Inspired by Elad Gil’s post, here are products that I wish existed, and that I’d pay money for, small business edition. I follow Elad, and read his post, but if you’re in the same boat as me, you’re just not interested in building a “New social network” (Elad’s Product #2). You’re possibly interested in the stuff that gets labelled “lifestyle business” by others. I hate that name.
If you’re looking for a set of moonshot ideas, this isn’t for you. Instead, I want to put the spotlight on a few products you could probably build alone or with a friend during a hackathon or a week off, ideas you can instantly monetize, but products that will probably never make you a billionaire (sorry).
One thing you’ll realize: These things are niche. You might even think that nobody is going to want this. That’s where the secret is: I would pay for it. There are probably hundreds or thousands of people like me, so there’s your market. This also means that some of these might not make any sense to you, and that’s fine. Let’s get into it.
(1) Modular SaaS Toolkit
If you’ve built more than one SaaS (mainly talking to product builders and studios), you will start to realize that the process of building these standard SaaS components will take you more time than building the core functionality in the beginning.
This might be a no-code thing, but much rather I’d see a flexible framework which allows product teams and studios to get these things perfect out of the box. I want the billing screen connected to Stripe, I want that coupled with all elements on the landing page. I’d like to never touch code on an authentication system again or look for a good referral solution.
Given that all these components already exist, just take them, perfect them and package them in a single app.
(2) A proper code marketplace w/ license
It never made sense to me how acceptable it was to sell Wordpress plugins (a bunch of PHP files) in the high $10s, but doing the same with a helpful python script or some complex C++ code is a total no-go.
As someone working with Django – a framework that has been around for over a decade – I get annoyed by all the zombie code sitting on GitHub. If I could pay an annual license for a really, really good blogging, e-commerce or forum package, I’d do it (because those are two things I ended up maintaining myself).
Marketplaces are hard, but for this one the supply side shouldn’t be a problem (plenty of small teams have plenty of re-usable code that they could make money with). What’s left to figure out is whether you can properly license that code. What happens if somebody puts it on GitHub?
(3) APIs for Carbon Offset
A trend I saw in 2019 was to implement carbon offset charges, even in small businesses. People started donating based on revenue during a promotion, or planted a tree for every $10 they made. A good initiative!
When I tried to do the same, I had to learn that most businesses just count together the revenue, then send the money to a charity or organization. All manual, no magic.
I’d like to see a set of APIs that let me offset some carbon ($0.10), plant a tree ($1.00) or contribute towards purchasing a piece of forest ($5.00). You might find an organization that works with you here, or might just need to count all the money together once per week and make a donation. For the end user, it should feel like magic.
(4) News of the people
Looking back, I’ve found that the things that really move people show up as Twitter Trends first. This is the place where I learn about the latest natural disaster, an active shooting or more often than not, the birthday of a K-Pop idol.
Twitter is still mainstream, and things need their time and scale to break through. You should be able to apply the same principles to smaller, weirder corners on the internet. Your site could break the news about the Jeffrey Epstein “suicide” as the very first page before it makes its way into mainstream.
If you’d be the first one that breaks the news that people care about and not the media, you’re sitting on a goldmine of subscription opportunities.
(5) A niche HackerNews generator
Earlier this year I was looking for this and didn’t find an adequate solution. I believe that the Reddit-/HN-way of leading a community is quite productive. As the connection between a chat and a forum, it provides the perfect mix between a casual exchange and productive discussions.
The problem? It’s easy to implement, but it takes time, and there’s no really good solution besides just creating a subreddit. For everyone who would like to stay in control of their user data and platform, it’s a little difficult.
If you can pull of a SaaS that let’s you generate niche-specific Subreddit/HN/IndieHacker-style forums with an attractive free plan and scale-based pricing (and possibly a self-hosted solution?), you will capture a ton of the medium-sized communities currently trying to fight their way through Slack/Telegram/Discourse/Discord/Reddit.
(6) Courses in X for Y
A decade or so ago, people started realizing that every single idea on the internet has been done before. What started was a trend towards hyper-niching. Nowadays, you can find very specific blogs on Labrador Training raking in 200,000 monthly users, but if you’d start a “Dog Training” site today, you would never get to that point.
The same thing is happening to online courses. It’s so easy to make an online course (caution with that word, it’s technically easy but obviously there is a lot of demanding work involved to make it good), that there is one for seemingly any topic.
One niche that isn’t served enough in my opinion are specialized courses for a specific target audience. A Sketch masterclass for programmers should be entirely different than a Sketch course for senior citizens. A “Facetune for Gen Z” course has a different tone from a “Facetune for Moms on Facebook” course. You get the gist.
Whether you build the new Udemy for specialized courses, or simply start to build digital marketing courses for specific core audiences is up to you, but there’s an opportunity there.
(7) Local Communities for “Solo-Workers”
This one sounds ambitious, but I’ve seen several people go through the process of this now, and while it takes some upfront investment (a couple $1,000s) and a bit of courage to do something physical, it’s also a pretty safe way to make a return.
Solo-workers are the present and the future. I’d say if you’re in your 20s and don’t know anybody who works alone by (1) working remotely (2) being a freelancer or (3) being self-employed, you’re probably the exception. The traditional view of a workplace is changing, and more and more people are becoming their own managers.
The sad truth: Coworking spaces did not keep up with that, and with the desire to speak to some other humans, those damn millenials are filling up coffee shops, work from libraries or meet online.
Even in horribly expensive Zurich, you can get a small temporary office space for around $500/mo. A flex co-working pass (1-2 days per week) goes for around $150/mo here, and I assume that prices scale up or down accordingly elsewhere.
Build a chill place with $1,000 worth of furniture and amenities, put another 500 into local out-of-home marketing and be selective about who gets in (you want this to be a safe space). I’m pretty certain that you can get 25 people (~5 per workday) to pay $100/mo for access to a social – but not forced – workspace with a proper coffee machine, good internet, great people and a safe work environment. Scale from there.
(8) Expert gig workers
The term “gig workers” was coined by Uber drivers, delivery people, couriers and data labellers. But the term should go further and also include “experts” of their industry, and if you have the background, you can build a very niche platform around it.
What I do at MentorCruise falls into that category, what Growthmentor and Codementor do is similar: Providing casual, cheap access to experts. It’s not all about careers though: What would I give right now for someone to hop on a 30 minute call for $50 to give me some business law advice. I wish I could plan my week’s diet with a professional cook or nutrition student – 15mins for $30? Sure!
You have the advantage that people always like to make some extra money – the less strings attached the better. Would you not take a 15 minute call, talk to somebody and get your dinner paid for it? If you can easily give people access to an expert for little money, that’s a great opportunity.