When Game Got Confused, Let’s Set Direction – Value Proposition the Company Blue Print

“Make great product that everyone loves” is a quote startup mentors always preach, and startups treat it as a doctrine.  But why is it that so many startup still fail?


Part of the answers often lies in the second, yet, most important part of the quote, “…that everyone loves.”  But why would everyone love your product?  It may be as simple as that your product is the effective answer to their problem, their pain point.


The second part of the answers may lie in that the aforementioned sentence is not completed.  Many mentors forget to add “…and get something in return” to it. 

Pain point is what customer perceives as problem that make their lives difficult (to various degree) and making such pain point goes away will make their life better (again…to a various degree).  


Since you can make their life better, you are hoping that they will generate something in return to your company, whether in cash (read: revenue, $$$, runway, etc) or others.


Many great products are actually designed to solve the founder’s own pain point, which is both a blessing and a curse as such founder will understand the pain point profoundly, but may be tunnel-visioned by believing his pain point is the same as all others.  Even then, one of the easiest ways to crack the pain point is to just observe our daily activity, the way we routinely do certain thing, then ask yourself a question can this activity improve in any way.


Sadly, it does in this case and the size of the pain is usually determined by its severity.  Some pain might be graving (e.g. cancer, disease), moderate (e.g. business inefficiency) and some might be very mild (e.g. bored), and the consumers’ tendency to pay to alleviate such pain will vary accordingly.  An extreme example would be that most people will pay to have their cancer cured; they may even forego many things in life just be treated; on the other hands, only a handful will choose game over other necessities. 


Product designed to solve pain can be loosely classified into 3 categories:


Drug: Pain point is severe.  Customer cannot live without it, and must buy.  Usually the only product under this category is, well.., drug or medicine

Vitamin: Most product falls into this category as they are designed to solve certain inefficiency, but whether the consumer prioritize the product in their purchase list is a different issue

Candy: An interesting class of product, as candy does not provide beneficial nutrition, but it can get people addicted over time (think multi-player online game or social media)


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The beautiful diagram says it all.  If you create an economic value of $100 to your customer, the maximum you can charge a rationale customer is $100. Almost all startup can charge way less, and some may not be able to charge at all (sexy answer is usually “we focus on user as traction”, which, by and large, is true in B2C cases). 


Congratulation, you just built a great product that solves pain, and……. that nobody has heard of.  Unless you are a miracle cure-all drug, usually consumers will not be lining up.  Most of the time, they will not even purchase it even if they see it as they do not know what it is and why to waste time and resources on it.  Even if you give them away for free, they may not change behavior to use it as humans does not like change in general. If nobody uses your product, it effectively does not solve any pain point.  Having the right channel (sales, marketing, PR, etc) and the right delivery (form of product, ease of use, change in behavior required) is as important as the product’s pain-solving property, and is usually not stressed enough by the company when designing their business.