“Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains”
Steve Jobs (from Chapter 8)
I got to meet Uri Levine, the founder of Waze and Moovit, through his involvement in the Zell Entrepreneurship program at Reichman University. Uri is a mentor in the program (where also my co-founder at Remagine Ventures and I met) and apart from his impressive track record as an entrepreneur ($1.4 billion acquisition by Google for Waze and $900M Moovit acquisition by Intel) Uri has also been involved in various startups, especially on the consumer front, as an angel investor.
So needless to say, I was very curious to read his new book “Fall in Love with the Problem, Not the Solution” and indeed, he didn’t disappoint. According to Levine, the cornerstone of a successful business is a profound comprehension of the problem that needs solving, followed by crafting a solution that caters to the unique needs of your target audience. The book is a practical guide for founders on what it takes to build a successful business. It can be read from cover to cover, or ad-hoc based on the need of the founder, for example, how to raise money for investors, firing and hiring and how to scale to a billion users.
It starts from how founders pitch their startups. A solution-focused story starts with “My company does…”. A problem focused story starts with “We solve the ____ problem” or “We help ____ do _____ faster/cheaper/better”.
What’s the gist?
Levine cautions entrepreneurs against becoming overly enamoured with their solution. While the thrill of creating a new product or service can be intoxicating, it’s crucial to remember that the solution is not the ultimate objective. The true goal is to address a problem, with the solution serving as a conduit to that end. The customer should be at the forefront of the entrepreneurship process, not the features or tech (something I talked about in my post on AI startups, “Are you telling a story or pitching features?“).
Levine underscores the significance of customer feedback. He advocates for entrepreneurs to maintain an ongoing dialogue with their customers, soliciting their thoughts on how to enhance their product or service. By actively listening to their customers, entrepreneurs can ensure they’re tackling the right problem and that their solution is fulfilling the needs of their target audience. This is a crucial point that widely known, but often forgotten. Talking to customers BEFORE embarking on a solution is key to understanding the problem, but it doesn’t end there.
Another solid principle Levine advocates is Be willing to iterate and improve your solution based on feedback. No product or service is perfect when it first launches. It is important to be willing to iterate and improve your solution based on feedback from your customers. This will help you to create a product or service that is truly valuable to your target audience. Failure is of course part of the game, but Levine advocates that the only real failure is giving up.
While developing Waze, Levine initiated conversations with people about their experiences with traffic. He discovered that people were exasperated by the absence of real-time traffic information, often resulting in tardiness for work or appointments due to traffic congestion. This insight into the problem inspired Levine to create Waze, a real-time traffic navigation app that has since assisted millions of people in avoiding traffic and reaching their destinations punctually.
Similarly, while creating Moovit, Levine engaged in discussions with people about their experiences with public transportation. He found that people were frustrated with the scarcity of information about public transportation schedules and routes, often leading to long waits for buses or trains. This understanding of the problem led Levine to develop Moovit, a public transportation app that provides real-time information about schedules, routes, and arrival times.
These instances illustrate how Levine’s insights have been instrumental in his success in building two thriving companies. If you’re an entrepreneur, I highly recommend reading “Fall in Love with the Problem, Not the Solution”. It’s a valuable resource that can significantly enhance your chances of success.
Key Takeaways for founders:
- Begin with a profound understanding of the problem you’re attempting to solve.
- Avoid becoming too attached to your solution.
- Maintain constant communication with your customers, seeking their input.
- Be open to refining and enhancing your solution based on feedback.
- Embrace failure as a part of the process.
If you are an entrepreneur, I encourage you to read Fall in Love with the Problem, Not the Solution. It is a valuable resource that can help you improve your chances of success, especially for first time founders in the early stages. Levine’s insights, derived from his personal journey of building two successful companies, are very action oriented and every chapter ends with ‘Startips’. For example, a reminder that work-life balance doesn’t exist for founders, but if you fall in love with the problem, you will not want (or be able) to do anything else!