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December 9, 2010

10 Great Businesses to Start in 2011

Do you want to start a new business but don’t have any great ideas? Well, that’s great, because I have too many ideas but not enough time to start a business for each idea I have. So, in this blog post I’ll share 10 great startup ideas. Just so you know, this is not a list of “leftover” ideas that I’m giving away because I don’t believe in them; I’d start these businesses myself in a blink if I had the time. Unfortunately, I’m involved in five startups at the moment, so these ideas are for you to take. If you start any of these businesses, let me know. I’ll be your first customer.

A Service that Allows Hotels and Airlines to Sell their Empty Rooms/Seats

The Problem: The cost of flying a plane from Denver to New York is almost the same whether the plane is full or there’s only one passenger on it. If an airline gets $50 for a seat that was selling for $200 the night before, it’s not great for them, but it’s a lot better than not getting anything. Same thing for hotels: every night that a hotel has an empty room, that’s money that they’re leaving on the table.

The Solution: What if there was a service that allowed people to place bids on hotel rooms and flights? Airlines and hotels could secretly accept the bids at the last minute. For example, let’s say I want to go to Europe for a month. I’m willing to pay $200 for a one-way ticket and I require a 4-hour minimum notice from the airline. Airplanes leave to Europe with empty seats every day. The first airline willing to take my money would get it. The key here is to allow the airlines and hotels to accept bids secretly. After all, if you paid $300 for a flight, you wouldn’t like knowing that the guy next to you paid only $50.

This service should be offered online and also through mobile phone apps, because most travelers use their mobile devices a lot while traveling.

A Smart Parking Assistant

The Problem: If you live in a big city, parking is probably a big problem for you. Finding an empty spot is probably very difficult and chances are you don’t always have enough coins to pay for parking. And, even if you did, who likes walking half a block to the meter, getting the receipt and then walking back to their car to put the receipt in it?

The Solution: An app that you can install on your GPS device or your Smart Phone (iPhone, Android, etc.) that:

Finds empty parking spots and tells you where they are so you don’t have to drive around in circles until you find an empty spot.

Uses BlueTooth technology or your phone’s Internet connection to send your payment information to a central server that collects your payment and lets the city know your parking spot has been paid for.

Cool iPhone App to Buy Products from Affiliates

In case you don’t know what affiliate marketing is, it’s when a business pays their partners a commission for every sale they help them make. has a great affiliate program. What if you developed a really cool iPhone app that makes the experience of buying books on your phone a lot more enjoyable? You could use your affiliate link so every time someone buys a book from Amazon using your app, Amazon will pay you a commission. The best part? You’ll get paid during the lifetime of that customer, not just once. This would probably make you a lot of money even if only 1,000 people used your app. And, don’t limit yourself to Amazon! There are a lot of great companies that offer affiliate programs!

The key? Include a sharing component in your app so the users can share the items they buy on Facebook and Twitter so their friends can see them. This is a great way to get this app to go viral!

Video Content Indexing Service

The Problem: Let’s say you’re searching for a video about “growing yellow tomatoes.” There’s a guy in a video who mentions that exact same phrase: “growing yellow tomatoes,” but he called the video “Gardening Tips” and “growing yellow tomatoes” is nowhere to be found in the video title, the description or the tags. Because YouTube doesn’t automatically transcribe videos, you won’t be able to find the yellow tomatoes video, even though that’s exactly what you’re looking for.

The Solution: A technology that converts spoken audio into indexable text. You could license or sell this technology to YouTube or their competitors, or charge companies to automatically add captions to any video. Even better: once an audio file has been converted into text, a translation engine can translate the content to several languages! And a text-to-speech engine could covert that Japanese text into Japanese audio! Imagine recording a video about gardening that gets automatically translated into Japanese!

A Tool for Remote Collaboration

The Problem: More and more people are working from their homes. This is great! They don’t have to commute to work, they can eat healthier at home and spend more time with their families. There’s a problem, though. Communicating with co-workers and clients over the phone and by email isn’t as effective as communicating in person.

