Are You Working On The Most Important Problems In Your Field?December 6, 2012 4:41 pm
[We had written an earlier version of this, that did not get the message across strongly. So here is another attempt]
For a lot of reasons, in its current shape, the structure and elements of the Startup ecosystem force the founders to move away from ambitious ideas. It is just an unfortunate fact of how things are structured today.
From Paul Graham:
“In his famous essay You and Your Research (which I recommend to anyone ambitious, no matter what they’re working on), Richard Hamming suggests that you ask yourself three questions:
1. What are the most important problems in your field?
2. Are you working on one of them?
3. Why not?”
The answer to that “Why not” is basically this: In an Instagram world, returns are not aligned to how important the problem is, it is aligned to how fast you can grow to millions of users. Now, one can argue the fact that millions of users use the product implies that the problem was important to solve in the first place – we believe that this is a misguided argument. There are umpteen examples to prove this.
Remember this: It is a screen-grab world out there. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to grab millions of screens. But today’s computing capabilites coupled with data collection/storage possibilities open up a huge set of opportunities to solve important problems. Affordable pay-as-you-go hardware coupled with great open source software can make miracles happen.
So in the critical moments before you jump in, ask yourself: “Why Not?”