The Need Paradox


I have this tendency to doubt everything that I’m too convinced of. Whenever I feel like I know everything about a certain subject or situation, I get this uncomfortable feeling and I start researching as many different perspectives as possible. Why? I simply have this need to either disprove or solidify my current belief.

That is why, back in November, when I was offered to visit my country of origin I absolutely had to go. I had a very set-in-stone and slightly gloomy opinion about the country. Having only been once when I was younger, the only information I had was shaped by the media and the occasional family stories. And even the latter is heavily tainted by the media.

I needed my own opinion. And so I went.

As soon as I landed, my opinion of the country changed for the better- literally as soon as I landed. I find this incredible! You mean to tell me that more than two dozen years of information-feeding can be overruled by just 20 minutes of personal experience? Does this not make you doubt everything you know, but haven’t experienced first-hand? The rich culture of the country was well on display and the people were welcoming – both aspects not getting enough attention in the media unfortunately.

On the other hand, a few things were confirmed. There are diverse and countless needs. Issues include lack of widespread access to education, measly job opportunities, little urban maintenance and safety measures, low Internet adoption, etc. The variety and multitude of needs in the country are huge.

This is one example. If you’ve been to any developing country in the world, there are thousands if not millions these needs around the globe.

Now turn your attention to what’s happening in “rich” countries. With the startup culture in full force in North America, financial, brain and human capital abound. Did you know that the #1 reason most venture-backed startups fail is because of “no market need”? That’s right. Almost half of startups that fail do so because in the end, not enough people want the thing or service they were producing.

There are many reasons why this is. I’m going to name a few that come to mind. #1: The glorification in the media of useless businesses that make money. I’m looking at the first-person “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” game app. Combined with the disappointing coverage of great and useful businesses like Decode Global’s first-person Get Water game, it makes it more appealing to start the former venture than the latter. #2: The separation in types of businesses of non-profit organizations and profit-raking businesses. This odd separation in types of businesses unconsciously makes it seem like you can’t do social good AND be a real money-making business. Look at Tesla Motors, sûrtab and Reaction Housing. #3: Capitalism. Since people in developing countries don’t have loads of disposable income, their needs are not considered important. We should be able to create a business model around things that actually matter.

There is something that’s clear in my mind – something that doesn’t need solidifying or a second opinion. A new definition of “market need” is necessary. The current version only includes less than 10% of the world population’s needs. Most startups today unfortunately aim to solve the needs of a subsection of the population in pursuit of money and fame…but end up failing. It’s a shame with the amount of media attention, financial and brain capital available to the tech industry today that real needs aren’t being focused on.

If we all put our energy towards helping one another, instead of working tirelessly to find ways to make more money, we could all tear down all of the principles this society was built on and create a better version of what we live in. Hard ball capitalism has run its course and will be retooled over the next 100 years. A new meritocracy can emerge where “integrity” and “good will” would be the new currency. It would be a society where people who help others the most would be the richest.

A man can dream, can he?

The Need Paradox