The expert-idiot paradox
I remember seeing Canva in the early days and thinking it was going to do well. I remember people saying “but there are many other sites where you can make design easier for the non designer”. But they are all hard to use. Canva is a $40bn company because they are easier to use. Facebook won because it was easier to use than Myspace.
I keep arguing with people who say “its about product market fit” or “features”. They are wrong. It is ALL about being easy to use. Do something that everyone can already do, but make it easier. Thats all. (actually they are right because there is actually no product for the market of novices, which is most people, so in a way there is now product market fit where there wasn’t before, they just didn’t know their market)
Take cooking as an example. Chefs write cook books. Who writes a cook book if they don’t cook? no one. The problem is that chefs can’t put themselves in the shoes of total cooking novices. They say “just add a teaspoon of cardamom”, or “add 2 cups of water”. Well what the hell is a teaspoon? or a cup? How big are they? there is a special spoon for tea?… and what is cardamom? where is it? in my vegetable garden that doesn’t exist or my great grandparents’ pantry?!”.
Enter the company “hello fresh”. They don’t assume anything, giving you all the ingredients in the right amounts, and idiot proof instructions on how to cook them. Hello Fresh as of today is worth $1.9bn, having blown past 100+ existing competitors who were doing the same thing. Dominik Richter (the co founder) is not a chef, a gourmand, or even a food snob. By the way I didn’t know that until I googled it just now. The fact I was right proves my point.
Stop looking for new as yet undiscovered products. Just look for ways to improve UX and truly bring something to the masses. Be the ignorant masses.
Do it from a position of as little knowledge as possible. It sounds counter-intuitive to create a company in a field about which you know very little or nothing, but sometimes its a blessing. You assume nothing. You ask stupid questions.
I am calling this the expert-idiot paradox. (yes I just made that up. Book to follow shortly, which I won’t write because I am not a writer)
Another example: When we set up Bambu who create financial advisory software for the masses, it was almost impossible to talk to someone with a finance background without totally alienating non financial people.
For example. “Question 1, What is your risk appetite? Do you know that investing can be risky and you can lose your principle if there is a downturn in the market?”
Here is what the non financial person is thinking:
“what the fuck are you talking about!? are you saying I will lose the school principal? did he get lost when he took a downturn on his way to the market to buy some cardamom and a teaspoon and some cups?”
But they won’t say anything they will just keep quiet because they are scared of sounding dumb. So your focus group is useless (side note: focus groups and research are useless if you want to truly innovate)
The prize for getting this right is exemplified by Robin Hood. It wasn’t because it was cheaper that it did well. There were so many other cheap brokers but their products were designed by finance people. Robin Hood wasn’t doing anything new. They just made it easier to use. They are worth $32bn. (Tip: there is much money to be made in being the easy to use Crypto explainer and seller. No one has got that right yet).
It is ok and even a good idea to have a co founder who is an expert, but make sure you can overrule them. This is difficult because they will say “Hey I know all about this and you don’t, I AM THE EXPERT!”. But hold your nerve. By knowing way less than them you know more than them about connecting whatever area they are an expert in to the masses (i.e. you).
So if you are thinking of starting a company consider an area about which you know very little. Ask stupid questions. Have experts as advisors, but not too many. And push back and overrule them.
You don’t need to come up with anything original just make it relevant to you, (the idiot masses). Or ask your kids. They are not afraid to ask silly questions.