If you ask Paul Graham, that’s the perfect way to start a company:
“The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It’s to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself.”
I love this premise: I’m an expert when it comes to my own problems, therefore I’m the best person to solve them. I like music, ergo, I’m ideally positioned to start a music sharing company.
But there’s one problem
As a consumer, I’m fairly knowledgeable. I’ve been one my whole life. But my professional experience, on the other hand, is limited to a few years in a small number of industries. I’ve never been a doctor, or a lawyer, or a network administrator. Does this mean I can’t ever start a B2B business relevant to these industries? More importantly, does it mean only doctors can start medical technology firms?
Industry Inexperience Shouldn’t Hold You Back from B2B Entrpreneurship
I’m sure there are some great doctors-turned-entrepreneurs out there. But realistically, there probably aren’t enough of them to satisfy the creative demands of the entire industry, or of virtually any other B2B industry. It takes a unique kind of person to leave a stable and lucrative career in medicine to learn to code and start their own company. As a result, there’s a serious shortage of industry experience in early stage B2B technology.
There’s only one way for a non-practitioner like myself to close this experience gap and come up with a valuable idea for B2B tech. That’s by realizing I’m not an expert, and asking the right questions to extract the relevant problems from the people who do have them. I may want to enlist an expert as an adviser or even co-founder, but I shouldn’t let my inexperience discourage me from spearheading a project.
A doctor doesn’t learn how to cure a disease by contracting one, and an entrepreneur doesn’t need to have a problem to solve it. Doctors learn to be doctors by studying other peoples’ problems, and so should entrepreneurs learn to be entrepreneurs.
So while the best consumer technology ideas will — as Graham says — probably come from your own personal experience, the best B2B ones probably won’t.
Want to come up with a great B2B technology idea? Don’t restrict yourself to the problems in your narrow sphere of expertise. Get a working understanding of the subject matter, seek out the people with problems, and pull them into your circle.
Despite what the Hair Club for Men infomercials taught us, you don’t always have to be one, sometimes you just have to know one.