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Why it is important to develop a business that solves an international problem

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by Startacus Admin

develop a business with an international solution
Isabelle Ohnemus, Founder and CEO of EyeFitU shares her insights into why it’s important to start a business by identifying a universal problem.

Isabelle Ohnemus is the Founder and CEO of EyeFitU, a mobile-first platform that helps consumers shop in the confidence that what they are buying is in their correct size. EyeFitU aims to reduce high return rates and encourages a sustainable approach to fashion shopping. Isabelle’s background in international finance gave her the solid foundation to turn her passion for fashion and desire to help change the face of shopping into a growing business. She decided to found EyeFitU because she wanted to find a solution to the global chaos around sizing. Here Isabelle shares her insights into why it’s important to start a business by identifying a universal problem.

isabelle-ohnemus“If you want to build a successful company, solve a problem people have”.

One of the most striking mantras from Silicon Valley has been a great source of inspiration for thousands of innovators, startup founders and entrepreneurs all over the world in recent years. Looking at today’s tech giants, it is clear that they set their basis solving a very simple, specific and concrete problem, in many cases shared by millions of people. And even if the problem was already solved, they have all tried to make it better.

Making computers was a problem that Apple, as Steve Jobs said, “solved” 20 years ago. Google made searches simpler, Netflix bettered the answer to on-demand streaming tools and Uber simplified on-demand car services. They didn’t aim to change the industry they went into (eventually they revolutionised it) or transform user’s behaviours; they simply spotted a universal issue and identified a clear solution to solve it within a global dimension. 

Many potential entrepreneurs focus on excellent ideas, have great products and develop amazing technologies but they cannot grasp the problem.   

Don’t sell ideas, solve (global) problems

One of the most common mistakes made by innovators is working on a solution before identifying the problem. It is known as the “solution looking for a solving an international problemproblem” syndrome and it occurs when the need and the solution don’t match in the consumer’s minds.

As Paul Graham, co-founder at Y Combinator, the first of a new type of startup incubator, wrote in one of his essays: “I find that to have good ideas I need to be working on some problem. You can't start with randomness. You have to start with a problem, then let your mind wander just far enough for new ideas to form”. Identifying problems is much more critical than generating news ideas Graham continues: “In a way, it's harder to see problems than their solutions. Most people prefer to remain in denial about problems. It's obvious why: problems are irritating. They're problems!”

And it goes without saying; the more global the problem you want to solve is, the greater success your solution will achieve.

Fall in love with…people

Luckily for startup founders, people are always searching for improved products and simpler solutions to their everyday life. If you manage to identify a need that many people are desperate to satisfy, you will be on the right path to starting your business productively.  

But how do you identify a problem that urgently needs solving? How can your solution be so robust that once discovered people couldn’t live without it? How do you develop a “must-have idea”? The key strategy is identifying a specific sector you solving an international problemwould like to work in and then focus on people - listening to them, understanding their daily habits and tracking their behaviour, in order to understand the future consumer. The main questions in every entrepreneurs' mind should be: how can I help my clients more? How can I improve their life?  

A human centred approach, accompanied by a good dose of empathy, should be the crucial starting point for every business that matters. Eventually we must be able to understand people better than they do: “We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want”, as Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, wrote. Moreover, if you are able to spot the problem that needs to be solved, your product will soon become a necessity - the consumer will simply require it without persuasion.

To develop a business that addressing an international problem, it is imperative that people’s needs are your passion. That is the perfect match: if you firmly believe in your solution, for you it will be a pleasure pursuing and fighting to achieve your goals as well as  creating a valid action on behalf of everyone in need of your awaited solution. A win-win path to grow a successful startup enterprise. 

As Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston said during his 2013 MIT commencement address: "The happiest and most successful people I know don’t just love what they do, they’re obsessed with solving an important problem, something that matters to them."

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Published on: 23rd May 2018

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