#2 Finding a Painful Problem, Service Middlemen

We discuss how to find a meaningful problem to solve and the concept of being a service middleman.

Finding a Painful Problem

There has been a lot happening in 2021 for EveryAfter and we’re still playing catch up, so this one is a little retrospective. Next week, we’ll dive into the launch of our product - which is in line with current events. Until then, let’s go into how we looked for painful problems at EveryAfter.

I truly believe in finding painful problems. Every time I hear a pitch from an entrepreneur where I can’t  FEEL the problem, it doesn’t feel right. When you have to explain to a user that they have a problem, you’ve already lost the battle.

If you can’t explain the problem and have your customers understand it easily, you’re probably going after a tough market. I’m not saying it can’t be done but it’s definitely much harder to execute.

To give you an example: Explaining to a company that their company culture is negatively impacting their profit margins is a difficult problem to convince them of. It’s definitely a problem, and I’m sure you could find the supporting evidence - but it’s tough. . On the other hand showing a company that their cost of software is 10x more than it should be - where you point an expense of $100k and you swap it for $10k - that’s obvious and easy to sell.

In practice, it should be easy to find big problems - because they are obvious. However, it may not be obvious to you - because you’re in the space.

This is why we do customer interviews and research. Generally, there are two things I look for in a problem:

  1. How obvious is it (addressed above)
  2. How easy is it to solve

If it’s super obvious and really easy to solve - that’s the sweet spot.

Let’s dive into how we tried to find our perfect problem. We started by picking an area and customer segment we wanted to focus on. For us the field was unemployment and the customers were job seekers. We focused on people who were:

  1. Unemployed
  2. Looking for a new job but currently working
  3. Those entering the workforce for the first time

A question I get a lot is ‘how many people should I interview?’. It’s tough to give a specific answer since there are many ways to think about it (you could break it down from a total addressable market and then aim to get a significant sample size of it). Generally, just try to get as many as you possibly can - 30,50,100. You’ll be constantly talking to customers but getting a big sample size early is good. Go to where they hang out - physically and virtually, and try to engage with people by asking questions.

My team and I interviewed about 100+ people in various regions who met our criteria above and also included hiring managers and recruiters. We wanted to understand the problem from all angles.

Customer interviews were conducted on Zoom and recorded. We took notes but the zoom record transcripts were cross-references to make sure we didn’t miss anything. To summarise notes we used a research tool called DoveTail to help us segment all the insights. It’s a clean, powerful tool that lets you highlight commonalities between interviewees and put together good research insights.

We found the following insights for people who want to leave their jobs:

  • People want to leave their jobs and transition to new fields, but they find it too risky. No one wants to start at the bottom of the career ladder again.
  • High uncertainty - with so many options, job seekers and transitioners are unsure of what they want to do. They usually cast a wide net when looking for work, and take what they can get.
  • Entry-level doesn’t mean entry-level anymore. Jobseekers are competing against hundreds of applicants with experience, pushing the bar even higher to get an entry position. Many new job seekers are in a no-work = no experience cycle.

These were our findings. I’ll avoid jumping to a solution here but I’ll let you sit with the problem space for a bit. Next week, we can dive into an experiment we’re trying (in the form of a product launch).

Drop Servicing & Service Middlemen

Online there are hundreds if not thousands of sites that provide a middlemen experience for various specific services. Yes, there are generic platforms to hire freelancers or assistants ( like Fiverr, Freelancer, Upwork etc). However, there are opportunities to create agencies or specific web-assisted flows to outsourced or difficult tasks.

The biggest opportunity is to help people work with these freelancers better. For example, creating a user interface to choose between the kind of style they want, typography or other specific industry information. When I hire a UX designer for the first time, I may not know the best way to work with them. You can standardise this with a nice portal.

Here are a few examples

  • Hire researchers for various tasks via AskWonder
  • Osome which is a company that provides incorporation, accounting and secretary services. They have a chatbot interface to make the experience easier and quicker for people.
  • Video Igniter: custom animation videos where they provide a nice ordering platform where they ask you what service you provide and work with that. (script, storyboard etc.)

The specific opportunity that I think could be interesting is to create a really nice service wrapper for proofreading, editing and ghostwriting. Having hired all 3 of these services via Fiverr, Upwork and freelancer, I find it difficult to find the best way to charge, collaborate and get revisions done and would love a platform that would just charge me per word or paragraph for proofreading and editing.

Perhaps for ghostwriting, we could have an interface that would ask you questions about style and the number of words you’d like. This is something that Askwonder does with their research clients (I’ve also worked with their team, and only need to hop on a call when things are unclear or not done correctly).

How I would execute this:

  • Talk to a few Fiverr/Freelancer/Upwork members who provide these services. Ask them if it’s okay to subcontract them.
  • Create a nice Webflow/Shopify experience so that when they make an order on your website they are guided through the process.
  • Run ads to this website and facilitate the relationship between the client and the freelancer.
  • Scale up to a proper app and try to automate as much as possible - potentially move to bubble at this step

A simple idea that could yield a decent cash flow, and solve a common problem. .

That’s it from me!

Catch you all later,

Ajay