I need an Apple Watch. Badly. I need it because the distance between my wrist and my coat pocket is simply too much, because I need to save that extra second when checking my phone for notifications. I need it because I need one more device to monitor my health.
While I’m at it, I also need an app that saves me a few seconds booking a table, finding the right bar for my Saturday night, and so on. Hell, anything that can save me those precious seconds throughout my hectic day will have my dollar.
The obvious facetiousness aside (I don’t need any of those things), I’m growing weary of seeing so many startups without missions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for creating amazing products. There is, however, an eventual lack of authenticity in the endless strive for greater convenience. These pure-convenience plays face continually diminishing returns.
It is easy to mistake one-off convenience for recurring utility. Entrepreneurs have gotten all too good at tricking themselves – and investors – that their ad hoc gimmick will scale to epic proportions, and keep compounding on its original value. Yet only the most central and important of product functions will see this happen. Along the peripherals, most utility is exhausted almost immediately.
It’s well known that the vast majority of startups fail. You can’t make them all into winners. You can, however, stress the importance of real, lasting, and growing utility. The more apps I see, and the more pitches I hear for the latest and greatest fad ever to hit the App Store, the more I feel like we need to focus on using technology to help us be better people. Beyond convenience, and beyond mere utility, there lies a realm of innovation wherein products are not actually products at all, but catalysts for social movements. Those same movements can help us become better citizens of humanity.
The job of the entrepreneur in all times before has been to find and capture economic opportunity. Now, however, a higher calling is in order: entrepreneurs need to rise to the challenge of taking the higher-level principles of creating things that bring about positive social change, and finding specific opportunities to execute on opportunities that build toward a greater goal. Building a business still takes as much savvy and boldness as ever, but with the new requirements of relevance to social context and mission-driven offerings. It may be the hardest problem of all, but it will turn out to be the most worth it.