Jobs that need to be done

Clay Christensen’s “Jobs-to-be-done” framework is one of the most fundamental, but interesting ways to look at products and businesses.  I think there’s a lot to be gained by zooming in on important jobs that a consumer is trying to accomplish, and having a clear point of view on how your product helps them complete it.  Ideally, your product helps them perform a job that they haven’t been able to before (but really wanted to), or helps them complete an important job in a uniquely superior way.

One of my favorite examples of this in Chicago is Apervita, which is helping providers and researchers perform hard but important jobs by making a broad array of health analytics more accessible at the point of care. By doing so, they improve both the quality of care we receive and reduces system cost.

So, I want to share some “jobs” that I don’t think are being done well today.  These aren’t necessarily ideas that can be the basis of a full company – but just jobs I wish had better tools to help people perform them:

  • Studying: After reading Make It Stick, I’ve become convinced that the way we are taught to study in the US is fundamentally wrong.  Highlighting, re-reading, and many of the other common practices that we associate with learning material are not optimal at best, and highly ineffective at worst.  While Khan Academy, Treehouse, and many other online learning services have started to take us down the right path, I think there’s an opening for a product that nudges us to study / learn in ways that lead to more durable recall over time.
  • Habit formation / adherence: Research is continually improving what we “know” as a society, but there’s a gap between knowledge and implementation (especially on the consumer side) that few products help us bridge today. I’m not so sure this is a single product, but more likely principles that need to be embedded into products with other use cases (e.g., weight loss).
  • Student loan education: Though I’m bullish on the ability of ed-tech to bring down the costs of quality education in the very long run, the current and next few generations of students will likely be financing large parts of their educations through loans.  In general, I don’t think there are widely used products that help prospective students and recent graduates understand the cost, and best navigate their way out of debt.

This is just an initial list that I plan on returning to and revising over time.  Are there any jobs you wish were better solved that I’m missing? Any disagreements on the above? Would love to hear your thoughts!

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Looking for reading buddies

Reading is my favorite hobby – but this year, I’ve cut back the volume of books to allow myself more time to explore new hobbies, build my network here in Chicago, take on interesting projects (like this blog!) and create room for serendipity.

One activity I’d like to begin is having more discussions around the books I do read. I didn’t realize what a privilege it was to have group discussions with smart people who have read the same material in college, but I wish I had more of them nowadays. Having those conversations always forced me to examine the core arguments more closely, develop an opinion and weigh it against others’, and ultimately retain more knowledge. In short, I left the discussions smarter.

So I’d like to use this post to share some of the books I’m planning on reading this year, in the hope of finding someone (or multiple people) willing to read them along with me and discuss them. Most are related to startups or business, and the conversation can be in person (if you’re in Chicago), via email, or whatever other medium works best. Here’s the current list for 2015 (open to suggestions):

If you’re interested in reading / discussing any of these with me, send me a tweet and we’ll figure out the logistics. Hope to hear from you soon!

Allow me to introduce myself

I believe the most meaningful life pursuits are narrative driven.  At PGVC, we spend a lot of time trying to understand the narrative behind a space, company and team before we invest, and working with those entrepreneurs to continue to build that narrative. As such, I think it’s worth starting this blog with my own:

If you rewind the clock just 50 years, you’d find my mother and father living in remote villages in West Africa (Bansang, Gambia and Dzelukope, Ghana, respectively) with no running water or electricity.  Fast forwarding to today, I have the privilege of working at Pritzker Group Venture Capital with a great set of teammates and managing partners that are pillars in the Chicago community.  Getting to this point was no small thing – many risks were taken and sacrifices made.  I grew up hearing stories of landing in the US with $50, a single suitcase, and nothing else, having to forge a life in a country where you knew and had very little.  Stories of just scraping by (in my mom’s case, holding down two jobs while going to college) and, through the combination of hard work, the goodness of others, and many lucky breaks, realizing something close to the American dream. Though I’ve started from a more privileged foundation than my parents did, much of my own personal journey has been a continuation of those beginnings – trying to make progress and meaning through hard work, luck, and (hopefully) adding value along the way.

That narrative drives the primary reason why I enjoy venture.  I’m fascinated by the waves of technological and business model innovations, and think they have the chance to profoundly improve our ability to connect, share and work with one another. But ultimately, I empathize with what it’s like to carry the burden of venturing in new territory.  Of trying to create something of value with very few resources at your disposal – whether it be a company, a career, or a life. Of building upon the work of others to create meaning.

I’m excited by the dynamism of technology companies, and how they will reshape the way we work, interact, and progress – not only in the Valley, but in Bansang, Dzelukope, Chicago’s South Side (my current residence) and other places like them. Every day, I look forward to meeting with and learning from entrepreneurs, and figuring out how I can lend a hand in building their narrative, together.

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