Solve tomorrow’s problem (or get out fast)
Necessity is the mother of invention, and as a consequence, lots of new products address today’s felt needs.
If you’re developing a tech product, though, I think it’s a better plan to address tomorrow’s needs than today’s. Because by the time you develop and market your product, today will be history, and gone with it may be the problem you were trying to solve.
Remember the dedicated e-mail devices that were sold in office supply stores? A small screen, keyboard, and phone-line connection so that you could get on e-mail for a couple hundred bucks instead of buying a more expensive general-purpose computer.
Not a big hit, because the price of the computer was falling every day.
The family radios? (Higher-powered, more phone-like walkie-talkies.) Released just a few years before everyone and their dog got a much more useful cell phone.
Of course you can be too early. E-books are hot now, but none of the pioneers of the late 1990’s are with us today.
There is money to be made solving today’s problem, and if you’re able to move quickly and exploit a window in time, good for you. But if you’re making a large investment, it’s worth looking down the road.