So social commerce has a high-profile fail; the shop-and-share service Blippy, valued last year at $46m with $13m funding, is headed to the dead-pool – at least in its current incarnation.

People it would seem, didn’t want to post their credit card purchases to their social networks.  Neither did they want to post reviews.  The TechCrunch post-mortem includes some honest and candid comments from Blippy CEO Ashvin Kumar – well worth a read.

It’s a welcome ‘get-real’ time for social commerce.

The problem with Blippy is that it didn’t solve a problem.

Why is this important?  Well, the human mind is essentially a problem-solving machine; you can’t engage brains – and therefore their owners – unless you solve a pressing problem they are experiencing.  That unresolved problem is not necessarily a functional problem – indeed most of our most intractable problems are emotional in nature.  But problems are the keyholes to the mind,  and solutions are the keys: Our brains are only open to innovations that solve pressing problems.  Blippy was a solution without a problem.

The best illustration of the critical importance of a problem focus in business is a wondrous fact we discovered from cognitive philosopher Dan Dennett discussing the lowly sea squirt in Consciousness Explained.  The sea squirt is a tiny marine creature with just one problem in life – it needs to find a home.  So it swims around searching for a solution until it finally finds a home – a crevice on a suitable rock, and then settles down and proceeds to eat its own brain!  Why? Because it has no more problems, and thus it no longer needs a brain.  You may think something similar happened to your boss when they installed themselves in their new office…

The point is that brains are there to solve problems, and unless you solve a problem, brains and their owners will ignore you.

For social commerce to work, you need to engage peoples’ brains, and in order to engage their brains you need to solve peoples’ problems.  Blippy was cool, but it did not solve any unresolved problems.  So to survive and thrive, forget the technology and Cherchez Le Problème (and adopt the sea squirt as your mascot).

Sea Squirt

The illustrious sea-squirt reminding us of the need to solve problems, or go home… (for more wondrous sea squirt photos see photographer Jan Messersmith).