Solving Yesterday’s Problems Today

Jonathan was adamant- Timehop would never be a backup service.

Despite many requests to offer backup. Despite an obvious business model in offering backup. And despite numerous heated arguments about how we could do a better, more Timehoppy?, version of backup it was never in serious consideration.

Because, as Jonathan was quick to point out, backup was a solved problem. Dropbox does it really well. Along with a host of other startups. 

Since those early conversations on backup Android users now get the photos on their phones automatically uploaded and backed up on via Google+. And just last week, Amazon introduced free, unlimited photo photo storage to their Prime users.

The problem of backup, particularly photo backup, is essentially solved. Jonathan saw that coming. And instead of building their problem today, that solved yesterdays problem of photo backup, he was able to focus the team’s energy on building new features and products for the world in which that problem was already solved.

How many startups find themselves in the trap of solving yesterday’s problems today? 

We’ve seen it numerous times in our own portfolio alone.

When Foursquare launched they were building a product for a world where passive location tracking didn’t exist. Where an explicit checkin was required in order to tell anyone something interesting about where they were or what options they had around them. 

Years ago, the team recognized that the location problem they needed to solve at launch was being solved in new ways and by new players than were in the market back in 2009.

That realization allowed the team to spend the time since building new features and realigning the product around the world we’re transitioning to. As a result, the product is light years ahead, as a search and discovery tool, than it would have ever been if they’d continued to invest in solving the location problem of yesteryear.

There are still plenty of problems left to be solved. But with the pace and direction that many technologies trends and companies are moving, it should be clearer and clearer to companies which problems are theirs for the solving today, and which they should accept as solved so they can focus on the services and experiences they can build in that near future.

Startups today, more than ever, need to be ruthlessly asking which of yesterday’s problems they’re trying to solve for today, and reassigning resources to focus on the higher value opportunities of the world in which those are already solved.