A common pitfall engineers-led startups make is to optimize variables that bring little to no benefit to the end user.
A way to understand this is to employ the JTBD framework: “people don’t buy a quarter inch drill, they buy a quarter inch hole.”
In the same way, people don’t buy a dishwasher, they buy clean dishes before their next meal.
Understanding what job people are trying to achieve helps us know what is worth optimizing for, and what is superfluous. In the case of dishwashers, because people need their dishes clean by next meal, speed is actually not very relevant. Major meals are often spaced out by 4 hours or more, so it’s no wonder that most dishwashers’ default programs run for about 3h.
An engineer with no such customer awareness and instead an incessant obsession with optimizing everything that can be optimized, might try to optimize for speed… when it’s likely the consumer cares more about: cleanliness, energy rating and capacity.
We see this a lot in the tech industry, with people coming out with products that are faster, more private, more decentralized, more this, more that. But in no clear way do these products actually improve on what’s existing in a significant enough way that users may consider a shift. Sometimes these products still manage to gather an initial crowd of early adopters, but the product never proves itself to be more than a gadget, adaption plateaus and development efforts die off.
This doesn’t only affect engineers, but I think engineers are more prone to it because they easily get excited by technical challenges. The problem is: not all technical challenges equate relevant consumer challenges.
In the crypto/Web3 space for example, there are legions of developers convinced that decentralization and encryption is just “better.” But how is it better? How big of a problem does it solve for end users? A lot of these solutions sadly are only “better” in the same way a faster dishwasher would be better. Nice to have, but actually pretty much irrelevant compared to other behavioral forces.
Or they’re only better ideologically, and in that case, only valuable to those who share the same ideology. Which is fine if the market for that ideology is big. For example, VPNs make good money from people who believe in privacy and are concerned about their ISP spying on them. Fine. But other markets, like decentralized social media, make no money, because very few people care about their social media being centralized. They care a lot more about it being entertaining and insightful.
It gets tricky because a lot of those projects can sometimes attract other highly ideological people who do not represent the average customer and only form a stronger echo chamber around the founding team. In crypto world, this translates as products completely disconnected from real world use cases that only exist within the speculative bubble of other believers.
Businesses exist to make money by serving customer needs. Exciting technical challenges are not necessarily all businesses.
I’ve made this mistake many times. And what’s been helping me tremendously is to still appreciate my technical curiosity, but make a definite effort in going pro: there is a clear distinction between creating a business, and tinkering.
Use your tinkering skills to build a great business, but don’t let the tinkering rule the business. How are you going to make money and what customer needs do you solve? Are they real needs or are you making them up? Period. That’s the only thing that matters.
PS: Talking about needs, I’m building a product because it currently takes too much planning to find great trails and nature spots nearby. If you’re interested in a solution, you can sign up for free to our newsletter EarthLetter, and you’ll receive a weekly email with tailored nature escapes generated by our AI.
Coming from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=35040451
Wrong from the headline alone: There ARE needs for a faster dishwasher - you didn't take into account scenarios where dishes need to be cleaned quickly.
The immediate branding of most technical improvements as superfluous nonsense fails to recognize the additional use cases brought upon with the easier/faster/safer method available with <insert product here>.
This entire article is similar to when Dropbox was showed to HN: Lambasting the technical improvements made to the UX of backups as something that's 'wasted effort' & 'already doable with <insert setup process here>', whilst completely missing the bigger picture.
Speaking of real customer needs, somehow your EarthLetter website has disabled Chrome's functionality to automatically fill in addresses. Plz fix, you are probably losing people from that funnel