What motivates someone to build a product? Open any business magazine and you will always read the same story: the creative genius had an epiphany, launched a product that solved a widespread problem and became a billionaire. These stories often show a perfect world, where the creation of a product is driven by enlightenment, pure inspiration or luck. A variant of this story shows the entrepreneur who built a product to fulfil a personal need, and eventually realized that her particular need was not personal, but universal.

In all stories a miraculous creative flame triggers a beginning, and even if not explicitly said, that flame is no more than a pain point or a need, either the creator’s own or a signal from a specific group of people. What such stories rarely tell is the long journey most entrepreneurs take from that early “flame” to building a billion-dollar product.

The journey to a great product involves analysis, rigour and constant optimisation. If you are reading this article, you most likely have created or are thinking about creating a product, so allow me to ask you something before moving forward. Why are you here? And why have you chosen to do this?

The Reason for Building a Product

There are many reasons that lead someone to build a product, from solving a personal problem to identifying a widespread unfulfilled need, from wanting to look cool to your social groups to willingness to become filthy rich. Although personal aspirations are important for building something, we want to uncover the drivers for creating a commercially viable product.

Any successful commercially viable product fulfills a need, not just yours, but that of a group of people or of a market. You might have wondered how big a group must be to justify building a product. The answer isn’t simple as it depends on your ambition, and as we’ll see in a next article, on the value you can extract from a group of people in terms of money or pure utility.  

Talking about Needs

One of the main pitfalls in product development is extrapolating your personal need to an entire population without validating that such a need is common to a larger demographic of people. For this reason, when analyzing the drivers to create a commercial product, we like to classify needs in two categories: unvalidated and validated.

Whereas validated needs are easily identifiable because customers already participate in a market for a solution, the category of unvalidated needs is partly symbolic of needs that customers face but have not yet been able to formalize. Unvalidated needs might also go unnoticed because they may be emerging from a small group of people, for which you might not yet have proof of scale (i.e. they may be simply be a particular behavior present in a small subset of a group).

In our next article, we explore the different types of needs, how do you identify them and we’ll show real-life examples of how other companies have identified needs before building a product.  To get notified when our next article is out, please sign up to our newsletter.