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When the pandemic hit and businesses shifted to remote work, I made the assessment that business travel would likely not return to levels pre-pandemic. From personal experience, I found that most business travel was unnecessary with the advancements of technology. Even when I was starting a software company over 10 years ago, we did everything online and over the phone, including finalizing contracts with fortune 100 companies. Now that companies have been forced to work remotely, the need for business travel seemed to be a thing of the past.

However, I’ve rethought my position and convinced myself that business travel is going to exceed pre-pandemic levels, but I think it will be a new form of “business” travel. …

“Entrepreneurs and Revolutionaries are really the same kinds of people born into different circumstances. Both see the status quo in need of change, and both are willing to take the risks, and reap the rewards, of changing it”

— Paul Zane Pilzer

“Those daring souls who envision a better world, blaze new trails in business and upset the status quo.”

— Ray Smilor

At the fundamental level, entrepreneurship is about solving other people’s problems. It is a process we can use to make the lives we encounter better. In this process, entrepreneurs change the world.

The world is not short of problems. …

What problem are you going to solve is an insufficient question to ask an entrepreneur. We need to stop asking entrepreneurs what is your problem. The thing is a problem does not inherently have a customer willing to pay to solve it. As a result, some entrepreneurs work on problems that are important, but they do not have a customer willing to buy their solution. Instead, we need to ask, what customer need are you solving? This question ties a problem to a specific customer and decreases the probability that we are going to build a solution without any customers.

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Not all problems can be solved entrepreneurially, nor should they be (Get started with this article about Entrepreneur Problem Solving). There are many ways to tackle the infinite number of challenges that make life difficult. In some instances, it is better to look at problems with government models. In other instances, we should be looking at solving problems through charitable, NGO, or philanthropic models. But when do you pick one model over another? What are the primary differences in the way these different models solve problems?

First, we must understand the people, organizations, or things (e.g. animals, environment) that are in need. Each of these groups may have important needs that are best solved by a different type of model. Second, we need to apply models that can best solve these needs. When I talk about models, I am referring to the process organizations (e.g. startups, NGOs, charities, Governments) take to create, build and deliver their solution to meet the specific need. For example, an entrepreneurial model builds and delivers the solution to those in need in a way that sustains itself by extracting resources (i.e. revenue) from those that directly have the problem. …

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Let’s just quickly get started talking about problems. If you have ever talked with an entrepreneur, you likely heard their idea pitched to you. However, an idea is only a part of the entrepreneur’s formula for their startup. The opportunity has both an idea and a problem. The idea is the entrepreneur’s unique solution to that problem. However, the idea is not the place to begin if you are just starting out on your startup.

One of the major flaws entrepreneurs make in starting a business is to quickly jump to an idea without carefully considering the most important starting point: the problem. When we start with an idea, we are likely to end up building something that nobody wants. Or, we spend significant amounts of money searching for customers that might be able to use our solution. Unfortunately, this happens all too often. Because we as entrepreneurs highlight ideas when talking about our startups without devoting equal attention to the underlying problem they solve, new founders often think that they need a great idea to get started. …

Last week, we talked about an app for moms. This week, I thought I would show products for kids. Check out their pitch video on vimeo below.

For the most part, I like this business model. It is the “Netflix” of bike usage. Instead of owning, receive a bike in the mail, use it for as long as you want, and return it when you are done. The price is also reasonable for the value it offers. It is far less expensive than purchasing a bike every year for your kids.

There are a couple of downsides to this business that I think they would need to address. For example, the seasonality of riding a bike may result in bikes being rented in the summer and returned in the winter. This could be a challenge for their business. The second limitation may occur when families have more than one child. At this point in time, the cost of multiple memberships gets restrictive. Parents in these situations are likely better off buying a bike and passing it down from child to child. In these cases, I do not see a strong value proposition for these parents. …

Today, I am going to take a look at Mush. An app that connects moms with each other for social interaction in the times when young children take a lot of their time. It may be even more important today with the quarantine and the home school challenges moms face. Check out their pitch video on Youtube:

This company is an example of taking an existing business model and solution and applying it to a new problem domain. I jokingly call this “Tinder for moms.” You see this method of starting a business executed a lot among startups. They take something that works in one setting and apply it to another setting. It adds a lot of certainty to their opportunity that can result in strong fundraising results. …

Your startup is make-believe and that is okay.

When starting a new venture, it is all fiction. Founders operate in conditions of uncertainty. At the earliest stages, nothing about their venture is real. It is nothing more than a story. So, entrepreneurs must be great storytellers. They must be visionary. They must see the world differently and have a story that tells us how to get to a new and better place.

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What do they need to include in their story?

An entrepreneur's story begins with the world as it exists today. There is something wrong with this world. But it is not the world that they envision. Something better can exist. The entrepreneur is going to help us get there. They include in their story what they imagine as the way to get there. Typically, this is their product or service. It is their solution to the problem. They complete the story about how they are going to build and offer their solution to the world. It is the journey they are going to take. …

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Happy Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Discount Tuesday, Something Wednesday…

Over the last several years, I’ve paid attention to some of the trends affecting the retail industry. One particular trend that clearly stands out is its movement away from brick-and-mortar locations to a purely online presence. The movement is evident when I’m visiting shopping centers around town. The two closest shopping centers to my house have no retail stores except for groceries and a CVS. Instead, all of the occupied spaces are filled with service-based businesses. For example, one of the shopping centers includes two banks, two hair salons, a wellness center, dog grooming, multiple restaurants, a dry cleaner, dentist, and UPS store. The other shopping center less than a mile away is about the same. …

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For many entrepreneurs, it is often the case that what you think you are going to be selling isn’t what people find the most valuable. Steve Jobs suggested that not even customers know exactly what they want. This makes the process of starting a new venture challenging. Consequently, entrepreneurs end up making most of their decisions under conditions of uncertainty. To reduce this uncertainty, entrepreneurs and companies often replicate existing models that have better predictability. However, replicating models because they are predictable and reduce uncertainty leave some customers unsatisfied or marginalized. …


Sam Clarke

Researcher | Entrepreneur | Mentor | Investor | Director CSUSM Innovation Center

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