Surely this idea is influenced by a number of things I have read and listened to, but bare with me for a second as I describe to you what I am calling the “wedge model.” It is an approach I am currently experimenting with in thinking about how I (and friends) go about building the next serious business.

I recognize “models” and “outlines” seem business-schooly. Is a structured approach – perhaps top-down – really the best way to go about starting something? I will try and answer that in this as well. I also acknowledge that there are no real formulas for building successful businesses. There are no programmatic recipes to follow to guarantee success. That is not the point of this essay. The point of it is to introduce a lens to think about when identifying problems and solutions.

Ok so the wedge model looks like this.

It starts by identifying a massive industry. Think real estate. Lending. Shipping. Waste management. Pick one of them.

From there, you strive to understand the space as best and objectively as possible. In that, you are likely noting down problems, literally interviewing people in the industry, etc. with the goal of finding a hard problem to work on. It is important this is not an easy problem because easy problems are harder to work with. Hard problem is important.

The idea is that you take this hard problem – that is effectively a bottleneck point for this complicated and valuable industry – and you really understand it. And then you build a solution that is a step function better than it. This may be started by digitizing a paperwork-driven process. This may be started by something else. The point is you take something manual and broken and you make it a lot better.

This is your wedge. 

The wedge is access to the rest of the industry. You can move vertical or horizontal once you break through, but it is all contingent on you identifying a hard, valuable part of an industry and building an extremely sticky solution in it.

This is far easier said than done. I glazed over many of the challenges – including, needing a goal. I think I need a novel and legendary goal for how to fundamentally impact an industry or problem-space. That may be square one before diving into this model.

Also published on Medium.