The non-obvious obstacles

Here’s how most startups fail before they even take off.

A founder looks at a problem in the market and proposes a solution to this this problem. They then go around pitching the solution and getting feedback on it. Usually, this feedback is encouraging, so they launch their product. However, the same people who provided enthusiastic feedback later hesitate to buy the product, and the startup eventually fails.

Why does this happen?

Well, with several problems we see in the world, the solutions appear obvious to us. Consider plastic recycling. Less than 10% of plastic that has ever been produced has been recycled. The answer appears obvious – waste segregation and a good recycling supply chain. However, it turns out

– most plastic we use isn’t suitable for recycling

– the part that is recyclable is often mixed in with other kinds of waste

– even if recycling is possible, it isn’t financially viable in most cases

– companies that produce plastic packaging have strong lobbies to ensure that policies work in their favour

Therefore, most waste produced even in developed countries is simply shipped to a landfill in a faraway country.

The truth is that most obvious solutions to real-world problems have non-obvious obstacles that are much harder to address. When we launch a product to test it out, we are often unaware of these obstacles. Some of these obstacles are the difference between a customer praising your demo and a customer making a purchase.

As founders, the challenge is to validate our problems and their non-obvious obstacles instead of validating our solutions.

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