Problems are an Entrepreneur’s True North

If Benjamin Franklin rose from the grave today happy and healthy he’d have a ton of questions:

  • What’s the state of the world?
  • What the hell is that thing? (pointing to cars, iPhones, etc.)
  • How do I ______?

Ben’s not one to sit out the action, and he’d like to get back into the swing of life! So he needs to learn how to get some stuff done:

  • How do I find food?
  • How do I stay informed and educate myself?
  • How do I get anywhere? Where is worth going?
  • How do I make money?
  • How do I buy things?
  • How do I find a romantic partner?
  • How do I communicate with people who are far away?

Morgan Housel wrote a great post about betting on things that don’t change:

In the last 100 years we’ve gone from horses to jets and mailing letters to Skype. But every sustainable business is accompanied by one of a handful of timeless strategies:

  • Lower prices.
  • Faster solutions to problems.
  • Greater control over your time.
  • More choices.
  • Added comfort.
  • Entertainment/curiosity.
  • Deeper human interactions.
  • Greater transparency.
  • Less collateral damage.
  • Higher social status.
  • Increased confidence/trust.

You can make big, long-term bets on these things, because there’s no chance people will stop caring about them in the future.

It’s an easy bet that Ben Franklin would desire all those things, too.

Before alarm clocks were widely available people still had to get up in the morning, so the profession of the “knocker-up” was born.

A knocker-up’s job was to walk around early in the morning and use a baton to knock on people’s doors and windows to wake them up:

I’m sure it gave the workers’ great pride in being such an important part of society’s daily life; how could the town run if everyone woke up late?

It’s easy to forget that all products and services exist to solve specific problems.

The problems of getting yourself from A to B, transacting with other humans, and finding food have existed for a long time.

And while the solutions to those problems have changed with society and technology, the core problems themselves rarely do.

So if you want to get into the business of providing goods and services (sometimes known as entrepreneurship) don’t do it in a vacuum. Solve a problem.

Even Elon Musk’s1 companies could all be summarized as “how to get from A to B, better”.

  1. Tesla, SpaceX, Hyperloop, The Boring Co.