You want to start a company. Now what?

Last week, a close friend, who is a product manager/designer, told me he’s starting a company. He asked me where I thought the biggest opportunity lay given his skills and his passions. He’s incredibly capable and driven, but he hasn’t yet found the right place to apply his energy. My friend is in search of a problem to solve. He’s in the right place. After all:

“The essence of a startup lies in the process of discovering a problem shared by many people and trying to solve it.”.

So how does a founder discover these problems? Research. I suggested to him that he should pretend to be a sociologist, study the way that employees of medium sized companies work. Which software they use, which processes they perform, how they collaborate. Most people love to share their gripes, frustrations and pains with a receptive listener.

Aggregating this feedback over a set of interviews will provide him (i) some insight into common pain points across positions, rank and company (ii) an idea of which problems excite him (iii) and generate new ideas for his startup. In short, these interviews help him collect, define and narrow the problem he’s most excited about solving. (Also, this research will help him understand his target market](

Of course in his research, he may discover a secret or an angle, a proprietary insight that would catapult his startup into the market. But the only way to find this secret is to get into the field and start researching.

Published 2012-10-26 in

Tomasz Tunguz is partner at Redpoint. I write daily, data-driven blog posts about key questions facing startups. I co-authored the book, Winning with Data. Join more than 20,000 others receiving these blog posts by email.

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