How to Hunt a Problem

Action Items to explore a target audience to find pain points and opportunities to provide value. The starting point for a great startup idea.

By now, we all know the advice: to build a successful startup, solve someone's problems. Don't build something and then try to find someone it could help, rather start with a problem in the market and then build a solution for it.

That's great advice but still leaves open: HOW do you find or identify pain points in the market to solve? Of course you can "keep your ears to the ground" and hope to stumble on one of these problems, but if you want to hunt these problems more actively, what can you do?

Here are 6 concrete action items you can take to accelerate your hunt for a problem to solve.

Narrow Your Focus

First, it helps to narrow your focus to a specific audience. Whose problems do you want to be solving? Who do you want to be your future customers? You can of course run these action items for multiple audiences. If you haven't identified your audience yet, here's one of my favorite videos on the topic

Find What's Already Written

People do like to complain. They post about pain points both to vent, and to get help finding solutions. Quora, Reddit, Twitter are all great places to explore to find these types of posts.

There are also some great tools that can automate the work of loking through endless posts to to find relevant info. Indiepulse and GummySearch amongst them.

Run a Poll

Whether on Twitter or Facebook Groups, these can be an underestimated source of insight. Brainstorm a few pain points you already know about, and let the crowd confirm or expand on it. For example:

What's the hardest part about marketing as an indiedev?

  • coming up with a marketing strategy
  • no budget to run ads
  • consistently coming up with content ideas
  • something else (comment below!)

If you donโ€™t have enough reach on Twitter yet? you can spend like $20 to boost the reach of your poll. This is not going to drop a brilliant startup idea into your lap, but it WILL help identify different directions to explore, and perhaps create some warm leads for deeper conversations.

Lead a Workshop

I went to a Startup meetup in Bali and met a pair of founders using this tactic:

They knew they wanted to bring some value to the Real Estate industry. But what are the opportunities there? So they set up a few free workshops: "Using AI To Boost Your Real Estate Business". Here they simply coached real estate agents about the various AI tools already in the market (sometimes as developers we forget most people are not as familiar with the latest tech as we are).

They set themselves up as experts on the tech side, and the Real Estate small businesses that came to the workshops naturally brought their questions and painpoints!

Cold Outreach and User Interviews

Do NOT underestimate cold outreach. If you haven't read The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick, do it now! It's one of those books I wish I read sooner on my indie hacker journey (even after having consumed an unhealthy amount of youtube videos, tweets, and articles about indie hacking)

Here are some quick insights from Chapter 6:

When you are just exploring the space hunting for a problem, your reply rate is irrelevant. Even if you only get one response, you got a response! So do the work and send out 100 cold emails!

Here's a template for a message you can send:

Hey Scott (that's me, but change the name appropriately)

I 'm bootstrapping a startup trying to make marketing easier for indiehackers. We're having some trouble identifying which are the MOST critical pain points in this area for indiehackers. You've been posting a lot of great stuff on Twitter (oh thanks, that's nice of you to say!) and I think you could really help point us in the right direction.

Can you spare 15 minutes sometime next week for a quick chat?

For more details on WHY this is a good template, seriously go read the book.


Another great way to find which problems your audience is ALREADY paying to solve, is to look for existing competitors in the market. A simple approach would be to ask ChatGPT, or go the more powerful route of something like Validate My Saas (thanks for being here :P )

Once you have identified the most successful products serving your target audience, you can look through Trust Pilot, G2 or other sources of reviews to see what the market doesn't like about these solutions. Or of course you can let Validate My Saas do that for you ๐Ÿ˜‰


There you have it, 6 direct actions you can take to better understand the needs of the market you're looking to serve. If these were helpful, you have suggestions for a 7th, or just want some feedback from a fellow founder about your startup, don't be shy.

Happy hunting ๐Ÿค˜