Doing the hard things

It feels counterintuitive and probably against nature to choose to do the harder things when you have the option to go for the easier ones when the perceived reward feels similar. We as humans have this natural inclination towards the path of least resistance and it makes evolutionary sense that we are programmed to behave this way but I doubt that in business is the right thing to do.

Let’s say we have a business idea and we want to create a product. The next steps to analyze the feasibility of the said product usually are the designing of a business plan, monetization strategies, marketing, etc. but what oftentimes is never analyzed is the entry barrier or how easy would it be for the competition to come to steal your customers if they decide your market is sexy enough.

If you find yourself seeing that a guy is having huge success selling piña-coladas on a beach and everyone is buying from him, you can almost effortlessly go do the same thing and compete for his customers. The market for piña-coladas is big but the product is so easy to replicate you may be able to attain success fast but it is equally likely that the success will be short-living. Easy come easy go.

The software industry is no different.

Maybe you noticed that every business needs to be able to send bulk emails to their customers and decided to enter the market for emailing services since it looks easy to write a few scripts and an HTML templating system to go on and compete with Mailchimp, no?

It’s possible that you will find an audience willing to pay you for your service since the market is so big but it’s going to be hard to differentiate yourself from others and customer-churn will be an issue from day one. That low hanging fruit you saw and wanted to grab was also seen by a thousand other people.

With Toky, we went through a similar situation. Almost all businesses need to offer a voice communication channel to their customers and we exist because of that. A thousand other people saw the same thing and probably wanted to grab that low hanging fruit too until they realized that doing telephony right is very very hard.

There are quite a lot of other things that may be important to discuss regarding this topic, as the potential for your business to attract talent, something that can only happen if people find what you do meaningful enough to come to work with you. Sam Altman wrote a very compelling essay on this topic that explains this point better than I can.

All in all, choosing to go for the easiest-to-create product may not always be the right choice. You are not more likely to fail if you go through with that other project that is harder, in fact, it will probably increase your chances of making it all things considered.