A View from Jessica Leber
The Markets That Startup Founders Are Missing
A common piece of advice given to entrepreneurs may lead them to overlook or dismiss good ideas.
I read a headline on TechCrunch this week about how the startup Proven is helping people build résumés and apply for jobs from their smartphones. My immediate reaction was to think this is a ridiculous idea. Really, if a job opening is so great that I want to drop everything to apply, wouldn’t I at least take a few minutes to get to a PC?
Then I actually read the article and realized I had it all wrong. Proven’s target users aren’t people like me—a writer sitting in front of my computer way more than can possibly be healthy. The app is aimed at people applying to service industry jobs at hospitals or restaurants or in clerical roles. In many cases, they want to put their name in for job opening quickly, and their smartphones are the best computer they have access to on any given day. Why not make it easy to apply and build better résumés on their own devices?
I have no idea whether Proven’s idea will take off, and it seems it took the founders a few iterations to come to their current version. But my initial reaction is an example of the inherent shortcomings of one common piece of advice given to would-be startup founders: think of a product that you want to use, or a problem that you would like to see solved. It’s the kind of advice that leads to ideas like many of these.
One answer is to dramatically increase the range of people who are launching startups. But given the demographics of today’s entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, maybe it’s also time for a different bit of advice: think of what markets and potential users might be missed by this narrow approach.