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Ways to come up with startup ideas – X for Y

Posted on:February 20, 2024

The “X for Y” approach is a popular method for generating startup ideas. Essentially, you take a business model that specializes in one industry (Industry X) and apply it to another (Industry Y).

For example, Uber revolutionized ride-sharing, leading to the development of many “Uber for <insert other service> companies” The general framework is that these businesses allow customers to bypass traditional professional services in favor of amateur providers. Rover, which offers dog walking and pet sitting services, can be considered “Uber for pet sitting.”

Sometimes, when you learn about a new app or service, you might think, “That’s great! I wish they had something like that for some other area.” Perhaps someone has created an effective tutoring platform for college students, and you wonder why it isn’t available for high schoolers. Or maybe there’s an app designed for tennis players that could easily be adapted for golfers.

This approach offers many advantages. When you find something that works and feels suitable for a different industry or target market, you can start with more than just blind faith. You get real validation about the app experience, business model, or both. This might help you speed up your product development since you already have an idea of what it should look like. In situations where the concept involves a relatively new business model or enabling technology, the X company may have significantly reduced the risks for you.

And it’s not only that you can more easily explain things to speed up designs or development. Taking this approach can also help you describe your product or service to investors or potential customers. They’ll have a reference point to understand and relate to. If the trend is popular, you can ride the wave.

Of course, it’s not always rosy with this strategy. There are risks too. If your X for Y product is too close to the competition (The X) and they expand, they might use their market position and brand to overpower you. It’s also important to dig deep into why no one has tried your idea before. Maybe there’s a reason it doesn’t make sense!

Take Washio for example. It was an on-demand laundry and dry cleaning service, like Uber for laundry. But they had to close down because of high operational costs and complex logistics they couldn’t figure out.

That being said, it could work out great for you like it worked out for Drizly when they were acquired by Uber. It can go either way, and like all ideas, only as far as your execution and good fortune take you.

In any event, keep your eyes peeled, and ask yourself sometimes when you see a product in one market, if its core mechanics would work well for another. By applying these concepts to areas you’re passionate about or knowledgeable in, you may discover untapped markets ripe with potential.