You shouldn’t build your product

Jon Harmer
3 min readDec 16, 2018
Photo by Lost Co on Unsplash

It’s really interesting how easy it is for founders of technology companies to lose sight of why they’re making things. Or to make things for the wrong reason in the first place.

People start companies and build products for lots of reasons, for example:

<b>They identified a hot new technology and want to base something off of that (Blockchain, for example)

<b>They want to get rich

<b>They want to be an entrepreneur because it’s cool

<b> They identified a problem in their life/in the world they wanted to make go away

Of those reasons, the last one is really the only good one. If you don’t start with a problem and work your way back to a solution, it’s much harder to succeed. And if you don’t solve the problem meaningfully better than existing solutions, your company is going to struggle.

One of the anti-patterns is trying to start with a specific technology or hot buzzword. Let’s say you’re trying to start a Blockchain company because lots of press and VC money is going into blockchain. The problem is you’re working inside-out. You might end up being successful, but it’s much more likely that you will end up forcing a fit — “we’re blockchain for beanie-baby collectors!” that no one cares about enough to pay for. And don’t forget, if you don’t solve the problem meaningfully better than existing solutions (including paper and pen or an Excel spreadsheet, which is how most of the businesses in the world run), your company is going to struggle.

When you build a product because you identify a problem that needs solving, that is meaningful enough that people will pay for it, your chances of success go up significantly. And your chances of pushing through the hard times and failed experiments and struggle to get traction goes up as well. Because you have a passion for seeing that the problem goes away. Because you know your idea needs to become a thing in the world. Because then you’ll have the passion and motivation to hustle and grind and all the things you hear about in the entrepreneurial hype-machine.

So the ideal situation is to start in the problem space and identify a meaningful problem in the world that isn’t being solved adequately today. Then do some brainstorming on solutions. Maybe you end up finding out that blockchain is a viable part of the right solution, and if so, that’s great. But don’t try to force it that way — you will be making suboptimal decisions that can hamstring your company’s (or product’s) ability to succeed. As always, begin with the end in mind — understand the problem you are trying to solve for whatever users you identify, and iterate around that. If you dont’t do that, you really shouldn’t build your product. It will be a waste of your unique useful talents and time(which you can never get more of.) Good luck.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

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Jon Harmer

I understand users and buyers and their problems. I help solve those problems and communicate that value.