The Solution: A web app that emulates in-person interaction. It would allow you to:

Draw on a piece of paper that you and the rest of your team are looking at the same time.

See each other’s faces (because so much is said with body language).

See each other’s computer’s screens (and, everybody should be able to work together on one screen, too).

Real-time voice and text translation, as more and more companies have branches, employees and contractors overseas.

I’ve seen some OK collaboration tools out there, but, in my opinion, nothing comes even close to resembling the experience of in-person interaction so far.

Service that Offers You Discounts on What You’re About to Buy

We all hate spammers. They flood us with offers for products we don’t even want. But, what if when you’re about to check out at the grocery store you were offered a $20 coupon for the purchase you’re about to make? What if when you’re about to buy a pair of Nike shoes online this service alerted you that you can get the same pair for $10 less on some other site? Even better, what if this software asked you a few questions and learned from your behavior so it could offer you discounts on the things you buy every day instead of things you don’t need
or want? Who doesn’t like paying less for things we buy every day? What we hate are offers for things we don’t want.

Online Grocery Shopping

Imagine if your grocery store offered to buy your groceries online. You could order the same stuff you ordered last time (if you always buy the same stuff). You could search by keyword or browse categories. You could set up auto-purchases for certain items you need every week and get the orders delivered whenever it’s convenient for you. The engine should make relevant recommendations, such as, “You’re buying cereal, do you want to add milk?” or “Three months ago you bought a tooth brush. Do you need a new one?”

I’m actually surprised that the main grocery stores aren’t offering this service already. You can buy anything you want online, so why not groceries from your favorite grocery store?

Other Ideas

People are a lot more conscious about what they eat than they were 10 years ago. A lot of people would only eat organic products if they were more affordable, but organic products are usually twice as expensive as their non-organic counterparts. Companies offering organic products at competitive prices are going to make a lot of money.

When your car breaks, towing it costs a fortune and you don’t have a car for a couple of days. What if a car repair shop picked up your car for free, gave you a car to drive while they fixed yours and then brought your fixed car back to you?

Posting photos and videos to a blog is very time-consuming. I just came back from a roadtrip and had hundreds of photos and videos. I wish I had software that could browse through my phone, upload all my content to the web and post it to my blog automatically.

As you can see, I wish all these things existed so I COULD USE THEM. The best businesses start this way. Someone wishes something were done differently and a new product or service is born. These people usually do a really good job because they understand the pain and know what the perfect solution would look like. I love technology, so most of my business ideas are technology-related, but if you’re a baker or a mailman, maybe you can think of a better/cheaper/more effective way to bake bread or deliver mail.

So, what do you think? Do some of these ideas already exist? Which of these ideas do you like the best? Which of these do you think won’t work? Why?

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12 Responses to “10 Great Businesses to Start in 2011

    avatar Jacqui says:

    Some good ones true, but aren’t they a littel late? Grocery shopping online has been available for a few years.

    Bidding for last minute travel? How would secret acceptance work? If I’m sat next to osmeone who’s only paid $50 to my $200 and he tells me…….

    avatar Gary says:

    Some interesting ideas… However, a few of them already exist.,,

    avatar The Biz Guru says:

    With respect to the shopping people in the UK can already do that with Tescos, Sainsbury’s and Asda. In fact not only that but you can find a great recipe on Teso’s web site and then get all the ingrediants put into your basket. Also it remembers all your past purchases online and off line (via your Tesco Clubcard) and puts them in your favourites. Then some kind person brings your groceries into your kitchen and leaves them on the counter for you to put away. Seems we have great online service in the UK grocery field!

    avatar marina says:

    Good ideas, but a lot of them already exist.

    Almost all IM clients have voice and video. Some also have a whiteboard that you can draw on, and the people you’re talking to can both see it and add to it.

    There are many remote desktop viewing aplications out there too. The only difference I see in your idea is that it puts it together with the IM part, but I don’t see the need for seeing each other’s screens. People rarely even do that in offices.

    and dropbox is great for sharing files between different computers.

    For online groceries, in my region, there’s grocery gateway, and mr. case. There are others in other places.

