.vaishnavi@gmail.com, if you know a warrior or a conqueror.

Also, please feel free to comment on this post with your questions, your experiences with Cust Dev Interviews or your thoughts about this post.

I will keep you posted about my project.

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