Unvalidated Ideas #008
This is Unvalidated Ideas - a newsletter for SaaS/Startup ideas waiting for market validation.
Try out these ideas:
- FairTags: Second hand AirTags (Tier: A)
- License Pricing Dataset (Tier: B)
- Camera Feed anomaly detection (Tier: A)
FairTags: Second hand AirTags (Tier: A)
Apple AirTags are a killer product, even if they aren't quite unique. Every individual AirTag costs about $30 USD and is extremely convenient for tracking items that often go missing. AirTags were released in 2021 and they're bound to have a bright future - it feels safe to expect more integration with Apple platforms (iOS/MacOS/iPadOS/watchOS) as time goes on.
What if I told you there was a place where you could consistently find refurbished AirTags for $20 instead of the usual $30? Well I'd be lying, because there isn't, but that's why this newsletter is here.
AirTags are light (crucial for businesses that rely on shipping), easy to package, and easy to work with. While you may not necessarily get much support from the Genius Bar, being the go-to source for second hand AirTags would be pretty easy, and would get even easier with every improvement to the product and platforms.
You can go with a more hands off approach (simply facilitating the deal between a buyer and a seller), or you could serve as a midway point for the AirTags (quality check, ensuring they are reset/unpaired, etc) before shipping on the AirTag to it's new owner.
Serving as a midway point might be best because you could ensure the device is locked and unlocked at different point (this requires the seller to take a leap of faith in mailing their AirTag to you).
While you're at it, why not sell some Tile goods and help erode some of Apple's monopoly power? This isn't a political newsletter so how you feel about that is up to you.
Read my raw notes >
NOTE The 2 trillion dollar elephant in the room is still there -- if Apple ever makes it possible to purchase used AirTags from the store for a discount, you're hosed. I think you're somewhat safe from this eventuality though, Apple's got bigger fish to fry.
There's also some opportunity of partnering with Apple to become an authorized reseller or even a recycling destination for AirTags (they'll probably save quite a bit of money having you sell them rather than responsibly disposing of them).
License Pricing Dataset (Tier: B)
Enterprise companies buy enterprise licenses, and most of them have little idea what the enterprise next to them is paying... I bet they'd pay for an upper hand in the negotiating process by knowing where the price floor is, or some automated negotiation on their behalf.
This is pretty much a no brainer: Glassdoor (back when it was good, and focused on salaries) for enterprise purchasing and procurement. It's so much of a no-brainer that tons of people have already done it, so this idea isn't quite "unvalidated".
So where's the alpha/profit? Niching down could be the answer -- modern tech startups care very much about software licensing in particular, and that niche is worth selling to with an ultra specialized but simple to understand brand. Help them get software (and often deals with other startups) for cheaper and they'll come back for more.
You know how YC companies very often sell their services to other YC companies? Make a cool club like that, without the accelerator.
No need to ignore the other companies in the procurement space though -- they basically already have this information (they know what their clients and others are paying), and leverage it to their advantage. Look for ways to do one of the following:
- Provide procurement or procurement-adjacent services to businesses
- Sell software and possibly data/analysis to existing procurement platforms
Either of these would be extremely profitable niches -- serving to keep the markets efficient.
Read my raw notes >
NOTE I rate this idea a B mostly because the market is quite crowded -- there are a bunch of other startups that have realized this is a good idea, though there are fewer that focus especially on software licenses.
Another great angle to this idea is making this information available so companies know what to charge (though to be fair, a little bit of competitor research would uncover that).
Camera feed anomaly detection (Tier: A)
More and more of the world is using more and more cameras. Homes, schools, businesses, and hobbyists use cameras to record what's happening in their lives. We won't get into the repercussions of such a trend, but what I can say is that the amount of data this is generating is enormous, and people don't want the data, they want the insight.
Generating data is all well and good, but quite obviously, generating data and generating insight are two very different things. This is why the data analyst/data engineer/data science roles exist and are growing rapidly -- just having lots of data does not make you smart, nor does it make you or your business more effective (unless you're a data repository company).
