Problems Worth Solving

Just read a great article about how David Freidburg built and sold The Climate Corporation for $1 billion (apparently there’s only a 0.00006% chance of building a billion dollar company). Many lessons to be learnt from Freidburg’s journey, but the main takeaway for me is the importance of finding a problem worth solving. Here are some of David’s Freidburg’s thoughts on ideas and innovation:

I hear so many people saying things like, ‘Oh we can build a photo sharing app for students at Stanford!’ or ‘We can do something like X for Y!’ But just look around. There are problems in the world today that are more substantial than anything we’ve ever faced in history — and it’s not just in software, or in California, or for your peers.

When you look at the markets in the world today, you can probably break it apart market-by-market and say, ‘Here’s something fundamentally flawed with the way businesses in this market are operating.’ Ask yourself, what are they doing wrong? Beyond that, how are governments not operating efficiently? When you look at it this way, there are 100,000 different ways to break apart the opportunity that exists for you to solve the big problems of today. It might take more than a weekend in the library or on the Internet to see, but they’re there.

If information was once the grist for ideas, over the last decade it has become competition for them — we have started to prefer knowing things over thinking because knowing has more immediate value. This keeps us in a loop. It keeps us connected to our friends and our cohort, and this implies a society that no longer thinks big.

There are a lot of problems out there that can and should be solved, and not just because it’ll be great for you, but because it’ll be great for everyone. Once you have this premise — once you’ve found the right thing to do — the strategy is to first know what you don’t know, the tactic is to grind, and the value is to remember: there are plenty of places to innovate.

So before you dive into your next startup, first ask yourself if you’re working on a problem worth solving, and who you are solving it for.

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