I have a confession to make: I’m not an early adopter. I haven’t tasted Soylent yet, and I still use an iPhone 5s. I’m habitual and practical with technology. While I love covering the industry, I rarely come across new products and services that make me rush to open up my wallet—yes, I still have a real one.
But maybe I’m not the problem. Too many startups are too focused on products they think people want. To reach scale, though, you still need to solve an actual problem. Yes, there are outliers—Snapchat, for example—but most startups that are not only valued in the mega-billions but also raking in mega-revenue are providing a significant improvement to a flawed status quo.
If we look at it through that lens, entrepreneurs are still just scratching the surface, but at least some are trying.
I recently met with Lauren Schulte, founder of a company that is rethinking feminine products. This might surprise half of the population, but tampons and pads are as uncomfortable as they look. Schulte’s startup, the Flex Company, is about to start shipping a “menstrual disc.” (And yes, she had a tough time fundraising—it turns out some VCs don’t like hearing about Aunt Flow.)
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Another entrepreneur I recently spoke with, Diane Loviglio, started Boon+Gable, a company that sends a personal stylist to your home. (Another confession: I hate shopping.) Yet another entrepreneur I recently met, Ayah Bdeir, developed modular, programmable toys that snap together with magnets. Called littleBits, the startup is currently part of the Walt Disney Company’s (DIS) accelerator program. What problem is Bdeir solving? If you’re a parent, you know it’s still slim pickings when it comes to smart but fun toys, especially for girls.
I don’t know if these entrepreneurs will succeed. At least they have a shot at turning this Luddite into an early adopter.