Let me get to the point(s) a bit quicker:
- More and more people are pointing cameras at things
- What people actually want to know is when something moves or when recognizable objects enter view
- People will pay for solutions that turn video feeds into notifications or actionable insight with no muss or fuss
- Integrate with Zapier and IFTTT, and you don't have to build the alerting/action runtime!
Great integrations and good UX for use cases is key. It's fairly easy to hack together a version of this idea with the heavy lifting outsourced to a cloud vision/image recognition API. The hard part is making a truly easy experience for setting it all up.
It probably won't be economical to outsource the detection (vs. building/running anomaly detection yourself), but worrying only about great UX and drop-dead easy integration will absolutely be more valuable versus building the backend yourself as well. A few points:
- If you want to sell to consumers first, you'll have to make your solution take nearly zero work to set up
- A new user should be able to buy some random IP camera online, sign up for your service, get tailored instructions for them (or even better, download a program that configures everything for them as long as the camera is on the network/hooked up)
- If you want to sell to Enterprise first, run a business model like Snowflake, control over the infrastructure might be more important than zero work.
- They probably won't want to push their data outside their cloud (security/cost)
Just a bit more on the consumer side -- Ring has features like motion detection, and your job will be to make something better and maybe even white-label your solution and sell that.
One of the great things about this solution is that the enterprise solution and the customer solution are extremely similar. Two very different markets, a largely similar product that has very little active interaction and UX design/churn needs.
Read my raw notes >
A forum in the future?
I have to come clean -- I hate the recent trend of community building via slacks, discords, and just about all forms of give-it-to-me-now communication. Async interaction allows for more thoughtful discourse, less fatigue and for people to interact at their own pace.
Good forums were (and still are) a great place to ask questions, share expertise, poke fun, grow as an entrepreneur (or as a person), and build lasting connections. Too many people don't remember or never experienced how awesome it was to be part of an established forum with high quality contributions, good members, shared community/lore, and high quality persistent conversation.
With that lengthy preamble you know what's coming -- I think a forum for the people who like this newsletter would be great. A thread for every newsletter edition would be interesting, I think -- a great place to discuss ideas. I want it to be the kind of place you check in for 30 minutes a day, get caught up, then don't open for the rest of the day, and I think forums are great at that.
Unfortunately I don't have gobs of moderation experience so I'm sure that part will be lacking early on. In general I'd probably try and followin HN's footsteps -- dang is one of the best moderators I've ever seen, simply emulating him wouldn't be a bad idea.
I want to build a different kind of community than the "build in public" crowd does. We'd celebrate shipping just as much (of course, because eventually you do have to validate/ship!), but with none of the cool-kids-in-high-school energy. It's tempting to think of it as a "builders in private" community.
Hate this idea? Speak now or forever hold your peace. I have no idea when this will actually happen (remember that rubric I promised?), but I think it'd be fascinating to see who turns up and what the community ends up being like.
This newsletter seeks to inspire, but don't forget zero to one is never easy.
Startups are hard -- remember 90%+ percent of them are failures. People usually don't try things that have a 90% chance of failing, and they live their lives happily ever after.
The group of people who are willing to take on the risk and try anyway is small -- I'm assuming you're one of those people.
After you start executing on an idea and zero people click on the prospecting page you've thrown up, or respond to your emails, or take your calls, don't be discouraged (yet)!
Going from zero to one is hard. As this financial downturn deepens or changes, if you have to take a "regular" job to fund the war-chest and try again later, do it and stack up that energy for when you can try again.
That's the thing about shots on goal -- eventually one will go in, or you'll run out of time. Making sure you can still play is all that matters until it goes in.
Thanks for reading! If you liked this newsletter, forward it to your friend(s) that waste the most time on HackerNews/ProductHunt/IndieHackers.
If you have feedback that can make this list better, please shoot me an email -- I'd love to hear from you.
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