Ben Yoskovitz: Start with Passion For Solving a Problem

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

Ben Yoskovitz has a great blog, his only defect is that he does not blog often enough. His two most recent have been direct hits on the need for entrepreneurs to focus on a problem, work toward a clear understanding of it, and develop a passion for solving it.

Useless Feedback

Without a strong hypothesis and problem statement, there’s no reason to get feedback.

Asking a friend, “What do you think of my idea?” is almost completely useless.

Asking a friend (or someone else who isn’t as biased as your friend, “Do you have this problem, and how painful is it?” is a much more useful query.

Startups need to solve problems. Problems need to be defined. Define the problem that you’re tackling (without focusing on the solution) and get feedback on that.

Misplaced Passion is Common for Early Stage Entrepreneurs

But what we see quite regularly at the early stages of startups is not too much passion but misplaced passion.

Ask yourself this question, “Are you more passionate about the problem you’re solving or your solution?”

It needs to be the former — the problem you’re solving — because there’s a very, very good chance that your solution isn’t the right one. Or at minimum, it’s going to change significantly through many iterations.

When one of my partners–Anthony Scampavia–worked at Cisco he kept a question at the top of his whiteboard in his office for more than a dozen years:

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

Always a good question to start with. Entrepreneurs start with a passion for solving a problem. They work toward a clear understanding of the constraints and requirements for solving it.

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Comments (7)

  • Ben Yoskovitz


    Sean – Thanks for highlighting these two posts. I’m also disappointed with the frequency of my posting, I even schedule time for it and then break my own rules! Ugh.

    I hope to start getting more consistent over the next month or so as I transition from Standout Jobs into a few new projects that I’m set to announce soon.


  • Sean Murphy


    I like your posts because you are able to compress some practical advice into a length that most entrepreneurs will read. I find if difficult to write less than 500 words and add at least three hyperlinks and I think most folks like two or three key points in 100-300 words. Congratulations on the Standout Jobs acquisition, I look forward to some practical guidance on how you made that happen in a future blog post. I would be happy to do an interview with you on that if you have some lessons learned you would feel comfortable sharing.


  • SKMurphy » New Capabilities We Plan To Develop in 2011


    […] Please contact us if you have any suggestions or questions on any of this. Details as they unfold. I mentioned Scampavia’s whiteboard in “Ben Yoskovitz: Start With Passion For Solving a Problem.” […]


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