You no longer have to be a hacker to start a company. You can win through design rather than technology.
This past week Fast Co. released their list of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies. Reading through the list of company profiles has given us renewed energy about the ways design shapes and positively influences a company.
The fact that many of these founders cite design as crucial to their success speaks to the changing mentality of the startup world. Airbnb, number three in the Web / Internet industry, is a great example. Co-founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, who both have design degrees in graphic design and industrial design from the Rhode Island School of Design, initially experienced resistance from backers. Fast Co. writes:
“Investors found their design backgrounds jarring, even though the two had teamed up with a third cofounder, Nate Blecharczyk, who had a solid tech background. ‘They thought we just made things pretty,” says Chesky, who was told repeatedly,” ‘Really great teams have engineers and maybe a businessperson.’ “Incredulous, they’d ask Gebbia and Chesky, “You have two designers?”
The response has changed from incredulous to approving. Startups want designers on board because they’ve seen the success of companies like Airbnb, Flipboard, and Instagram. Y Combinator founder Paul Graham says, “You no longer have to be a hacker to start a company. You can win through design rather than technology.”
Beyond talented teams and great design, products have to solve problems. Many of these companies evolved from problems that the founders experienced themselves. Chesky was visiting Gebbia in San Francisco and couldn’t find an available hotel room. He pulled out an air mattress and the idea for Airbnb was born. Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter took on the challenge of providing a “real-time grid of what real people are doing every minute all over the world.” We’re now a better connected world because of it. As the CEO and founder of Square, the minimally designed card reader that allows anyone to accept credit or debit card payments, Dorsey is now changing the way we do business.
We recommend reading through the list to learn more about these companies and the problems they solve that make our lives better. It will inspire you to make something meaningful.