Millennials are spoiled for choice. There’s a website for this and an app for that. When confronted with a problem our response is almost without fail, ‘Google it.’ Sure, most of the time Google will find the answer or show you a cool product, but is this access to information hurting us or helping us when it comes to entrepreneurship?
It can be all too easy to get bogged down in The Simpsons Syndrome, where everything seems like it has been done before when you’re coming up with your first idea. Yes if you look at any problem, it’s true that someone has probably thought about solving it before - maybe they even have a solution on the market already. Don’t let this bog you down, being able to see the root of the problem and come up with your own unique approach is what will establish you as an entrepreneur.
I have fallen into this trap. But what I've discovered is that for the most part, if your problem is real to you, your friends, and someone else’s solution isn’t getting to you - then it’s time to get to work and fill that gap in the market. At the very least try; if all you do is fix your problem and help out a few friends then at the very least you’ll have made something you can be proud of.
When I say I’ve fallen into this trap I really mean that. 12 months spent building an app to make it easier to meet my friends for coffee on campus. In retrospect, it was a dumb idea, but at the end of it all I used it once to awkwardly meet the only other person on the system for a coffee and then decided to leave it be forever more. Looking back I can see the steps where I went wrong; half-way through making the prototype I got disillusioned when someone showed me some other product doing similar things, our team would regularly compare what we were doing to similar features on Foursquare and in the end what killed the product was that lack of focus and self-belief. This failure taught me some valuable lessons and at the end of it all I could be proud that had made something, even if that something kinda sucked.
Now I’m not saying don’t do your research, I’m saying don’t let it pull you down. Right now change seems like it has to be incremental, companies have become so big that it’s hard to even imagine trying to compete against them for market share. But things don’t have to be incremental. It’s up to us as the next generation of thinkers and doers to throw incremental out the door and start testing people’s willingness to accept change.
Admittedly I screwed up my first project, but I took what I learned and refocused myself on what really annoyed me about being a student. This is where I came up with the idea for my current company, iDly. Everyone I know has forgotten or lost their student card at one point in time. This small annoyance grew into an idea - if a printer has information to put on a plastic card then surely the same information can be put on a smartphone. Several reports and meetings later funding and support from the University enabled me to help deploy a pilot Digital Student Card on campus. I didn’t look to see what other people where doing when I developed this idea, I knew there was a problem and that no solution existed for my campus. Now myself and 5,000 other students can access the library by flashing our screens. A small step up from two people getting coffee.
Now with the help of Blackstone Launchpad I’ve been able to grow my idea into more then just access to the library. I want to shake up the way we identify ourselves globally and make it easier for people to prove who they are when voting, driving or going on vacation. I didn’t have this vision when I started 12 months ago; I just wanted to get into the library.
This is the nature of a simple idea that matters to you. It might not seem scalable but once you put it out there more ideas will flow faster then you can keep up. Now, I’m only starting on this journey and I’m sure I’ve got plenty of mistakes yet to make but if there’s anything I’ve learned so far it’s look for what annoys you in life, don't assume someone else is fixing it, don't be afraid to put yourself in the firing line, and above all else stop Googling and start doing.
By Finn Murphy (@FinnMurphy12)
Guest blogger: Finn Murphy is an undergraduate in Engineering, Mathematics and Science in Trinity College Dublin and co-founder of the iDly App alongside Dario Tavares Antunes.