in Inspiration

Not sure what to work on next? Need some inspiration? I’ll be posting these startup ideas on a regular basis. My hope is that they’ll help you in some way, but I can’t guarantee their viability or success. You should do your own customer discovery on them and validate a market exists. I could be way off base, but hopefully you’ll discover another problem to be solved in the process.

A while back I met with a Stanley Vergilis of the eponymously-named Vergilis. He had created a college tutoring marketplace that allowed tutors to post availability and find gigs with a focus on easy scheduling of sessions and building trustworthy reputability. The thing was a hit and he was looking to take it to the next level. The most obvious way of doing this was to go horizontal. Mechanics, handymen, hair stylists, and a zillion other local service providers could all make use of such a service. It’s a hugely lucrative opportunity. But they’re going up against some well-funded startups like Zaarly and Internet mainstays like Craigslist. It’s a tough fight to pick, but I have a sneaking suspicion Stanley and his team can make it happen.

This got me thinking about other types of providers. There are many individuals that provide simple services that may not consider their work a full-time job. Maybe it’s someone that makes quick graphic designs or can provide beauty advice or knows how to translate text or makes silly videos with their webcam. These things can all be done online, and therein lies the core of the idea: create a marketplace for people to provide simple services online. Connect these individuals with potential business creates value for them and for you. Think about Etsy’s size and scope for the handmade goods market, but applied to service providers hidden everywhere in the world. These “micro entrepreneurs” are everywhere and simply need a platform to expose their talents to the world.

This might be considered similar to Amazon Mechanical Turk, but the main difference lies in the complexity of the tasks be performed and the requirement for some skill to exist. It may also be considered similar to TaskRabbit or Exec, but these kinds of services focus on in-person talent across a generalized set of tasks without a need for skill. Together, the biggest difference from both of these types of services is that this is a marketplace. The individual micro entrepreneur is in the spotlight versus being an anonymous drone (or “worker” as Mechanical Turk calls it). This is a key difference and what makes this kind of marketplace special.

Now, this idea isn’t unique or new. There are competitors to look out for. The largest and most obvious is Fiverr. Fiverr’s model is to offer services from their providers at a flat $5 fee (hence the name). This makes in the Twitter of this world, where everything has to fit into one limited box. And while this makes things simple for the purchaser, it also severely limits the scope of what services can be offered. The do offer the ability to add arbitrary “Gig Extras” to any offering, but the base cost will always be $5. What if you’re looking to offer quick web design services, or translate an entire application to multiple languages? Those are hardly $5 services, so this seems to me to be a ripe opportunity.

So, that’s the idea. I offer it freely and without any claim to ownership. Ideas are worth nothing, as is this one and the many others sitting inside my Evernote account. Execution is where there is value. But let me know if you like this idea or have thoughts on how to make it better. I have not done any customer discovery, so I’d be interested to learn the reality of the market. And if you are able to make it successful, make sure to save me a spot under the “bedroom DJ” and “part-time photographer” categories.

Leave a Reply

  1. I certainly like the idea. It encourages me to revisit/rethink a similar, but different idea. The idea that there are literally millions of skilled persons throughout the world who have time, certainly when they can be paid, to assist in developing ideas is absolutely true. When you need a specific “thing” done, and can’t take the time to learn it yourself, then find it.
    I like micro ideas of any type. Thanks for the idea.