Over the years, I have learned that the entrepreneurial mindset confuses some people. When I first got into the biz, I would talk about certain work experiences on Facebook, kind of expecting everyone to relate to where I was coming from. They did not. But nonetheless, it seemed to entice them and they'd ask me how one becomes an entrepreneur. Admittedly, it took me some time to learn how to explain succinctly what an entrepreneur does (hint: it's all about solving problems).
Yes, at the end of the day, for all of us, being an entrepreneur is about solving problems. We see a void and create a solution for it. Simple as that.
But if you're really creatively lucky, you'll get the chance to solve a multitude of problems with a single, multifaceted solution, creating the ultimate win/win/win scenario. This is where the magic really happens.
Case in point. Husband and wife team, Colin (CEO of iRobot) and Erika Angle (Founder and Executive Director of Science for Scientists and Ixcela) were diving in the Atlantic and noticed a problem: the lionfish were destroying the coral reef and dramatically reducing biodiversity.
In case you need to brush up on your marine facts, lionfish aren't even supposed to be in the Atlantic, but since they were accidentally introduced over 25 years ago, they have become a dangerous and insatiable killer, praying on all smaller fish that were previously thriving. The statistics are alarming: just one lionfish can reduce the total fish biomass on a coral reef by 80 percent in one month. Bad news.
Along with climate change and ocean acidification, in fact, the presence of lionfish in our ecosystem is widely considered by marine biologists as a top threat to its destruction. Even fishermen are suffering because the fish they'd usually catch never get big enough. They are destroyed by lionfish before they get the chance to reach full size. But it turns out that lionfish aren't all bad. They are actually tasty creatures once you remove their poisonous spines.
Taking all this into consideration, the Angles decided to create nonprofit to build robots that would track and capture lionfish. Robots in Service of the Environment (RISE) will focus on developing robots to solve environmental issues. And the first one will tackle several problems: restoring the natural balance of the ecosystem, helping fishermen and deep sea divers, and introducing a new type of fish that can be eaten for dinner. The robot will also be inexpensive, so that fisherman, divers and the tourism industry could afford it. To create awareness about the problem, the robots will be used to educate school children about the marine ecosystem, invasive species and robotic science.
Lots of problems solved with one solution. Let's learn from how they did that.
In order to solve a multi-faceted problem, you must:
Work out the problems that need to be solved
Prototyping any product or creating innovation starts with figuring out what problems you need to solve. For Colin and Erika these were pretty clear. But, for their product to have wider appeal, they needed to come up with a solution accessible and useful to their different target markets. If they were to concentrate on building a large, expensive robot, they would limit their appeal to environmental agencies and marine scientists only.
As you create your own innovations, always carry out your research first. Make sure that you come up with a solution that solves one, two, or more problems and tackles people's pain points head on. You could start by examining our daily struggles and challenges. Many entrepreneurs have been inspired to tackle a problem faced by people in their personal lives, whether that's helping to raise awareness for cancer, or providing on-demand transport when and where people need it. Your solution doesn't always have to be unique, but it does have to be better. Remember, solving a problem isn't always about reinventing the wheel, but it is about providing a solution that makes people's lives better.
Analyze each problem from every angle
Erika and Colin realized that tackling the issue of lionfish destruction in the western Atlantic was not something that many people saw as a priority. Until they understood the wider implications. Making RISE integral to educational facilities will help to raise awareness of environmental challenges in local communities. It will place the lionfish issue on the radar of people otherwise unaware and teach about its ability to be incorporated into a human diet.
To come up with a multifaceted solution, you'll need to know in-depth who all your stakeholders are. If your product needs to appeal to millennials as well as baby boomers, you'll need a different approach for both. Certain features may only appeal to certain target groups. Amazon corners the market of time-pressed, impatient, city-dwelling youth with a one-hour delivery service. But, they also appeal to an older clientele through the wealth of products they sell and problems they solve.
If you want your product to have mass appeal, you'll need to ensure that it's economically accessible. To hit the right targets, you'll need to think about how to take it to different channels and market influencers. Does that include educational facilities, fitness and nutrition gurus, social media influencers, or well-known celebrities? When you truly understand each problem from every angle, you'll know how to reach each target.
Innovate a multi-faceted solution
RISE was invented by "a team of volunteers made up of skilled roboticists, scientists and business people, all passionate about the environment," says John Rizzi, Executive Director of RISE. "We are thrilled to now formally announce RISE to the public and soon move to our next phase of organizational growth including production of our first low cost robots effectively helping the environment."
You may not be inventing a robot, but even if you're looking for a way to prevent diabetes, experimenting with fintech products, or making body lotions; you can come up with a multifaceted solution. If you want your diabetic socks to be adopted by people of all ages, make them appealing to people of all ages. Provide different colors and styles. If your fintech solution's going to hit a note with multiple consumers, provide products to meet people's needs throughout their lifecycle, from relieving student debt, to saving for a pension. And your creams and lotions should have a version to tackle all of life's problems, from teenage acne, to wrinkles.
Get the launch just right
Aligning with big names and appearing in the right places is essential if you want your product to get off on the right foot. RISE will be officially unveiled on April 19, 2017 at the 11th Hour Racing #EatLionfish Chefs' Throwdown, at the National Museum of Bermuda. What makes this an appropriate place for the prototype launch? The 11th Hour Throwdown was developed with the British America's Cup Team Land Rover BAR to draw attention to the environmental threat being posed by lionfish.
Plenty of startups and new products have adopted this idea. From AI solutions to tech startups, aligning with big names can be the perfect impulse for your launch. Find out what competitions you can enter. What marketing influencers you can reach that are going on that are relevant to your product. Find a place that you can showcase your product that will have maximum impact and press coverage to help you reach the right markets.
Impactful innovators create a problem solving road map by ensuring that they understand and assess all the issues their product needs to address. They also figure out how to make their product accessible to a wider public and how to build awareness in society about an unknown issue. The solution must be multifaceted and tackle several problems at the same time.