Ep 41 – On Solving Many Small Problems – with Benjamin Watanabe & David Branson Smith

Dave Smith & Ben WatanabeWhile most start-ups try to build the next big thing, my guests today rather focus on solving many small problems. Ben Watanabe and David Smith are the co-founders of 96problems, a small venture aiming to build several simple solutions for small problems.

At 96Problems, they launch a new product every three months on average. In order to maintain that pace, they need to find some new ideas constantly. We go through their process of finding new problems to solve: from listening to existing customers to shadowing, we talk about various strategies for a better product-market fit. We also compare to the pros and cons of building hardware versus software products. In particular, Ben & Dave have learnt some valuable lessons from their experience crafting and selling a key-holder product.

Our discussion goes on to many other topics. We talk about the difference between building a bootstrap business compared with a VC-backed business. I’m also asking them about their process and metrics to assess the success of their products. Lastly, my quick-fire questions take us to deeper thoughts talking about meditation and productivity hacks.

A longer episode with a trio format to kick start this new year. My best wishes and I really hope you’ll like it.

Questions: What is the best way to find good problems to solve? Should you rather focus on solving many small problems or a big one? (reply in the comments)

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  • (0:26) Introduction of David & Ben
  • (9:22) 96 Problems
  • (11:11) Many small problems vs. one big problem
  • (12:44) Bootstrapped vs VC-backed business
  • (17:52) Finding problems to solve and shadowing
  • (24:04) The hardship of making hardware
  • (30:46) First draft
  • (36:52) Success assessment and metrics
  • (43:10) B2C marketing
  • (47:46) Quick-fire questions

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