One topic which comes up again and again when I talk with entrepreneurs about their ideas and/or companies is the question of how big the problem they are trying to solve really is.
Often enough the way an entrepreneur discovers a problem space is by a “sudden flash of enlightenment” — somewhat random observations, mixed with the strong desire to “become an entrepreneur” result in proposed solutions to problems which in reality are fairly small. Convinced that this is the biggest thing since sliced bread the entrepreneur then goes on to solve that particular problem only to later learn that it’s hard or even impossible to raise funding and get customers actually interested.
Sadly the world is littered with startups like this.
It’s an avoidable issue. Spend more time in the problem discovery space — talk to lots and lots of actual customers. Make sure that these are not your friends — they will often give you a skewed version of the reality as they don’t want to hurt your feelings or dampen your enthusiasm. Validate your assumptions from the bottom up as thoroughly as you can. Consult with industry experts. Ask the hard questions — you know you’re asking the right questions if the answers make you either uncomfortable or think more and deeper.
Small problems are solved by small companies. Only big problems beget big companies.