Startup Secrets Sandbox
Startup Secrets Sandbox
DEFINE the Problem or Opportunity

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Problems worth solving are usually 4U: Unworkable, Unavoidable, Urgent, and Underserved

The 4U framework encourages entrepreneurs to deeply understand their customers' challenges and needs by identifying what is Unavoidable, Urgent, Unworkable, and Underserved in their lives. Using real-world examples, it illustrates how companies like Uber, Instacart, Slack, and Airbnb have successfully applied this approach to address pressing customer issues, such as the need for reliable transportation or quick grocery delivery. This methodology is key to uncovering unmet needs and creating innovative solutions that resonate with the target market from the start. Entrepreneurs are urged to become genuinely inquisitive about their customers to discover multiple aspects of the 4Us, ultimately leading to the development of compelling offerings and the growth of their startups.

Get curious!

Reflect on your venture. If you’ve lived the problem then you should find this framework easy. If not, get into the shoes of your prospective customer and think about their experiences. What is really Unworkable, Unavoidable, Urgent, and Underserved for them? Persist until you uncover at least these 4Us:
Unavoidable: Identify unavoidable pain points or challenges for your customers, and create solutions that alleviate or eliminate them. Example: Uber addressed the unavoidable challenge of transportation* by providing fast and convenient rides, making it easier for customers to get from one place to another without the expense of owning a car or learning to drive.
Urgent: Identify urgent needs or desires for your customers, and create solutions that address them quickly and effectively. Example: Instacart addressed customers' urgent needs for groceries and household essentials during the pandemic by offering fast and convenient delivery, eliminating the need for customers to physically visit stores and potentially expose themselves to COVID-19. What other companies like Zoom can you think of that met urgent needs in the pandemic and why?
Unworkable: Identify unworkable tasks or processes for your customers, and create solutions that streamline or automate them. Example: Slack addressed the unworkable challenge of email overload by providing a chat-based communication platform that makes it easier for teams to collaborate and communicate effectively. What is unworkable in your life? What is so frustratingly unworkable for your customers that their hair is on fire?!
Underserved: Identify underserved customer segments or markets, and create solutions that meet their unique needs and preferences. Example: Airbnb addressed the underserved market for affordable and authentic travel experiences by providing unique and affordable accommodations to travelers, enabling them to immerse themselves in local culture and experience a destination like a local.
By understanding and addressing the 4Us, entrepreneurs can create innovative solutions that meet their customers' needs and drive traction right from the get go in their startup. The real-world examples of Uber, Instacart, Slack, and Airbnb demonstrate how successful startups have applied the 4Us and addressed the needs of their customers in a meaningful way.

*Not all transportation is unavoidable, but here are 3 examples of where it can be:
Medical appointments: Many people have to visit doctors, dentists, or other healthcare providers, often requiring transportation to get there when they can’t even drive themselves.
Commuting to work or school: Many people have to commute to work or school on a daily basis, whether by car, public transit, bike, or walking. (This gave rise to many other startups serving those other city transportation needs with bike sharing, scooters, buses etc.)
Running errands: People often need to travel to run errands such as grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, or dropping off dry cleaning. (This gave ride to various other Uber services like Uber eats and many competitors for specific needs delivery needs.)
In many cities around the world the public transport infrastructure is also simply unavailable (underserved) or unworkable, and in many cases like Boston unreliable too!


The key is to get really curious and inquisitive with your customers, and you’ll likely come up with more than 4Us. In the end this framework is designed to help you uncover unmet needs, unresolved problems, unsatisfied wants, and underserved prospective customers.
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