Ecommerce Entrepreneurs Need to Solve Better Problems

There’s a scene in the TV Show Silicon Valley that I thought really captured the essence of modern day (2016/17) entrepreneurs. You might know the one I’m talking about, where every single entrepreneur/startup was up on stage saying their product was going to make the world a better place.

The hard (sad?) truth is that most startups aren’t really making the world a better place for anybody other than maybe the very top 1% of the planet. Do we really need another “Uber” for [insert first-world-luxury service]?

Worse yet, in the land of physical products, do we really need more private labeled products that aren’t any better than the rest of what’s already available 1000x over at every price point imaginable?

We (all people) need to encourage the entrepreneurs among us to build businesses with purpose. Businesses like Patagonia, TOMs, or my fledgling startup Pela. We need companies that are trying to solve hunger, clean water, zero-waste, clean energy and on and on. There isn’t exactly a shortage of problems needing your talents.

One of the most beautiful elements of modern day entrepreneurialism is that failure is an acceptable outcome as long as we’re learning. I have to ask though, why are we failing at building shit that doesn’t really matter?

What’s the point in having the our most creative & brilliant people tackle problems that aren’t moving this planet to a better place?

Many of the most successful startups are encouraging more and more people to plant their entrepreneurial flag in the ground. Why wouldn’t they? After all, the more entrepreneurs we have the more they get to sell their software or products to those entrepreneurs. Selling stuff to entrepreneurs is big business now.

If we narrow our focus a bit and look at the world of physical product startups (aka — eCommerce/Retail ), we ultimately have a LOT of businesses being built that sell the same old shit that already exists…just now with a different logo.

Not to say there aren’t some truly innovative, forward thinking products coming out of the maker movement, quite the opposite actually. I don’t think the world has ever seen so much new, innovative products and that is an amazing thing.

I’m just also a little sad that I can’t turn around without [insert coach] telling new entrepreneurs to start yet another t-shirt business sourcing their wares from the same place the other 10,000 t-shirt businesses do. I picked on t-shirts as that’s a popular one, but you could pick any low-barrier product category and find far too many shitty knock-offs / copy cats.

If you really want to go down the consumerism garbage chute, do some reading on the Amazon sellers side of eCommerce entrepreneurship. It’s gross. Let me save you some time as it goes a little like this. Go on Amazon, research product that sells well and maybe is under-competitive, then go on Alibaba and source that product with your name/logo on it and sell it on Amazon. And on and on and on we go, racing to the bottom of not just price/margin limits but also your friendly neighbourhood landfill.

We need products that move us forward. Whether that’s in design, use, or being planet-friendly.

Further, we need entrepreneurs to move us forward. Few other cohorts of people are going to do more.

We don’t need more generic crap flooding our markets and ultimately our land fills / dumps.

I know this might sound a little preachy, but we (Pela) believe in better.

We’re not naive. We know that lots of products don’t have eco-friendly options yet, or maybe there just aren’t cost effective eco friendly options available (yet). We know that some product needs to be durably made and last a long time instead of being made to be disposed. We know there are no perfect answers.

We also know there has been and continues to be a lot of innovation in the materials available to physical product entrepreneurs. The more entrepreneurs focus on using better options to build their products the more money there will be in the system to continue pushing these better alternatives forward.

For us, we have to ask this question. Is a plastic free world really that big of a stretch of the imagination? I don’t think so and neither should you.

For all budding entrepreneurs, do you really think we need more private label crap on Amazon? How many versions of a garlic press do you think the world needs? Or HDMI cables? Get the picture?

Move. Us. Forward.