The Story of Hammer and Nail (and Startups)

In the last 15 days, I have seen close to 85 business plans and while some of them were mind blowing, majority fall under the ‘Hammer and Nail’ syndrome.

Hammer and Nail is a classic syndrome where hammer just looks for a nail. In essence, once you have the hammer, everything looks like a nail!
To cut the long story short, Hammer is the ‘solution’ and Nail is the ‘problem statement’.

hammer nail
Hammer and Nail - Made for each other?

Nail needs to be ‘nailed’, but is hammer the only option? Maybe yes, maybe not. How advisable is it to have a solution (i.e. hammer) without knowing the exact nail (i.e problem statement)?

Logically it seems like an insane act, but in reality this is what many startups go through.

Sometimes, startups (especially the geeky ones) are so much governed by ‘I have a solution’ mindset that they tend to not look at the problem statement in it’s entirety. They are obsessed with ‘only my solution’ can solve the problem, while they fail to realize the difference between alternatives and substitutes that are present for any solution (read:Substitutes vs. Alternatives – Understand your Competition Better).
They fail to see the usefulness of their solution vis-a-vis the problem statement and instead, start building problem hypothesis based on their solution.

For instance, if you are an embedded systems geek, you will want to build a product in your technology domain. But do you realize that building a business is a different ball game vis-a-vis building a product? Do you know what will it take to really build an electronics consumer company?
Maybe yes, but in reality you are still so obsessed with your ‘embedded systems’ background, that the operational/marketing challenges of running an electronics consumer company isn’t something you have even thought of.

And that’s a fail.

The question to answer here is – ‘What Business problem I am solving’. Do I really need a hammer to ‘nail’ the ‘nail’? OR that’s a ‘screw up’ (metaphorically!)

Geekies – stand up and answer this question. Please come out of your “I am from <X> background and will do only X++”.  Come out of your comfort zone and once you have answered the earlier question, answer a difficult one – ‘What Business am I In’?

What’s your take?

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