The Apple Watch is Cool, But Does it Solve a Big Enough Problem?

By Paul Teshima in Artificial Intelligence

So the Apple Watch is really, really cool.  I may even get one.  A few of the interesting new features that came out yesterday:

  • Apple Pay: a simpler way to pay, but now will work for iPhone 5 users as well.
  • Unlock Things: I like this feature because it reduces things you need to carry, and gives you quick access when you are carrying things.
  • Fitness Tracking: I love what wearables like Fitbit are doing for fitness, but why have two devices?  Apple Watch wins on this one.

But even after seeing all of the bells and whistles, I can’t help but think:

Does it solve a big enough problem?

The iPhone was an incredible innovation in technology.  It solved a huge problem that you didn’t even know you had.  The ability to be “connected” anytime, anywhere, with anyone or anything has revolutionized your personal and professional life.  Although I am sure Apple will have some immediate success with the Apple Watch, what problem does it actually solve?

All joking aside, I know the Apple Watch will start strong, but I am not sure of the longevity.  The current watch market is a $60 billion industry with 60% gross margins.  That is a great business to be in, however that market was built on telling time accurately, and looking great on your wrist (the latter being much more important these days).  Is the Apple Watch disruptive enough to make those things less important?

Just because you can build it, doesn’t mean you should

If we take a step back from the Apple Watch, I worry about what it teaches other technology entrepreneurs.

These days it is easier than ever to operationalize a startup.  You can turn on your tech infrastructure and back office applications with a few clicks of a mouse. Capital is more accessible through syndicated networks like AngelList, and crowd funding options like Kickstarter.

With more startups than ever before, I understand the pressure to quickly get to a “minimal working product” or MWP.  However it is dangerous to get there and think your job is done.  Yes, you may have a working product with a bunch of users/customers, but how much value is it adding? There also are probably ten other startups attempting to do the same thing.

Take on a big problem but get there in smaller steps

One key in building a successful business is tackling a big problem in the long run.  You may take many small random-ish steps to get there, but at the end, the problem is hard to solve.

Big problems are great because they take time, and innovative thinking to solve.  And through that process you will learn a ton and have something that no one else has done before.

Let’s look at the difference between consumer and enterprise oriented startups.  Everyone wants to be the next Uber or Airbnb, (don’t get me wrong there is a ton of complex issues with each of those startups) but on average, enterprise solutions deal with tougher challenges than consumer ones, which focus more on massive adoption.

Evidence of “big problem successes” was clear in the analysis done by Aileen Lee at Cowboy ventures on the billion dollar startups, also known as the Unicorn Club.

“Enterprise-oriented unicorns have become worth more on average, and raised much less private capital, delivering a higher return on private investment.” – Aileen Lee, Cowboy Ventures

Building trust in business is a hard problem

Building trust in business is a hard problem.  Building trust when you have 2,000 connections, and an endless stream of emails, updates and content is even harder. You just can’t send 3x more tweets, or have 4x more coffees to build trust faster.

At Nudge we are taking on the big problem of building trust with the explosion of social networks.  How do you leverage technology to help you build better relationships, especially from your weak connections?

So far we have already found many other big sub-challenges under the big challenge.  But it’s all good, because we want to do something that is valuable, and that is going to take some time, and in the end we will have built something great.

Paul Teshima
CEO and Co-founder