25 days ago
The Entrepreneurial Chicken and Egg
University entrepreneurship is like a Willy Wonka Factory of ideas. Classes, roommates, discussions, and the cafeteria all inspire new ideas. I've seen people establish a business without knowing its roots.
Chicken or egg? On my mind: I've asked university founders around the world whether the problem or solution came first.
One African team I met started with the “instant noodles” problem in their academic ecosystem. Many of us have had money issues in college, which may have led to poor nutritional choices.
Many university students in a war-torn country ate quick noodles or pasta for dinner.
Noodles required heat, water, and preparation in the boarding house. Unreliable power from one hot plate per blue moon. What's healthier, easier, and tastier than sodium-filled instant pots?
BOOM. They were fixing that. East African kids need affordable, nutritious food.
This is a real difficulty the founders faced every day with hundreds of comrades.
This sparked their serendipitous entrepreneurial journey and became their business's cornerstone.
I asked a UK team about their company idea. They said the solution fascinated them.
The crew was fiddling with social media algorithms. Why are some people more popular? They were studying platforms and social networks, which offered a way for them.
Solving a problem? Yes. Long nights of university research lead them to it. Is this like world hunger? Social media influencers confront this difficulty regularly.
It made me ponder something. Is there a correct response?
In my heart, yes, but in my head…maybe?
I believe you should lead with empathy and embrace the problem, not the solution. Big or small, businesses should solve problems. This should be your focus. This is especially true when building a social company with an audience in mind.
Philosophically, invention and innovation are occasionally accidental. Also not penalized. Think about bugs and the creation of Velcro, or the inception of Teflon. They tackle difficulties we overlook. The route to the problem may look different, but there is a path there.
There's no golden ticket to the Chicken-Egg debate, but I'll keep looking this summer.