I'm often asked for feedback on startup ideas, and one question I like to pose is, "Why do you care about this?" Surprisingly, many people are working on things they don't truly care about. They might think it's a good idea, that it will make money, or that it might be fun. But when push comes to shove, they don't really care about the problem they're solving.
The truth is, startups are hard, and, statistically speaking, most will fail. If you're working on something that you don't really care about, it's going to be a lot harder to get through the hard times. And there will be hard times.
My suggestion is to think about problems you genuinely care about, issues that seem out of place in the world.
Here are some of mine:
The benefits of immigrating to a country with stable economic and socio-political systems are immense. However, the difficulties faced by individuals and families when immigrating to a new country can be insurmountable for many. As a first-generation immigrant who moved to the United States at a young age, I've experienced firsthand the challenges of a complex and, in many ways, broken immigration system. Helping people immigrate to new countries offers significant economic opportunities, and I believe the world would be a better place if more people had the chance to do so.
Education, in my opinion, is the key to our future. Recent technological advances pose an existential threat to the preservation and expansion of knowledge unless proactive steps are taken. With the rise of social media and the proliferation of AR, VR, and AI, we're entering uncharted territory where human attention is treated as currency. We must address the opportunity costs associated with this new attention economy if we want to maintain the current rate of technological progress.
3. Health and Wellness
In my early 20s, I was in the worst shape of my life. I was obese, pre-diabetic, and on a fast track to chronic health problems. The physical toll was significant, but I was also suffering from depression and social anxiety. Thankfully, I turned things around – I began exercising regularly, eating healthily, and lost over 40 pounds. The transformation was profound, not only boosting my confidence but also improving my work and social lives. I believe that equipping people with the tools and knowledge to lead healthy and happy lives can positively impact society in a profound way (this is core to the mission of Measured, my current startup).
As a technologist, I am well-aware of the benefits technology has brought to our lives. However, I also recognize the negative externalities that come with it. The rise of social media has contributed to a decline in real-world social interactions, leading to increased loneliness and depression. I believe technology can and should be used to bring people together, making the world a better place.
5. Artificial Intelligence
AI is a tool with the potential to address any of the above problems. It also deserves its own category, as it is likely the most critical technology of our lifetimes, if not of all time. With it comes a host of new ethical and moral dilemmas. Several problem categories arise from this technology, including:
- Privacy - AI will be able to infer a lot about us from very little data. This will have profound implications for our privacy and security.
- Bias - AI is only as good as the data it is trained on. If the data is biased, the AI will be biased as well.
- Jobs - AI will replace many jobs, but it will also create many new ones. We need to prepare for this transition and ensure that people are able to find new jobs that are fulfilling and meaningful.
- Existential Risk - AI has the potential to be the most powerful technology ever created. We need to ensure that it is used for good and not evil.
I hope this list inspires you to reflect on the issues you genuinely care about. If you're working on something that you don't really care about, it's going to be much harder to get through the hard times – and, believe me, there will be hard times. When your passion aligns with your work, it becomes easier to persevere and make a lasting, positive impact.