There is one big common cause of failure for most start-ups: not creating something that consumers need.

If you are focusing on making something that users need, it doesn’t automatically mean that you will succeed, but you will at least avoid failure for the same reason that most startups fail.

On the other hand, if you are not focusing on realising something that users need, it means that you will almost certainly fail.

At the end of the day, it is a matter of using probabilities in your favour: if I know the first major cause of failure and try to avoid it, then I will be statistically more likely to succeed.

Moreover, it seems easier to follow a list of things not to do, rather than things to do.

Having reached this point, let’s go a step further and explore the question: why do startuppers end up turning their focus away from the end consumer?

Focusing on the possible profit rather than on the needs of the user

Emphasizing the importance of prioritizing the market’s needs doesn’t diminish the significance of profit or a sound business model. Rather, it underscores the inherent difficulty in fulfilling consumer needs compared to achieving financial gains. Neglecting the consideration of a business model is deemed irresponsible, but it is even more imprudent not to commence by addressing the fundamental requirements of the market.

“The companies that win are the ones that put users first. Google, for example. They made search work, then worried about how to make money from it”. – Paul Graham

Targeting a market niche in order to avoid competition 

Unless it pertains to a ‘blue ocean’ market, as elaborated in subsequent articles, the creation of something valuable inherently involves confronting market competition, be it from direct competitors or alternative products/services. Evading competition becomes possible only by forgoing the cultivation of innovative ideas, and sidestepping success is the sole strategy to avert possessing a noteworthy concept.

Not having a specific consumer in mind 

Generating a product that resonates with consumers necessitates a thorough understanding of their preferences. Many prosperous startups initiated their journeys by addressing challenges personally experienced by their founders. This approach is advantageous as it allows for capitalizing on a familiar necessity, and one is most familiar with their own needs. For instance, Apple emerged from Steve Wozniak’s desire for a personal computer, Google arose due to the founders’ struggle to find online information, and Hotmail originated from the founders’ inability to exchange emails at work. While it’s feasible to create a product for a consumer demographic distinct from oneself, it remains essential to cultivate a deep understanding of their preferences.

Have one founder  

Have you ever observed the scarcity of thriving start-ups initiated by a single individual? Even in cases where a prominent figure appears to be the sole founder, it’s often the case that there are actually multiple contributors. However, what are the drawbacks associated with having a sole founder? It suggests that the individual may have struggled to persuade friends or acquaintances to share the business risks, or they may have believed they could handle it independently. Even if these friends or acquaintances underestimated the potential success of the start-up, the sole founder would still face significant disadvantages. While it may seem trivial, having colleagues for comparison and collaborative brainstorming is crucial, along with having someone to provide support during moments of low motivation. Making decisions alone increases the likelihood of poor choices.

These factors contribute to the challenges that start-ups encounter, causing them to deviate from focusing on what truly matters in the business realm: creating something people genuinely want.