The Point of The Pain Point

I've written down a few problems that I've observed around me. Should I try and solve even those that don't affect me directly?

When you're pitching to a potential partner, advisor or an investor, you can be certain that invariably one of their questions will be "how did you decide on this idea?" -- with the emphasis on the word you.

There are incredible similarities between entrepreneurship and dramatic writing. One of those similarities is the role of the protagonist, and the motivating force driving him into action, usually characterized as "The Pivotal Event".

How did Shakespeare get a loving man, Othello, to kill his wife Desdemona? Shakespeare gave Othello a weakness to feel in his gut, his "Possessive Love" (Jealousy), born out of the desire to overcome his racial Inferiority Complex. Then, Shakespeare invented a character called Iago to personify Othello's internal desire. Iago, who had political ambitions, planted a handkerchief belonging to Desdemona on rival Lieutenant Cassio, driving Othello to kill his innocent wife and then himself. Without Iago memorably personifying Othello's desire for superiority, the masterpiece story would not survive the centuries. If you understand the Writer, you understand the Investor.

A protagonist, no matter how strong, needs personal motive to give life to a story.

Triumphs are structured much like tragedies. The difference is that the dying person represents a negative value: In Lord of The Rings, Tolkien needs for the innocent Frodo to murder the corrupt Gollum. How does good murder evil? Tolkien gives both of them The Ring of Power. When The Ring is found in the bottom of the lake, The Pivotal Event occurs, and drives the conflict. Evil comes with innate desire, personified by the Ring. In the end, the Evil Half-ling manifests as Gollum standing on the edge of Mount Doom. He breaks off Frodo's finger and destroys itself by falling into the lava. Frodo doesn't actually have to give up his innocence. The Pivotal Character behind the pain point, The Ring, kills Gollum. If you understand the Antagonist's role in shaping the Protagonist from nothing but a Half-ling, you understand Startups.

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The Pivotal Force in dramatic literature reveals itself as The Pain Point in entrepreneurship. Imagine two competing startups, fighting to death for the same market. Startup 1 has observed the market's problem by analysis, while Startup 2 desires the end of a personal pain.

Within months of working on the solution, the two startups usurp the disconnected pool of friends and family as users. The enthusiasm wears off. They move into the dark belly of the early-adopter market, in a head-to-head conflict for oxygen.

Fighting over a market often takes not days, but years. And there is often only one winner, where the other is killed.

Now imagine having to work for 2-4 years, 80 hours a week, without pay, with nobody's faith but your own and the combined might of the entire world in the nay-sayer camp, just to solve somebody else's anecdotal problem observed years ago! The startup seduced by financial desires has nothing to live for in the trough of sorrow. Its founders and un-savvy investors walk away, because losing money seems to them an irrational way of building a for-profit business. The irrational startup guided by its own pain point emerges as the monopoly; the only half-ling standing on mount-doom.

What happened between Frodo and Gollum was never a battle over The Ring, but a war of values. A startup’s motive comes not from profit, but from pain. The thankless hours become days, months and years. The planner suffering the wrong desire will in the labyrinth of a dark ocean lose his path, and therein, sink his vessel; just like Gollum when he finally found his precious, The Ring, and therein, lost his 500 year-long purpose.

Amin A.

Written by

Amin Ariana

A software entrepreneur from San Francisco