People who saw [VisiCalc] , who needed it, got it. Sorry, no – some of the people who needed it got it. You have to be a person who is able to look at a general-purpose tool and be able to think, “How would I use that to solve my problem?” Most people are not that way. They look for a tool that is being used already for something close to their problem and then understand what it is. Many people who saw the spreadsheet with an example, if the example wasn’t in their field, they couldn’t make the leap. Because they’re not programmers in their mind.
But, if you showed it to somebody where it clicked, either because they understood the general-purpose nature and could apply it to their own needs or you showed them an example, like financing forecasting or something that they did, and they knew the other tools in the world, they got very excited. If you showed it to a computer person who didn’t have those needs, they’d say, “That’s kind of cool, but what’s so special about that? I could just do it in Basic.” Now, there were those that hadn’t seen as interactive a computer before, weren’t as aware of word processing and some of the other things, and, when they saw it, it really opened up their minds to what you could do interactively with computers. Jean-Louis Gassee, who went to Apple, is one of the people who says that.
There those people – not that many, but enough that it got a lot of people going in computer software. And then were people – the general public- who thought computers could do everything, and they weren’t at all surprised. They’d saw, “Well, of course, computers can do so much more than that. What’s special?” Lucky for us, the people who funded things – the MBA types got it, the investment banker types got it, because this was something they would need. And that made them get the personal computer.
– Dan Bricklin, Cofounder Software Arts
I’ve noticed a number of friends who aspire to build software products fall prey to the notion that what they create is “kind of cool, but not exactly special.” “After all,” they think, “someone with reasonable software ability could build the same thing.” Maybe they go talk to some non-tech friends who want to encourage them but secretly assume that computers can do it already and thus just aren’t surprised.
What if startups spent more time trying to understand business problems so that they can apply their product to more needs? Stop expecting customer to connect all of the dots. Do it for them – not because they are stupid but because they are too busy to study your features to uncover how they could use your stuff.