This clip from Apollo 13 exemplifies what I believe is the absolute most fun about startups: solving problems. Software or services…or baklava. Whatever you’re starting, you’re starting it to solve someone’s problem, even if the problem is not having the best dessert at your fingertips.

What I love about this clip from Apollo 13 is the way this one situation completely exemplifies start up life. There was an clearly defined problem: the astronauts were running out of oxygen and their carbon dioxide levels were climbing. To add insult to injury, they’re 100,000 miles away and they have very few resources.

Back on the ground in Houston, they had a group of very talented engineers and they put them in the room with the exact same materials that the astronauts had and told him, “solve the problem.” This is start up life. Limited resources, limited time, the talent you have in the room, your imaginations, and the simple will to solve the problem.

Solving Problems Creates new Problems to Solve!

Whatever you’re starting, identify the root problem first and solve that. In doing so you will encounter a myriad of other problems. These problems will involve people, processes, products, software, packaging, delivery, customers, and most of all, money. Then you can apply your same tenacity and process to solving your own problems. Better yet, ask someone who’s been there and done that. Find a mentor.

Embrace the Limits

You will always have limits. You’ll have limited resources, limited time, and just the talent in the room to solve whatever problem you come up against. That’s what I find the most fun: figuring out how to get it done with what you have.

The good news is that – most likely – you will not be trying to bring back three astronauts from outer space. I cannot imagine the pressure on the engineers to solve that particular problem. We have other problems to solve. For example, how to get a serving of baklava into a box that looks good and get it from Roswell to somewhere else and Georgia in one piece so it still looks good. That doesn’t really compare to bringing home three heroes, but you have to start somewhere right?

One thought on “Solving Problems is the Heart of Startups

  1. Lockbox Local – First time founder/entrepreneur

    Great analogy! And also a reminder to keep everything in perspective. Yes, the reason we are solving the problem is important, to us, the customer, the boss, the investors, etc. and time is of the essences. However, what I tell my teams is, no one is going to die.

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