Previously on our Taking the Scary Out of Startup series, we discussed why you need to walk before you can run.

Bird_DiaperProblem: Remove Real Pain

As a frequent mentor and speaker, as well as a judge in various competitions, I have been introduced to hundreds of companies. The common thread amongst those with the more successful ideas is that they solve a pain point, or problem, for their potential customers.

Unfortunately, some ideas simply do not solve a pain point for customers–or worse, for anyone. A humerous example I learned from my professor in law school was a story about a bird diaper patent. Talk about the perfect example to show how utility patents are not always helpful for useful inventions! It was in this class that I had the idea for Traklight. My ah-ha moment came when I was working with entrepreneurs in a law clinic where I witnessed first hand the mess that was made of their businesses simply because of misunderstandings and/or ignoring intellectual property (IP) at the beginning of their venture. My idea for Traklight was that it would solve that exact problem for entrepreneurs.

You may be thinking to yourself, "Is it really that necessary to remove my customers' real pain?" Yes, it is. I recently attended a rapid demonstration event and listened carefully to the judges’ questions. Demos where the first question was, "Why would I buy this product?" did not go well. It basically meant the end of any follow-up queries from the judges, who were also product buyers.

Solve a real problem.

Market validation can come in various ways–users, sales, or successful crowdfunding campaigns–but you must do some basic research before you build anything. In order to solve real problems, go talk to the people that you are solving for. This is a Steve Blank concept. It's the idea that you have to get out of the building and talk to live people. However, those people should not be your friends, family, or anyone that you know too well; you are looking for honest feedback. While some of your family might enjoy giving you a hard time, they are unlikely to point out when your idea is no good!

In the early days of Traklight, we talked to appoximately 100 entrepreneurs (about their challenges with IP) and attorneys (about their challenges with early-stage companies). After compiling, assessing, and learning from all that information, and used it to shaped our software.

It is a tough road if you have to convince people (your customers!) that they have a problem. Trust us, we know because our entrepreneur customers think they do not have any IP to identify or protect. But after talking to those 100 entrepreneurs and attorneys, we know exactly what problem we're solving for our customers: we are helping them realize that in fact they DO have intellectual property, and provide a self-guided questionnaire to help them identify and protect that IP.

Check back next week for part 12 of this series. Subscribe to our blog for these updates straight to your inbox!

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