My friend Ben and I have a running joke. We frequently send each other links to stories or products that are making a ton of cash but doing something technically straight forward. We usually precede the link saying something like "Why do we think too much?: --place link here--". We have linked each other all sorts of products. A chrome plugin that sends you weekly emails of your boyfriends browsing history. Another one is this guy who makes more than Ten thousand dollars a month mailing mystery Japanese candy every month and this 16-year-old girl that has made 48 thousand pounds so far helping Chinese parents give their babies English names. You get the idea.
The problem we had is that we were under the illusion that having a great software business is directly proportional to having great or complex proprietary tech. That having the best programming skill, being at the cutting edge of technology and inventing the future was the only way to make an impact in the world. We usually disregarded ideas because someone else had done it. We wanted to be the first to invent something, not for the fame or fortune... as in we wouldn't mind it, but at a certain point we thought that was the only way to create value, being developers. A couple years ago ideas like building the best compression engine, working on artificial intelligence or a social network with more superior features than facebook to me was the way forward. They are... but they are not the only way.
Basecamp is popular for turning the theory that "advanced software is better" on its head over and over again. Considering they invented one of the most popular web development frameworks, they are technically savvy but they have decided to always make simple and under featured software compared to what is in the market. From their flagship product Basecamp to Breeze, which is a product for group emails or their spin-off company called Know Your Company, that basically allows CEO's to send out regular emails surveys to employees to get feedback about the company and many more products. They come up with solutions that would make an experienced developer scuff and say "is that it?". What's even more impressive is that they are quick to sell-off or spin-off these projects to keep their company simple... but I digress.
Ben and I saw the impact of simple solutions first hand when we started working for a software consultancy, where fortune 500 companies paid us tens of thousands to build very basic systems to solve what were very big problems for them. Value comes in different shapes and sizes. It is really easy to get tangled in the sport of inventing the future when trying to make a difference. People are "struggling" with basic things like trying to get Japanese candy or give their child an English name. People have challenges all around us that can be solved with just a little technology, some seem are so basic to a developer and this has been more evident while living in Nigeria. If you are like me, and code because you are interested in solving problems, you don't have to go as far as creating complicated systems like the next Page Rank or self-driving car technology to help people. There is probably something that sounds ridiculous right under your nose that people will pay a lot of money for you to help them solve.