“The Homeless Rockstar of Palo Alto:” Solving Business Problems Broke

“Good marketing, starts with a problem you can solve for a customer (who realizes he/she has a problem!)” – Seth Godin, Purple Cow: Transform your Business by being Remarkable

Being that thoroughly consumed with solving a problem will carry you through a lot of business’ ups and downs. When Sean was starting Plaxo, which ultimately failed, he was flat-out borke. But what kept me going, fueled by his vision of solving a major problem. He told me: “I lived out of a suit case, homeless, for the first year I was trying to start Plaxo, pitching venture capitalists. It got to the pint where my last sweater had a hole in it. When I was in one of the partner pitches with Mike Moritz of Sequoia Capital, who became my investor, I had to be conscious of the fact that I had a hole in my sweater, so I couldn’t lift my arm beyond a certain point, where he’d see I had this hole in my sweater. I literally had no money to buy clothes. Unless you’re driven by a desire to solve a problem, you’re not going to be able to stick that out. If you’re driven only  by a desire for status that is associated with being an entrepreneur, you’re not going to be willing to deal with the humiliation of sleeping on people’s couches.

– Sean Parker, former President of Facebook on the internet having no globally persistent legitimate concept of identity that traveled with users from site to site and user authentication. (Which Facebook solved).

One thing that was major that isn’t written about Facebook is the underdog it was compared to Myspace and Friendster. Microsoft, and other companies tried to implement the idea Facebook eventually solved. Friends and Likes is just the tip of the iceberg of what Facebook actually is. Aim for a company model that does this.

Ideas + Innovation always win out! No matter how behind you may seem you are. A year in internet time may seem like a decade. Sometimes it may be. But Friendster (f.2002) and Myspace (f.2003)… Facebook (f.2004) brought more sophistication to a developing market that programmer Dustin Moskovitz says, “Google could have jumped in and beat us at any moment. They easily could have won in 2004. Now, it’s a different story.” More on Business Models that can outpace your competition.

“How do you out run a bear? You run up hill, meaning tackle big problems that big companies can’t compete with you on.” – Paul Graham, Hackers & Painters

So how do you solve a business problem? Business Problem takes time. You’re not going to log onto WSJ.com and say out loud this is what the market needs. You’re gonna look for what isn’t there. What’s unusual. Larry Ellison founded a Relational Database Lab to test what he saw in a paper which wasn’t there in popular trends. Now he’s the 3rd richest man in the world. On a realistic level, it’s being an anthropologist in your own carefully chosen city. Some social entrepreneurs go to the front lines and ask the locals what the needs are. Simple, but over looked.

Sorting for What’s Needed versus Sorting for What’s Requested

“Find out what people in your organization need, and give them that service. That is the way entrepreneurs think.–I’m gong to fix that problem.” – Russell Simmons former founder of Def Jam Recordings and Phat Farm Clothing


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