Useful hard problems have easy elevator pitches

I have a new long-term goal for my entrepreneurial efforts (in addition to making something people want): I want to pursue opportunities where the elevator pitch can be explained to a non-technical person in 10 words or less, and ideally 5 words or less. A lot of startups can be explained to a non-technical person, and a lot of startups can be explained in 10 words or less, but it’s rare to have both. When you do, it’s often due to the fact that you’re solving a really hard problem that people are aware of, but no one has cracked yet. This filter immediately cuts out a large swath of startup opportunities that are really just solutions in search of a problem. Problems that are nuanced to explain are often problems that people are not aware that they have. Which is fine, but I wonder if most of those ideas are such that solutions either already exist or people aren’t aware that they have the problem because they don’t have the problem.

Below are a few examples of what I mean. The average person might not understand how these things work, but I think they’d understand what they are.

“Online bookstore with largest selection”

“Auction off your stuff, online”

“Instantly search the entire web”

“Orbital rocket launches at a fraction of the cost”

“Send money to anyone with an email address”

“Solar panels that are 10x as efficient”

And my personal favorite:

“These cars drive themselves.”

Do you really need more of an elevator pitch than that?