Barron Wei: Picture This

Picture this. 

Four friends. One room. Amazing ideas flying around. 

Hours of brainstorming pass until that one idea that we all believe in fills the room with excitement — excitement that eventually has to fade. This familiar scene is the thought process that we inexperienced builders go through and seasoned entrepreneurs know better than to sit through — focusing on the extraordinary product that nobody actually needs and wasting hours of valuable time. So, how do we avoid this trap?

In the popular handbook for entrepreneurship, The Lean Product Playbook, Dan Olsen, an entrepreneur and consultant, points us to two areas where we should search for our great ideas: the problem and solution spaces. The problem space is essentially the long list of pain points that remain to be solved, or the unfulfilled desires and needs in our world. For example, Venmo solves the previous problem of the difficulty behind transactions between peers. The solution space, on the other hand, contains the areas of improvements for existing solutions. Startups that spring from the solution space tend to focus on user experience and differentiated features. The solution space tends to lack the defensibility that exists in the problem space, which generates new solutions in order to solve new problems. So, how do we find ideas that exist in the problem space? One way is to talk to people. Another way is to pursue effective altruism.

At the heart of effective altruism lies a parallel to entrepreneurship: the drive to solve pressing problems with limited resources. Coincidentally or perhaps not, areas in which venture capitalists assess the potential of startups such as scale, traction, and competition resonate well with the areas in which effective altruists assess the priority of focus interventions. Entrepreneurship pushes us to find problems that affect a wide range of people and solve these problems in a resourceful and unique way. And, this attitude lies within Effective Altruism, which I would encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to consider learning about and subscribing to. Within the problem space, Effective Altruism provides a list of unsolved problems that affect a wide range of people — a perfect starting point to finding a solution that solves an important problem. 

With Effective Altruism in mind, perhaps we no longer have to worry about brainstorming or building a useless product because we would know that our problem is scalable, tractable, and neglected. And, we can still have: 

Four friends. One room. Amazing ideas flying around.

Picture this.