Dear Entrepreneurs: Solve meaningful problems as a startup

[Notes from Ashish: The day Instagram got acquired, I wrote a post : Sorry Indian Entrepreneurs, Instagram is a Silicon Valley story (and will remain one). The post resulted in a lot of hate-mails and quite a few Indian entrepreneurs emailed saying that anybody can do any Internet startup and ‘get acquired’. Fundamentally yes, but otherwise – you are missing an important point here. That is of not solving a meaningful problem in the market you have access to. Read Mukund’s thought that resonates with my belief that India is still far far away from Instagram apps, unless Indian entrepreneurs actually solve problems that Instagram solved.]

Back in the 90?s and better part of last decade, most of the smartest folks from the top colleges would go and work at Wall Street. Lured by high salaries and fat bonus checks, they used their wizardry to create CDO’s, asset backed securities and derivatives to create billions for hedge funds, investment banks and trading desks of large financial organizations.

We all know where that ended up – the subprime mortgage crisis.

We thought there was a turn of events when one of them started to build a meaningful startup.

That prompted Bill Gates to say

“I’d say we’ve moved about 160 IQ points from the hedge fund category to the teaching-many-people-in-a-leveraged-way category. It was a good day his wife let him quit his job”

I get a sense that, “founding an Internet startup” is the new “joining a hedge fund” in the 90?s.

We are getting an amazing number of very smart people who are joining these startups in droves and applying for incubators, accelerators, hackathons and startup weekends.

There is a massive movement of high level IQ points from old-school consulting and “IT services backend for a large Indian outsourcer” to startups. That’s awesome news.

I have attended and judged 3 startup hackathons and prototype creation sessions over the last 1 month. I am absolutely thrilled that there are so many people turning out for these events in India. Over 650 attended theYahoo Open Hack day. It was amazing to see such a diverse group of young talented developers and programmers solve some very interesting problems.

The part we have to work on is why the brightest minds are solving the most trivial of problems.

Startup IQ

I think the problem with Indian startups is they think we are in the US.

There are rich people problems (The pictures from my mobile phone dont look good, can we build a “pimp my photo” app”) and there are real world problems (how can I make sure new grads from college learn to develope real apps, so they can get a job and reduce the jobless rate).

My humble request to Indian entrepreneurs is ‘Please dont build any more “I’m bored” apps’.

I am not trivializing the need for “fun” apps.

All I am requesting is that the highest IQ folks should be working on the highest impact problem areas to aid most humankind.

[Adds Ashish: And most of these highest impact problems are outside the realms of one’s AC office. So go and hit the market.]

The article has been reproduced from Mukund’s blog.