Make Startups That Matter: Solve Tough Problems, Make An Impact


Where’s the long-term positive impact startups are supposed to be creating? 

By Chris Shipley (Co-Founder, Guidewire Group)

I’m worried that there are so many really big problems to solve. The kind of problems that get solved when you put an entrepreneurial mind to them. I’m not talking about world hunger, profound poverty, or peace in the Middle East. I’m pretty sure there is no app for that.

It’s the other big problems that have me worried. And not the problems themselves, per se, but the gross lack of entrepreneurial attention they currently receive.

Over the last several months, I’ve evaluated business pitches from nearly 1,000 companies. What strikes me most about these business is that they are doing nothing of significance.

Indeed, the collective attention of young entrepreneurs seems be have been hijacked by all things trivial. How many knock-off AirBnB sites does the world need? Or new vertical social networks for niche groups that can’t figure out how to create a Facebook page? Or Foursquare meets Match meets World of Warcraft?

Presumably, these purportedly hot startups are endorsed by the taste makers of the angel investor scene. And if you’re an investor, these businesses may be a good way to turn a quick profit — for you, if not the entrepreneur. But, really, where’s the long-term positive impact?

Building a startup, regardless of the target market or customer, is crazy hard work. It can suck the life out of you if you’re not careful. So if you’re going to work that hard, why not work on something that matters? Solve tough problems, make an impact.

Over the last two issues of this newsletter, I offered up the support of Guidewire Group to any young business that was tackling tough problems in the areas of health and wellness, financial literacy, sustainable energy. Exactly one entrepreneur rose to the challenge. The offer still stands.

Do something. Do something that matters.

This post was originally published on the Guidewire Group’s blog.

About the guest blogger: Chris Shipley is a leading technology and product analyst. Best known as the executive producer of the DEMO Conferences for IDG Executive Forums, Chris has helped technology companies bring more than 1,000 new products to market since 1996. As a founding partner and editorial director in Guidewire Group, she consults with emerging technology companies in the U.S. and Europe to identify market opportunities and accelerate products to market.

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  • Kristee Rosendahl

    Thank you for noticing and speaking up about the need to solve problems, and the lack thereof. I’ll take your challenge. I’m a woman entrepreneur whose had a very successful career in UX and digital media for the last 25 years, including with Apple Computer. Five years ago I prototyped up a a product that solved a pain for me – how do I have a career and still have time to successfully grow good organic food for my family. Where’s the weekly To Do list that helps me know what I should be doing in *my* garden? I tested the market and two years ago when all was converging on this trend to be more self sufficient and sustainable, I jumped in with two feet, funded and built the product which launched last May. I did everything I was supposed to do to prove this was a viable idea and business. There was always something I was missing when I went to raise money – launch first, get traction, prove your rev model. All this while I watched some very silly plays, you refer to, get millions without having to do any of that rigor. I have 10,000 ecstatic customers since our launch last May and I still cannot raise a dime – despite a timely idea, a winning execution, a woman led and owned business, Stanford education, deep connections in the Valley, and on and on… If I read one more article saying there needs to be more women entrepreneurs out there doing great things( I hear we need more confidence!)I’m going to stop working fourteen my days and go have my nails done!

    Kristee Rosendahl

  • Kristee Rosendahl

    … fourteen hour days…

    Kristee Rosendahl