The Vitamins-and-Painkillers Metaphor and Why It Is Wrong

In the world of startups and MVPs, you’ll often hear the question “Is your start-up a vitamin pill or a painkiller?” The argument goes that whatever you’re working on should alleviate a real world pain, thus it should be a painkiller, rather than a less effective vitamin. That metaphor, however, if fundamentally flawed and shallow.

Just like a lot of start-ups, painkillers do not treat the cause, but the effect. They don’t really solve a problem, they just hide it – creating undesired side-effects in the process. And even some of the most successful startups don’t really improve the quality of our lives. Most just attempt riding the wave of trend and hype to reach the next round of financing or the mirage of that big, fat exit paycheck.

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