Thu Feb 21 18:07:00 -0800 2008

Entrepreneurship is about being able to tell when something sucks, why it sucks, and then visualizing how to make it stop sucking. When something sucks, it’s an opportunity for an entrepreneur. The more it sucks, the better the opportunity.

Take cell phones. Cell phones suck. I thought this was obvious to everyone; but at some point I realized that most people don’t think of it that way. The fact that they have to navigate ten difficult-to-comprehend menus to get to the most used function on their phone - well, that’s just how it is.

To me, that sucked. Apple noticed this too, and had the clout to make a deal with the telcos that gave them enough control to make the iPhone, a cell phone that doesn’t suck. As a result, they dominated that market practically overnight.

Paul Buchheit puts it another way: you have to be continually annoyed by things in order to spot good ideas. If you’re always content with the status quo, you’re unlikely to start thinking about how they could be made better. This doesn’t prevent you from becoming an entrepreneur, by the way - but it does mean you need to partner with someone who does have a natural sensitivity to suckage.

This is why you often hear entrepreneurs throw around phrases like “pain point” or “looking for the market with the most pain.” Pain - also known as suckage - means opportunity. This is the astonishing effect of capitalism: greed is channeled into motivation to solve other people’s pain.