    For hotel/flight discounts, there’s priceline and I think some hotel chains also independantly sell their empty rooms at discounts on their website.

    avatar MH says:

    As already mentioned a few of the above ideas already exist. I like the mobile app for affiliate marketing idea. It also may already exist, but I like ideas that incorporate mobile devices with everyday tasks. More and more people use their smart phones for everything. This is the biggest market, especially now that android is out.

    Aspira works in the fields of online CEUs for MFT continuing education, online CEUs for Social Worker continuing education, online CEUs for Professional Counselor continuing education, and online CEUs for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselor continuing education

    avatar Kimberly says:

    Fun article, but yeah, a lot of this stuff exists already.

    There is an app that finds parking spots. In France. ; )

    Some good ideas thank you

    avatar kevin says:

    If the product already exists it is a wonderful opportunity to improve on it. That’s business.

    avatar Bob Nathanson says:

    Let me tell you about an in-home shopping business that we had about 10 years ago in MA. It was in other locations and growing quickly, too.

    It was called ShopLink, and is now out of business due to the owner grabbing all the money and running. I know this because I was a Deputy Sheriff at the time, and I served the summonses, etc. to the company headquarters in Westwood, MA!
    Here’s alink announcing the dark day!

    To place your order, you would sit at your comp and shop in a virtual supermarket. You could even set up ‘shopping lists’ in the program for repeat items.
    The order would be filled on the morning of the delivery day, twice a week in some places.
    The boxed, canned, bagged products were collected at a local wholesale warehouse; NOT your local supermarket or Costco or others like that, the the warehouses where THEY got their stuff.
    The produce was selected and packaged at a produce wholesale terminal, much like a farmer’s market.
    The meats, poultry and fish were selected at a butchery and fishmongers wholesale warehouse near the slaughterhouse and fishing docks.

    All the collected items were delivered to the local ShopLink distribution center by ShopLink’s own trucks and drivers where they were set up for delivery to your address.

    Most of the order was delivered in a big plastic container (I still have a couple of them). Those items that required cooling were delivered in a box that was insulated with styrofoam and chiller-packs. If the item required being frozen, dry ice was included.

    You could even rent refrigerators and/or freezers to be at your home for extra storage!

    The driver would deliver the boxes to your door, and would even bring them inside if you asked nicely. If you weren’t home at delivery time, the boxes were left at your door, and could be locked and/or secured with a cable, if you supplied it.

    Now, the regular packaged items were all brand names, the produce was mostly farm-stand quality, and the meats, etc. were all high-grade. Beef was ‘Prime’ cut!

    They bought baked goods from ‘preferred local vendors’ whose quality and choices were AMAZING!

    You could buy prepared foods/meals made at ‘preferred vendors’ too, and the several we tried were EXCELLENT!

    Now, here’s the most amazing part of it all!

    Billing was by credit card, and the service cost was around $20/mo.!!!
    …and NO TIPPING the delivery drivers!

    Oh, and if you EVER had any problem with something. they would send a company courier to your home that day with a replacement, or to pick up something that was delivered ‘spoiled’ and replace that item at NO COST, and remove the original charge off your bill for your trouble!

    We once got a corned beef that was almost all fat, so we called, and they delivered another one that was bigger by almost half than the original, and it was BEAUTIFUL! We did have to wait until the next day to cook it, though.

    Also dry cleaning, fresh flowers, shoe repair, photo film processing (before digital cameras were popular), and more were available to customers!

    Yes, we miss ShopLink TERRIBLY!

    Come on, some enterprising multi-millionaire! Start ShopLink up again here in Southern Florida! We HATE shopping, and don’t like having to go to Publix every week!

    avatar Mark A says:

    As people have said many of these ideas are not revolutionary but the article makes you think around the theme so is usefull.
    Thank you

    avatar Lorenzo says:

    Hi, love reading your emails and found this one extremely interesting. As others have already mentioned a lot of the ideas exist in some similar way or another. We have a website which allows accommodation providers to accept bids from travellers. We tend to work more with smaller b&bs aand hotels rather then large chains which is what we were hoping for.

    More emails like this one would be great!


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