As I’ve written before, too many of the entrepreneurs I meet are smart and motivated but working on weak ideas. I also meet many people who claim that the only thing standing between them and launching a new venture is coming up with a good idea. It surprises me that any entrepreneur should have difficulty finding a good problem to tackle because I can’t think of any major industry where people believe everything is just peachy. Everyone has daily irritants: too little data or time to make informed decisions, inefficiencies in supply chains or production lines that bite into the bottom line and cause delays, information asymmetry that leaves you feeling like you are getting ripped off, etc. So how do we make entrepreneurs aware of these very real problems that people will pay to have solved? I think I might have an idea for an event that could help. The idea is still rough but I thought I’d share it in the hope of getting some constructive feedback.
The event would focus on a vertical and get four or five people from that industry to do a short presentation on their role in the industry and what their three biggest problems are. For example, let’s say we decided to focus on the hospitality industry. We get a hotelier, a restaurateur, someone from an airline’s customer care department, a leading vendor of hospitality IT systems and a product manager from one of the big online travel sites like Expedia. Each person gets 20 minutes to explain how they fit into the bigger picture of travel and tourism and talk about their biggest pain points. Obviously, no one is going to give away competitive information, so they’ll probably stick to problems common to all airlines, hotels, etc., which is fine for our purposes because solving an industry wide pain is better than building custom software for a single company. The result is that anyone in the audience is going to get (a) a crash course on the hospitality industry, (b) a decent understanding of the major problems in it and (c) some contacts in the industry they can follow-up with to dig deeper if their interest is piqued.
The audience of course, is composed of the usual start-up suspects: software developers, entrepreneurs, students and the odd investor; people looking for big problems to fix in big markets. Worse case, the audience spent an evening learning something new. Best case, sparks fly, connections are made and new ventures are launched. Hold an event like this once a quarter, each time focusing on a different industry and “lack of a good idea” will no longer be an excuse not to start a company. Follow up the event a few months later with a sector focused accelerator program, like the FinTech Innovation Lab, for a double whammy.
Thought? Comments? I’m especially interested in whether people would be interested in participating and which verticals they think are ripe for some disruptive innovation.