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March 20, 2008



There is a third category of product that lot of the current crop of startups fall under - it's called "booze". Not solve any real pain nor are truly helpful but instead are just "feel good and get high" type of offerings. When the industry starts churning plentitude of of booze and vitamin products, you can rest assured that the boom is on and the bubble is approaching.

that said, booze products do make profitable exits, some of them are quite astronomical. that ensures that the VC money in these startups keeps flowing. Everyone loves to get drunk, so why not!

Chris Dodge

Good post Don. It's always good to re-hear the "Vitamin vs. Pain Killer" discussion.

I see that you listed "collaboration applications" as an inherent Vitamin since it is a tool by definition.

Looking back at your time in Sales at Groove Networks, how to do think that product fared in this Litmus test? Was it a valuable stand-alone product, or something that really is destined to be some features inside Outlook/Exchange?

If you feel that it was ultimately a Vitamin, would there have been a way to make that product a pain killer? Additional features? Specific verticalizations of that base product?

Thanks again for the post and any analysis. It's always good to look at these abstract guidelines against specific experiences and products.

- Chris

Charles Hudson

Don - very timely post. I wrote something similar about Money 2.0 start-ups about a week ago. You can check it out here - http://www.charleshudson.net/?p=445.

Scott Quick

Nailed it again, Don. See my post on Enterprise RSS here: http://www.scottquick.com/ignite/enterprise-rss-the-top-ten-things-i-want.html

Julien W

Nice post (again), Don. A bit late to comment but I was going through your past posts.

I very much like the 3 questions but I would argue that they fit well in a given paradigm or "state of the world". Let's take Social Networks, I'm not sure they would have passed the first question. At the time consumers did not feel the pain of not having Facebook or MySpace or alike because it was not part of social habits to be constantly connected with friends. These products have created an unexpressed need (which at best was a vitamin at the time) and have changed the social habits (hence became a pain killer afterwards).


Vladimir Blagojevic

Thank you for the clear description of pain vs. vitamin. Very insightful examples.

When we started with our product, we wanted to improve “collaboration”: a vitamin, not a pain killer. In the meantime, we discovered a real pain: the coordinator of a consortium spends a median of 60 working days chasing everyone and assembling input.

What's really cool, is startups today have a way to go out and validate if they are building a vitamin or a pain killer. Here's a couple of thoughts on the subject: http://blog.launched.be/2012/01/why-bother-talking-to-customers.

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