You will save a lot of time if you are clear on the problem you are solving, and who has this problem. I propose you can think of 3 types of problems and the qualities your solution should try and provide to make them attractive.

If you stumble on a real, solvable, problem the rest will fall into place. If you are struggling to explain what the problem is, everything else is an up hill battle.

Problem statement

I have encountered this cycle many times.

flowchart LR id1(Would it not be cool if?) --> id2(blissful hacking) id2 --> id3(I have a thing) id3 --> id4(do you have this problem?) id4 --> id5(silence) id5 --> id6(how about some money?) id5 --> id7(feedback?) id7 --> id5 id6 --> id5 id5 --> id1

Less frequently I have encountered this

flowchart LR id1(Help, this is on fire) --> id2(ok, tell me more) id2 --> id3(I think I can help) id3 --> id4(lets talk cash money) id4 --> id5(get to work) id5 --> id6(plenty of problems) id6 --> id5 id5 --> id7(plenty of feedback) id7 --> id5

When you have hit on a real pain point, the feedback and context will grow and grow. Extensions and elaborations will be suggested by others. You will be asked for estimated delivery times and roadmaps. Hopefully the problems will converge and you can start offering the solution to others. At first it is best to approach this as a bespoke solution for a single client, then see how well the solution carries over to others.

3 types of problem people have

  1. Relief from pain
  2. Self-image accessories
  3. How to make money

1. Relief from pain

For what ever reason, something has to be done. The current way is hard / boring / unreliable. You need to make it either: easier, more interesting or more reliable.

2. Self-image accessories

These are tools / ideas / things that are primarily used to communicate a status signal to others. They are the symbols of success, good taste or virtue.

3. Make money

There is a gold rush, and you need to provide a digging instrument. The only thing you need to do is provide better returns than anyone else. Better information, more intelligent algorithms, access.

Qualities of good solutions

Relief from pain Self-image accessories Make money
Interface Familiar Novel Doesn't matter
Pricing The cheaper the better The more expensive the better Doesn't matter
Evolution / revolution Evolution Revolution Doesn't matter
Customisation Not important As close to bespoke as possible Doesn't matter
Most important quality Less overall pain Exclusivity Better ROI than competition

Backcaster template

[Name] is a [App | Service | Cocktail etc] for [Audience (the more specific the better)].

Solving the problem of [What is the audiences real problem], leading to [What does it allow them to do? Reduce Pain | Self Image | Make money]

A note on problems that cannot be spoken about

A large part of human motivation is driven by social dynamics; The generation and maintenance of human relationships. Friendship, sexual partners and community approval. They are also areas where it is taboo to state problems too directly. You cannot ask a potential client / user, "do you want to impress strangers on the internet?". The very act of trying directly is seen at odds to the goal. I want to be invited to go to the party, I don't want to ask to go to the party.

I have been thinking alot about the idea of "Mimetic Desire" as explored by Rene Girard. Mimesis refers to human desire, which Girard thought was not linear but the product of a mimetic process in which people imitate models who endow objects with value. I think there is something more to explore here, and I will hopefully get round to writing some more detailed thoughts.