3 ways to spot Startup opportunities

Our story thus far..

I left employment back in 07 to do an MBA in Entrepreneurship with the UK’s Top Entrepreneurial University. I loved every MBA minute. When I finished I convinced one of my best friends, Simon Oxley, to leave his well paid corporate job with all its benefits to start a business. We really did ‘burn our ships’ as we did not know what we were going to startup in. We left ourselves no choice, no retreat!.


However, we did have alot of experience in the Tech industry and knew we wanted to sell b2b.  We looked around and could see Web2.0 was moving into companies with Enterprise 2.0.

To get involved with this emerging trend we built and launched an Enterprise 2.0 informational website. The website proved to be great experience but did not and was not going to make us money.We decided we wanted to develop software but we needed to work out what we were going to build. Reflecting back I think we spent too much time figuring out what to do. It seems that this is a common problem for startups. We now know what we are going to do with our Aware Monitoring service.

Spotting Startup opportunities

My MBA and on the job learning experiences have taught me many things on what,  how and where to find startup opportunities:

  1. Using prior knowledge – Market experience is a wonderful thing. It brings deep understanding of customer problems; insider knowledge of the competitive landscape; awareness of market changes and there impact’s. This knowledge can be harnessed to identify new and emerging opportunities in a given marketplace.  Warning: care needs to be taken that the opportunity is a ‘gap in the market’ and there is in fact a  ‘market in this gap’. Many market gaps are unfilled because they are a unprofitable. There is also no such thing as the ‘perfect opportunity’ and competition is inevitable.
  2. See opportunities in Change – Change brings opportunity as I discussed with my ‘5 career alternatives for start-up founders during the recession’ post. This change can be driven by technology, demographics or government policies. The famous academic Joseph Schumpeter refers to technological change as ‘Creative Distruction’. However to realise the opportunity these changes bring, startup founders must have the ability to turn a idea into reality. ‘Talk is cheap’ as they say.
  3. Social networks – Even when you’ve found that world changing opportunity that’s only the beginning. An opportunity needs to be tested with friends, soft prospects and real target customers. It must be sold. Because there is no such a thing as the perfect opportunity openness to  new ideas must be maintained. New improved sub opportunities may present themselves as the initial opportunity unfolds. An idea changes as you talk to your social networks and attempt to sell to real life, paying customers.

Our  opportunity search..

By September 08 we had refined all our ideas into four final opportunities. I still think these are good opportunities with great potential and will share them with you. Please prove me right and turn these into a real business. The challenge is not just in knowing where an opportunity lies but in the implementation. Paul Graham of Y combinator lists a ton of opportunities saying ‘imaginative people will take them in directions we didn’t anticipate. .’

  1. Tagging software for unstructured data i.e. photo’s, files, etc (problem: information overload)
  2. Climate change website/portal/Social network (Change: behaviour change forced by the world’s increasing temperature)
  3. Virtual conference platform (Change: forced decrease in travel because of climate change)
  4. Preventative web systems  monitoring (Change: more reliance on web systems)

We’ve taken the 4th option with Aware Monitoring.  We’ve also speeded our pace up. It’s been a neck breaking last four months: we’ve committed to an opportunity; wrote and presented a business plan,; built a prototype; started full development; found a product name (with matching URL); got a logo and now this week we have a Launch page. It starting to feel real and the SaaS market is showing signs of blooming in the down turn 🙂


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9 Responses to “3 ways to spot Startup opportunities”

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  9. Colin Hall Says:

    Hi, I’ve been a small biz for 9 years, but have finally got my ‘great’ social media startup idea and although lists that tell me to think big and believe in myself are cool … I really need someone who knows what to do to make this happen. Any ideas would be very welcome.


    Col 🙂

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