tapping our potential
One great thing about developers is that they possess the tools required to fix problems they have and the mentality to go get it done. Coshx teammate Ryan was annoyed that it was so hard to share calendars, so he built ScheduleShare. Our friends at HackHands wanted a better way to get on-demand programming help, so they built a better solution. Now they are building a company around it. It is no wonder that such a large proportion of early stage investment goes to companies founded by engineers. They see a problem, build a solution, give it to users and iterate all the way to the bank.
But what about non-tech professionals? Everyday they see problems within their industry or find pain points in their workflow. They conceive ways to make themselves more productive, and my first rule of business is that a company will pay for a product that saves them time or increases their productivity. What should these individuals do when they have a moment of inspiration, or better yet an idea that won’t leave them alone?
Building and launching a product is not easy, but taking the first step is not as prohibitively inaccessible as many people think. Everyone does not, however, live in the world of entrepreneurship and they aren’t exposed to the practices many of us take for granted, such as throwing up a landing page or testing your market through a concierge approach. One common refrain from developers is ‘learn to code’. This is great advice, and learning to code can only yield positive results, but it is easy for talented programmers to forget just how daunting this is. This is doubly true for smart, capable individuals that aren’t even comfortable with math (yes, they exist).
Lot’s of people, such as Amanda from Availendar, make the plunge and manage to pull together an amazing team. Some awesome founder will win our competition, but we cannot run them everyday. What can be done for all those people that don’t have tech skills or a network that can easily be tapped? There is always room for hustle and grind, and it is always beneficial to meet people and ask questions, but I believe there are a lot of ideas that die on the vine. Some people have the inclination to take on risk and charge fearlessly into an idea, but some people have full time jobs, a family to be with at night and no idea how to get their ideas to market. But many of them would know what to do once they can get in front of industry stakeholders.
There is no reason for most developers to understand inefficiencies in markets and industries they have no exposure to. Existing companies cannot solve every problem in their niche, and even if they can it is not always a smart investment for them (we can get into a discussion of hurdle rates another day). But what if a provider comes along that has solved the problem for them, and offers the solution at a cost less than what it would take to put an internal team on it? How do we get that company off the ground?
This is not trivial. There is a lot of value being left on the table. Most of these services would not grow to be billion dollar home runs, but two singles and a double still scores a run. The problem is a misallocation of resources, where dollars chase the huge win and a disproportionate amount of investment ends up in small pockets on the coast. For every successful venture fund there are many more than elbowed their way into an overhyped party round and went back to banking, while good ideas were ignored. This is anti-capitalist. Hell, it is anti-American. This is a problem I see everyday, and one that I want to solve.