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Who You Were Meant to Be

June 6, 2013

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You are not who you were meant to be.  That’s what makes you a customer.

I don’t mean “meant to be” in a mystical or religious sense, but in the sense of what’s constant, or persistent, about your inner self.

You’re definitely meant to breath.  You’re meant to eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re exhausted, have shelter from the cold. Your arms and legs are meant to work like arms and legs. You’re meant to have a place in your community, to have friends and lovers, people to care for you when you’re young or old or sick.  Your current role in life also contributes to who you’re meant to be.  If you’re a student, you’re meant to sit in classes and learn; if you have a job, you’re meant to show up and have the skills and do the work.  But lots of who you’re meant to be is more individual than all that.  Your parents, teachers, religion, culture, hometown, and many other things all contributed to your inner sense of, and expectations about, yourself.

But, and here’s the thing: you’re not who you’re meant to be.  You may be meant to eat but have no food, to have shelter, but the bank just foreclosed.  Or you’re meant to have status or respect, but find yourself without.  There’s a gap, often a yawning, terrible gap, between who you are and who’re you’re meant to be.  And that gap is called “demand.”  That’s the one thing, before everything else, that a startup has to discover, to earn its right to exist in the world.

Of course, there are many varieties of demand that aren’t economic.  The air is free.  You can’t buy love.  But a big chunk of the modern world operates on an economic basis, and everything in that economy is about bridging that gap between who a group of customers are and who they are meant to be.  Lots of the economy works well for lots of people.  But many gaps are unfilled, and many more are papered over with solutions that don’t quite work, or create new gaps, or crumble as the world changes.

Innovations are new, better ways to fill gaps between who customers are and who they’re meant to be.  The companies that thrive are the ones that enable lots of people to address big gaps.  If you want to be successful, that’s where you have to start.

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From → Lessons

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