Focus on “the nail”

Paul Sajda, Scientific Advisor at Braiq

1 Feb 2017

Why the nail is more important than the hammer in hi-tech entrepreneurship.

Academic researchers focus on new discoveries, theories, and techniques that advance our knowledge of the world. Those of us who also wear an engineer’s cap, typically like to make and see things that “work” — we get our thrills from a piece of software code that compiles error-free or building a robotic manipulator that won’t crush a soft-boiled egg.  However, even engineers in academia are mainly focused on the “hammer” — the cool new gizmo or algorithm that we can demo or publish in a well-respected journal or conference proceedings.  I like wearing an academic engineer’s hat, but I also like to take it off and be an entrepreneur.  You see that the hat is very different; the focus of the entrepreneur is squarely on the nail.

The nail is, as you know, a metaphor for the economic need you are addressing or the problem that you are solving.  To the successful entrepreneur, the nail is all that matters in the beginning. What is the market need, how large is the market, what are the barriers to entry, and who are the competitors? A successful entrepreneur will start with no solution or product in mind since they will spend their looking for the “nail.”  Once the nail is found, and they can convince co-founders, investors, potential customers, and employees that the nail they found matters, only then they worry about the hammer — what is the solution, what minimally viable product do they need to create to start hammering at that nail.

At Braiq, we started by being excited about a piece of technology, but quickly found the merit of focusing on the nail once we began to immerse ourselves in a start-up incubator.  This opened our minds as to what it means to have a successful company, not just cool tech. Don’t get me wrong, our tech is totally cool, but what really matters is that we find ourselves in a position to fulfill a real-world need at the right time with the awesome people and tech at our disposal.  With BraiQ I think we have “nailed the nail,” if I do say so myself.