Innovation Blog

Solve Your Own Problems First

This D.I.Y. or self-help attitude frequently leads to a business that makes an impact on broader populations or industries. If youre solving your own problem, youre likely curing the same pain for a customer base.
Jordan Fliegel became his own first customer when he started scheduling the athletes he coached on his website. CoachUp now has more than 7,000 other private coaches across the country helping athletes reach the next level.
Sara Gragnolati developed a wheat allergy, but her taste buds were appalled by the gluten-free offerings on the market. Sara started making delicious quinoa cereal and now Cocomama Foods products are available online and in more than 250 stores nationwide.
Bow & Drape was born out of Aubrie Paganos desire to find the perfect dress when nothing in the store was quite right. That personal quest for a more hands-on approach to fashion produced a platform for custom womens clothing.
Even when I started MassChallenge with Akhil Nigam, both of us wanted to launch a startup, but investors, service providers and even employees were doing all they could to avoid risk at the time. So what did we do? We created a startup accelerator that matches top resources to entrepreneurs and weve helped more that 350 early-stage companies launch and raise over $360 million.
One of the most common themes among the successful founders we see is that they focus almost entirely on solving a problem initially, and less so on how they might benefit financially in the long term. In b-school lingo, they focus primarily on value creation, not value capture. Certainly the self-help approach is more common in consumer-facing startups and less common in fields like biotech or energy.
Still, the most successful entrepreneurs avoid worrying too much about profit at first, and instead create demand by producing something of real value. They keep an eye on profit, but that generally clarifies itself over time, and only after the startup solves a problem for many founders, their own problem.

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