November 14, 2019

Making Something People Want

Y Combinator has a famous motto: make something people want. The first reference I could find to that motto was this blog post from Paul Graham.

I think it's a great motto: people will pay for things they want, thus you can make a business out of it. But I can't help notice, most companies these days aren't being built for people, they're being built for companies. B2B business are easier because companies have lots of money to spend on things.

Additionally, some of the companies making things people want (e.g., Reddit) have turned to ads because you can get a lot more money out of companies running ads than you can out of ordinary people paying to use your product.

I looked quickly at the top YC company list and did some analysis (using HTTPie, pup, jq, and standard UNIX tools):

$ http https://www.ycombinator.com/topcompanies/index.html | pup 'div[data-sectors] json{}' | jq '.[]."data-sectors"' | sort | uniq -c | sort -nr
  53 B2B Software and Services
  16 Financial Technology and Services
  11 Consumer Goods and Services
   4 Education
   3 Consumer Media
   3 Biotech
   3 Automotive
   2 Real Estate
   2 Healthcare
   2 Construction
   2 Aerospace
   1 Energy and Environment

Let's break it down (approximately):

  • 13% of the companies appear to offer consumer products
  • 87% of the companies are B2B and offer non-consumer products

Something people want: 13%Something companies want: 87%


Making What People Want

I was having a conversation with a friend recently about the type of companies that attract VC funding nowadays, and both of us felt that the majority of new companies aren't building interesting products. Most new companies are merely optimizing business tools or problems. Very, very few of these companies are actually creating new technology that affect people.

Additionally, it's really hard to attract VC interest for business that fall outside the typical B2B mold. Building a technology business that's wildly different, with a mission to improve people's lives, is very hard, and nearly impossible if you can't attract funding.

I can't help but ask the question: when was the last time anyone got excited about B2B products? I, for one, don't get excited about most B2B product offerings.

Snarky Final Thoughts

YC might want to update their motto to make something companies want. It's easier to build a boring B2B business than it is to make something cool and interesting.


© 2019 Brenden Matthews, some rights reserved.