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Solving real problems

For as long as I’ve been working in or with consumer related startups, i often hear folks that don’t embrace this line of work say things like “that company is interesting but I want to work/invest in a company solving a real problem”

I gotta come clean: I think that attitude is bullshit.

There are two problems with the view that consumer web services isn’t “real” or isn’t hard.

First, it doesn’t respect or appreciate how big and important these things can become.

Awhile back Chris Dixon wrote a great post, The Next Big Thing Will Look Like A Toy. It’s a great read. In the comments Nivi amps the post by reminding people that Eric Schmidt originally called Twitter a poor man’s email.

And I remember the days that big internet companies looked at Google search as a feature not a real company that could go the distance. Crazy, huh. 

I’m sure many incumbants looked at Facebook in the early days with same view. 

The second reason why I find the “i only want to work on hard problems” objectionable is because they don’t respect how difficult it is to build and operate a consumer service that supports a growing network of millions of users. It’s a 24×7 job and with crazy stress and difficult decisions and challenging work.

And if you can do something like that and delight your users every day with fun, entertainment, value, information, or a sense of community then you are solving a real problem. Don’t let the haters get you down. 

Update, 4/17/11: I’ve received a few emails and seen a few tweets and there seems to be some confusion about this post. To be clear, I dont’ have any objection to any line of work as long as it’s legal and honest. This post is my objection to folks that look down on social apps or entertainment apps, etc.