While that portion of the Venn diagram represents the ideal soil for starting a company, the real seed of a startup is a need.
Every successful startup gives people something they need–even if they don’t know that they need it yet.
I was meeting with one of my startups today (yes, I do work weekends) and we were discussing the idea (suggested by a potential investor) that the company build a Facebook app. The entrepreneurs had carefully sketched out how they would build such an app, and were taking me through how they were going to optimize the design.
I stopped them and asked, “Why do the customers need this app?”
Far too often, we confuse the soil with the seed. Facebook is soil; it provides an environment in which social applications can thrive. But “we need to have a Facebook app” is not a need; it’s a tactic.
If you’re worried that you’re mistaking soil for seed, do one simple thing: Find a real user. Expose them to what you’re doing. Then see if they keep using it when you aren’t there.
You see, you can’t trust what people say. People are eager to please. And it’s all too easy to hear what you want to hear. But you can trust what they do. The numbers don’t lie. If you’re meeting a need, that fact will show up in usage and retention.
Before you rent a backhoe, make sure you have a real seed. The best soil in the world won’t yield a bumper crop if you plant a pebble.
(Cross-posted @ Adventures in Capitalism )