A resource for unmet customer needs

“No hay mejor maestra que la necesidad”

In February, I met a friend at Philz Coffee in Palo Alto. Since Philz was overflowing as usual, we sat outside and shivered in the early morning temperatures. My friend was a former Yahoo! executive and starting to consider his next steps. “I’d love to start a new venture,” he confided while sipping his Tesora, “but I haven’t found the right idea.”

As I listened to his story, I realized his situation was not unique. In the Valley, many believe that building a successful venture depends on finding the perfect idea. In reality, an idea is merely a starting point which evolves in response to customer feedback. The key to building a successful venture is solving unmet customer needs.

The venture ecosystem has unprecedented resources for identifying investors and startups. AngelList features over 31,000 angel and institutional investors, of which 2,000 have made over 10 investments each (AngelList co-founder Naval Ravikant has made 120 investments personally). With AngelList, startup founders can search for investors by number of investments, number of followers, and signal, which is an “approximate measure of quality or connectedness.” This solves a previously unmet need for founders.

More recently, Mattermark has become a valuable asset for measuring startup traction. The company has developed a scoring system based on a combination of website traffic, mobile downloads, and social media followers to evaluate over 230,000 private companies. With Mattermark, data-driven investors can track growth signals and compare startups by sector, stage and other criteria. Before now, there was no comparable resource for investors.

While AngelList and Mattermark are valuable solutions for assessing investors and startups, we haven’t seen an equivalent resource for understanding customers.

For a successful startup, it would be interesting to know:

  • Who are the startup’s customers?
  • What are their demographics?
  • Why do they choose the startup’s product over the competition?
  • What are their related unmet needs?

With such a resource, we could develop charts and analyze patterns. Here’s an example (click to enlarge):

Mobile messaging apps: unmet customer needs (example)
Mobile messaging apps: unmet customer needs (example)

If we had such data, future founders could analyze patterns of unmet customer needs. It would be even more fascinating if we could learn how these patterns evolve over time — in response to specific drivers — and if we could predict future unmet customer needs.

If we had a solution for unmet customer needs like AngelList for investors and Mattermark for startups, perhaps my friend may have chosen to launch his own venture, instead of joining a 20-year-old company.


1 Comment

  1. Nice post Avikk. It’d be a tremendous resource if unmet customer needs were able to be quantified. Until that day comes, we’ll just have to keep going outside of the office and talk with real people to test our ideas.

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