>See a Problem, Seek a Solution


I was taking this class one time at my University which had an elderly gentleman as the guest speaker for the day. The subject under study was the first things any startup would do to get things going. For some reason, the professor decided to ask me a few pointed questions right from the get go which I had to answer right away. Among those many questions, he was trying to inquire what would one do at the start of the setting up their organization. Naturally, I responded, as any business major would do with buzz words like, visions and mission statements, the goals the objectives and yada yada yada. And the professor would studiously jot all my points down on the white board asking the whole class to comment and add. Everyone started contributing and building on what I was saying. Suddenly, the guest speaker stopped us all. He went to the board, and crossed out everything that was written and looked back at us all with a stern look and said,

“This is not what you do. This is not how you start off with. You are all wrong!”

Everyone, including me were taken aback and had confounded looks on our faces. You could hear the pin drop in the room. Is this not what we are taught day in day out? What does he mean?

“You see a problem, and you try to find a solution to that problem. That is how you start. And that is how you build your company. These visions and missions come later, way later.” he replied in a quiet and gentle manner.

That elderly guest speaker was no other than, Andy Grove, the co-founder and ex CEO of Intel Corporation.

“When we started Intel, we had seen a problem. We worked towards finding a solution to our problem and we built our company around it. That is how successful companies get built and run.” he added while gazing at our empty and confused faces.

He was so right. I began to think back. In 2002, when I co-founded BrightSpyre, it was based on a problem that we had seen. There were no websites for job advertisements in Pakistan. We built our company around solving that problem and later that idea spawned a whole industry in the country. Today, five years later, a new job portal gets launched every few months in the country.

Moral of the story. Find a problem, something that needs a solution. Once you have identified it, then build your business around it. And you shall see your ideas will have better mileage than blindly following someone who spends lots of time on documents, business plans and presentations. These things are important and will definitely be required at some later stage. But during startup, they are not as helpful.