Editor's Note: College Treps is a weekly column that puts the spotlight on college and graduate school-based entrepreneurs, as they tackle the tough task of starting up and going to school. Follow their daily struggles and this column on Twitter with the hashtag #CollegeTreps.
Great business ideas can come from the strangest places. But in my opinion, dreaming up a solution to an existing shortcoming is the best foundation for building a successful venture.
Consider Hublished, the startup I helped co-found this past summer. Hublished is a content-discovery platform for brands to establish their expertise by producing the best content in their industry. On the site, brands that produce the highest quality content are rewarded with new potential customers. For these brands, establishing themselves as authorities on their industries can help differentiate themselves from the competition in a way that advertisements can't.
Still, my co-founders and I didn't suddenly wake up one morning and decide to build Hublished out of the blue. We worked for more than three years in the space, before realizing the pain points in the industry.
While time is vital for figuring out those pain points, don't forget to also spend ample time on divining solutions for how to resolve them. Many intelligent and creative entrepreneurs try to think about a product without first understanding the problem or vice versa.
It’s important to brainstorm about an issue faced by a group of consumers before you think about the actual product or service. What pain point do a group of people face? Why exactly do they face this pain point? How are people dealing with this pain point right now? Do people pay for a product or service that helps them live with this issue, or do they just do the best they can without a solution?
This whole process will help you devise a product or service that people will actually buy. Yet, it'll also help you determine your value proposition, should investors come knocking.
Here's how simple methodology for determining your value proposition:
1. Identify. Determine a problem or pain point a group of people live with.
2. Research. Learn the pain point: Understand its cause, history and the number of people struggling with it.
3. Condense. Write a concise paragraph that summarizes the pain point.
4. Condense, again. Write a single sentence that summarizes the pain point.
5. Assemble. Bundle together goods and services that respond to this pain point.
This exercise is not as simple as it looks. The process of condensing a problem into a sentence will require some serious creativity. But don’t get discouraged. Taking the time now will save you time (and potentially money) down the road.
How did you determine your startup's value proposition? Share your tips in the comments section below.
**Apply Now** Are you an enthusiastic college- or graduate-student entrepreneur, eager to share your on-campus experiences? Apply to be a YoungEntrepreneur.com College Treps columnist.