Course overview
The problem
Finding a problem that needs to be solved

I.Finding a problem that needs to be solved

In Chapters 3-5, we will go through the journey from having an idea to creating a sustainable scalable business ready to have a global impact. We don’t mean that this is a recipe for guaranteed success. Every startup is unique and the right things to do are different. However, based on learnings from previously successful entrepreneurs, the presented ways of working and thinking can increase your chance of success.

A startup is a group of experiments – an iterative process trying to find a solution to a problem and a way to create a sustainable business around it. Here the process is described in chronological order, but in reality the phases often overlap and you can go back and forth.

Few successful startup stories are textbook examples. However, to find the best way of working for each unique situation, you need to understand the textbook examples first. That is what we want to provide here: the fundamental basics so that you can take them and be creative.

When you set out to create something new, you have to consider many different questions, such as who is your customer, how will you reach them, and how can you stand out from the competition. However the most fundamental question you should start with is this: what problem am I solving?

To build a sustainable business, you have to solve a repeatable problem that many people or businesses have – and that they are willing to pay for a solution for this problem.

Even though it’s possible to create hype and get people interested in a product that’s just a “cool thing”, if it doesn’t actually solve a real problem people will eventually stop using it. The same rule applies for intrapreneurs building a new product or venture inside a larger organization. An initiative is much more likely to succeed when it’s built around solving a problem.

Where to get started

But how can you find a real problem that someone has and validate that you have a problem worth solving?

One good way is to start with your own everyday life. You probably encounter problems or simply things that annoy you on any given day, whether at work, home, or school. For example, in a typical Nordic country this could be something like:

  • you have to wait a long time to get your food at lunch
  • taxis are expensive and never available when you need one
  • email is a slow and inefficient way to communicate at work
  • people are eating a lot of red meat even though it’s bad for the planet
  • you want to buy or sell an apartment, but real estate agent fees are high

In fact, some problems are so ingrained you probably don’t even think of them as problems any more. People might think this is just how things have to work.

There are also many problems that are not everyday things but can have a huge negative effect on someone’s life, like illnesses caused by rare diseases. Looking at the UN Sustainable Development Goals can also give a ready-made list of bigger problems in this world crying out for a solution. Things like:

  • Helping to educate people
  • Ensuring access to clean water
  • Making energy cleaner
  • Providing working sanitation
  • Cleaning up plastic waste from oceans

What are UN SDGs?

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 goals adopted by all United Nations Member States as a “universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.”

There are three key things you should keep in mind when trying to find a problem that needs solving:

1) Is it an important problem?

When you’re building a startup or a new product, it’s important that the business is built around a problem that you think is important. That’s why making money or becoming famous and respected shouldn’t be primarily motivators for an entrepreneur to start building a new business. Instead, you should spend time thinking about what gets you motivated and how you can build that around activities that you enjoy – regardless of financial success. Then at least you’ll be getting to work with something you like while (hopefully) also growing your business.

2) Is this something you like doing on a daily basis?

Another important point is to choose something that you enjoy doing on a daily basis. This is not to say that you will always get to do things that you like. On the contrary, while building a startup you will certainly face tasks that aren’t fun. But if the root problem you chose is important enough to you, it will help keep you motivated.

3) Do you have an understanding of the problem?

Most successful entrepreneurs have solved a problem that they encountered in their own life. When you have a personal relationship with the problem, it’s often easier for you to understand it, and you’re probably more motivated to solve it. How you are involved with the problem can of course vary and you don’t necessarily have to have in-depth experience. Having a personal relationship with the problem can also mean that a friend or family member has experienced it.

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II. Validating the problem

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Kiuas is one of the leading startup accelerators in the Nordics, bringing early-stage startups together and providing them with the best support and tools to take their progress to the next level.

Maki.vc is an early stage venture capital firm dedicated to partnering with founders who never conform to category standards.

AVP is the entrepreneurship education program at Aalto University. Students in multidisciplinary teams do hands-on exercises and gain tools, ready to be used to construct a startup or to renovate an existing company. We teach students to build like an entrepreneur.

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