A few things can happen when a pain point sparks a product idea:
- Great things: the product solves a problem for a large group of people driving mass adoption.
- Good things: the product solves a problem for a select group of people. It may still make sense to build the product depending on the size of the group. Product managers need to realize when they write the spec that they are designing for a specific demographic and it may end up as a niche product.
- False starts: products that are not adopted because the problem they tried to solve didn’t exist.
In this week’s TechCrunch Disrupt Start-up Battlefield many start-ups started their presentation by talking about the problem their product was designed to solve. Some were comical in the sense that they really believed they were solving a problem on the scale of world peace when in reality they were solving a problem experienced by 20-something hipsters living in big cities. But aside from that, many of the start-ups did indeed start from a pain point.
Looking at the six finalists, three presented their product as a solution to a pain point. It seems to me that each represents one of the scenarios above:
The great: ISI Technology aims to reinvent water heaters to increase energy efficiency and reduce water usage. The pitch opened with a presentation of one of the problems ISI tries to solve: the high amount of water wasted during the time it takes for hot water to arrive. By saving energy and water ISI’s Heatworks Model 1 can be a great product for a large group of people.
- The good: Mimi, an app for hearing enhancement whose founders tried to address the high costs of acquiring and adjusting hearing aids. Even though this is a niche audience this app can be a great product as the pain point is very well-defined and Mimi provides a cheaper and more accessible solution.
- The false start? Vurb is tackling mobile web search and presented the pain point it uncovered (too many open browser tabs) with the question: “is this what it takes to plan a night out?” I could be completely wrong by thinking this a minor problem as this product ended up winning the Battlefield.
It will be interesting to watch how these and the other Battlefield companies fare. In any case, looking at these companies present offers a great lesson in what can drive product creation.