One of the things that have been bothering me this year at LeWeb is the whole conference theme issue. While I think it’s great to have it on a conference wide level, I don’t feel the same when it comes to the startup competition. This year LeWeb decided to use the SoLoMo theme (Social – Local – Mobile). The problem is that, I don’t see that as a theme at all.
We’ve reached a point where Social is a must. It’s not a specific kind of startup, but a basic feature of any web product, much like the login screen or oauth. It reminds me of those startups that tell you that their marketing strategy is going viral. Again, viral is a consequence, not a cause. Now, the local – mobile stuff is tricky. By enforcing a theme, many startups try to make their solutions fit the theme, not their problem. And that’s the real issue, they are getting it backward! Doing a startup isn’t about the new cool buzz, the FUD or anything remotely similar. It is about solving a problem. If the solution requires localization, do it. If it requires mobile, do it too. But, don’t do it because it’s trendy or because it’s what people want now.
What I’m seeing is a massive array of startups in this space with a _oh_look_this_cool_little_app_ that isn’t solving a pain. You could argue that, you don’t need to solve a painful problem, as you could be innovating so radically that, in Jobs words, the market doesn’t knows that it needs it until you give it to them. That being said, trust me, that’s not the case with many of the startups I’ve seen.
So remember, fix something, fix a real problem. Something that people are feeling as very painful. The more pain the better. Then use the right tools to deliver the solution, not the other way around. You don’t first choose the tools and then build the house.