User Needs: Providing a Service vs Solving a Problem

June 10, 2016 - 2 minutes read

app developers solve problems

Silicon Valley has a problem differentiating between “problems” and “annoyances.” Does the difference between these two words have a lasting impact on the way US mobile app developers are perceived around the world? In a recent post to Medium, Permutation AI’s CEO argues that the answer may be “yes.”

Being as our number one piece of advice to aspiring app developers is “start with the problem,” we figured we should unpack this post a bit see what the takeaways are for productivity-focussed app development companies.

For starters, there’s no denying that Silicon Valley has a tendency to exaggerate. Does AirBnB change the world? Yes. Does it solve a problem? Yes. However, portraying on-demand services and sharing economy technologies on the same level of world-changing as, say, Teach for America, is a bit of a stretch.

When people say that Uber is a “game-changer,” they aren’t always saying it’s a good thing. While most successful startups have their base in a positive-impact mission, making money is still a huge part of the equation. It has to be — after all, there can only be so many non-profits. Creating jobs and making life easier for average Americans isn’t on the same level of altruism as a non-profit fighting malnutrition in a third-world country. But at the end of the day, the market needs both types of organization.

So, what’s the takeaway here for Toronto iPhone app developers? Mainly, that it’s important to be careful how you present your problem. Particularly if you have an international audience, presenting an iPhone app that saves users 20 minutes by taking care of laundry as “world changing” will come off as, at best, self-congratulatory. Laundry is a nuisance, but it’s still a “problem” for those of us fortunate enough to have food on the table and water in the tap. It’s just not a life-threatening problem.

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