Solve meaningful problems as a startup

Back in the 90’s and better part of last decade, most of the smartest folks from the top colleges would go and work at Wall Street. Lured by high salaries and fat bonus checks, they used their wizardry to create CDO’s, asset backed securities and derivatives to create billions for hedge funds, investment banks and trading desks of large financial organizations.

We all know where that ended up – the subprime mortgage crisis.

We thought there was a turn of events when one of them started to build a meaningful startup.

That prompted Bill Gates to say

“I’d say we’ve moved about 160 IQ points from the hedge fund category to the teaching-many-people-in-a-leveraged-way category. It was a good day his wife let him quit his job”

I get a sense that, “founding an Internet startup” is the new “joining a hedge fund” in the 90’s.

We are getting an amazing number of very smart people who are joining these startups in droves and applying for incubators, accelerators, hackathons and startup weekends.

There is a massive movement of high level IQ points from old-school consulting and “IT services backend for a large Indian outsourcer” to startups. That’s awesome news.

I have attended and judged 3 startup hackathons and prototype creation sessions over the last 1 month. I am absolutely thrilled that there are so many people turning out for these events in India. Over 650 attended the Yahoo Open Hack day. It was amazing to see such a diverse group of young talented developers and programmers solve some very interesting problems.

The part we have to work on is why the brightest minds are solving the most trivial of problems.

Startup IQ
Startup IQ

I think the problem with Indian startups is they think we are in the US.

There are rich people problems (The pictures from my mobile phone dont look good, can we build a “pimp my photo” app”) and there are real world problems (how can I make sure new grads from college learn to develope real apps, so they can get a job and reduce the jobless rate).

My humble request to Indian entrepreneurs is ‘Please dont build any more “I’m bored” apps’.

I am not trivializing the need for “fun” apps.

All I am requesting is that the highest IQ folks should be working on the highest impact problem areas to aid most humankind.

5 thoughts on “Solve meaningful problems as a startup”

  1. Mukund, Wonderful thought !! It is truly exciting to see so many young folks intending to do something, but I think sometime its difficult for tech entrepreneurs to see the real need beyond technology, identifying and defining the problem the way they exist require deep dive and clear thinking. I somehow think there may be few who are jumping into the movement without really knowing what they are doing; but if we have a strong ecosystem, may be those will get some enlightenment and will be able to redefine the purpose. And in the process we may see more meaningful startup solving real problem and create value before they start consuming…

  2. Mukund – I think this can apply to many startups here in the US too. Granted there is a bigger market for #FirstWorldProblems, but it doesn’t mean we should be just focused on #FirstWorldProblems.

    Back in April when Instagram sold for $1bil, I posted a Tweet that ended up going viral with 5,500 RTs ( And I think the issue is the young smart ones are seeing simple apps with quick exits at super high valuations and think “why should I bother working on something hard when Instagram sells for $1bil in 552 days?”

    1. Tom, I agree with you. I think the challenge is most younger folks are lured to these small quick flip problems because they are in it *only* for the money. I think being in it for money *and* doing something meaningful would be an awesome way to think about their startup.

  3. I guess this always happen with mankind.. ‘Mindless Change’ as I choose to define it is one of the core reason why we have more problems than innovators, more start ups than real products. Ahimanikya is right when he says people don’t know what they are doing; it’s some invisible driving force that just makes them do it & then money, Mukund, is definitely a spoiler 🙂

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