Means Towards an End

Working in the tech space, I come across a lot of  ideas for using technology to solve issues which I feel overshoot and miss a point of the role of technology. Two examples off such which come to mind are proposals I have seen for using technology to solve housing shortages in some American cities and using technology to solve public sector corruption in some developing nations.

Tech startups and technology companies are no different from all businesses which have been formed in the past 2000 years. They all aim to serve some pressing consumer and social need and do this by figuring out how to use whatever resources are available at the time. Towards this end, understanding the target consumer market and bidding for the resources to create value for them is key .

Tech startups and technology companies are no different in this fundamental regard. Their success depends on their ability to identify a need, identify who their customers are and validate or invalidate all their assumptions,  and bid for and deploy societies scarce resources in meeting these needs.

But all that differs with tech startups and technology companies is the means used to meet these ends. In their case, they use cutting edge contemporary technology to meet such needs. The fact that they use advanced technology does not relieve them of the task of understanding who their customers are and figuring out how best to serve them.

Technology does not magically create market demand or conjur up consumers!

Statistically,  tech startup failure is in the 90% range. Yes, many of these ideas are more high risk than tested and known ideas and industries. Thus, a high level of failure is part of the game. But  a lot of this failure might have a lot to do with a lack of not appreciating that technology is only means towards and end.

An appreciation of this insight would help in reducing waste of resources which have alternative uses.  For example rather than investing millions of dollars into using technology to reduce housing shortages in some American cities, the solution could be as simply as repealing zoning and land use laws in some of those cities. And rather than doing the same to tackle chronic public sector corruption in developing nations, the solution could be as simple as massively reducing the size of the public sector.

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