Long story short - three things are happening right now which creates an enormous amount of opportunity for anyone to create a digital business (or two).
- The ongoing and parallel transition to a digitised and digitalised economy
So much of the world has turned digital and we see it everyday in the way that we buy clothes, order takeaway, book doctor appointments and yet so much opportunity still exists for new digital products and services - there are still restaurants without online ordering, bookings or websites 😲. This shift needs to be supported with products and services and helping organisations and individuals to do this is a great opportunity.
2. The lower barriers to entry to build digital businesses
Building a digital business has become easier due to the proliferation of tools, platforms and services that enable it. No-code and low-code tools in particular have enabled non-technical people to build digital products and services at a pace and scale previously out of reach. Importantly this means that profitable business models have been able to exist at a scale where previously they could not such as in geographic or product niches.
3. The pace of change that feeds disruption and generates ‘markets in the gaps’
Continued change and development not just with technology but an increasingly interconnected and globalised world means more dynamic relationships. This means the market is more likely to be in a state of enhanced volatility than equilibrium creating ‘gaps’ that are opportunities for people that recognise them. This can be anything from identifying a slow moving incumbent to operate in a new market channel or looking for geographies and industries that have lagged behind the digital adoption curve.
✨ Problems are opportunities
Now you might ask how do you identify the specific business ideas to pursue given the broader opportunity explained above? Well the key is to look for problems that can be solved well by digital solutions - emphasis on well because it captures whether the customer desires a digital solution and that a digital solution is possible. This means thinking about whether the three factors outlined above are at play by asking the following about the problem you’ve identified:
- Is there a digital solution to the problem?
- Can I build the digital solution?
- Is there a market need?
This can look very different depending on the type of problem you are looking at and the goals that you have. For example if you have a bias toward learning you may just want to build rather than analyse.
🛠 Worked example - Stayy
Stayy is a digital guidebook solution for vacation rentals that also has a ‘concierge’ feature that allows guests to order products and services during their stay such as take-home gift packs. The goal of the platform is to uplift the guest experience while increasing revenue for hosts - something I feel is a worthy mission given the strain the sector has been under.
⛔ Is there a problem?
The idea for Stayy was born out of frustration - having travelled to an Airbnb for a long weekend post lockdown (number 1) it became a little annoying to be thumbing through printed sheets that weren’t up to date and contradicted each other about the rules of the house and how to use certain appliances.
Reflecting on this a little later I realised that this was a pattern I’d seen in many vacation rentals alongside another problem I’d come across as a guest - easier ordering of breakfast hampers and the like when staying at high price point cabins. I saw these as a similar problem - the challenge of accessible and reliable information provision.
📱 Is there a digital solution?
Clearly the answer to this is yes. Not just is there a clear digital solution but there existed a peculiar circumstance that while there was a high penetration of digital booking channels such as Airbnb into the sector there was a low penetration of existing solutions to this problem. This points to a ‘gap’ in the market that I will explain.
💻 Can I build it?
The answer to this was also yes. By stepping back from wanting to create a fully automated platform otherwise known as a ‘Software as a Service’ or SaaS product for launch I was able to conceptualise a way to build my tool using no-code so that I could test my assumptions at a low cost (both time-wise and financially).
This involved a form that a host could submit (and update later if needed), a notification for me when it was submitted, and then a template on Carrd (a create no-code single page website builder) that I used and published changes to. It wasn’t pretty but it worked (actually I lie it looked quite nice but it was clunky).
🥺 Is there a market need?
Perhaps the most important part of this exercise from a business point of view is whether there is a market need for what you want to build (or have built). Working this out can be done in a range of ways (and is something you arguably need to keep testing as the market moves).
In terms of Stayy I had developed a hypothesis that there was relatively high digital uptake within the sector (vacation rentals) however the percentage of those rentals that were using the existing services for digital guidebooks was low due to the price and complexity of those offerings. In addition most of them did not offer the ‘store’ functionality that I thought would be helpful. This gave me a clear feature set and value prop to test with customers using the ‘alpha’ product I described above.
👀 They are everywhere
One thing that I have definitely learnt is that the problems that can become great opportunities are everywhere so your best course of action is to pick one that seems to be in a big enough market and start something. More often that not - just starting to research and try out new ideas will lead to more opportunities so go for it even if you reduce your hypothesis to the fact that you think the market itself is interesting - you can always launch a newsletter and see if the market agrees!