Gap in the market startups. Photo by Robert S. Donovan

5 Great 'Gap in the Market' Startup Ideas

Being an entrepreneur is one of the best vocations in the world because it encourages you to view everything as an opportunity for innovation. And, once you have an idea, you have to challenge it. Break it down. Make it better. Throw it away. Start again. Fail. Fail. Fail. Until you succeed.

Whatever you can imagine, you can do. Provided you have the drive and determination to see it through.

In the spirit of exploring business ideas, I recently had the pleasure of being introduced to over 50 new startups that have isolated a 'gap in the market' and gone for it. I thought I'd share a few of my favourites here.

But first...

What is a 'Gap in the Market' Idea?

A gap in the market can have one or more of three attributes. Namely, it is something new and original, it improves on something that already exists, or it takes something that exists and finds it a new market.

How to Identify a Gap

Gaps exist everywhere. The trick is to find one that you can take advantage of given your skill set and resources. There's probably a big gap in the market for wormhole tech, but none of us can take advantage of it yet.

There is one sure fire way to improve your chances of finding a great gap in the market that, reasonably speaking, you are also able to do something about.

Expose yourself to as many new and interesting people, experiences and ideas so that your brain can make new and creative associations and innovations.

It's very hard to find a gap in the market without getting out there and meeting people. Challenging yourself to do new things. Exploring. Being curious. Making new connections. Make it a habit to draw in as much information as you can and use it like jigsaw pieces in a puzzle.

I wrote an article entitled how to come up with good business ideas that will definitely help with this strategy if you are looking.

Spotted a Gap?

If you have already spotted a great gap and are wondering how to go from an initial idea to making money, here's what I recommend.

Work out a way to get to market and make money as quickly as possible.

In general, the way to do this is:

  1. Put together a business plan
  2. Create a website
  3. Start marketing

Alternatively, check out this far more detailed overview of how to start a business that will guide you through the entire process, from idea to profits.

Heard about the Small Business Dream Team?

The best small business software & services (across every category), designed to help you make money faster.

For now, let's take a look at some of the companies turning their gap in the market into innovative startups.


Valuable customer feedback with Blurtbox

I can't remember the number of times where I have been at dinner and either been unhappy with something (but not wanting to cause a scene and ruin everyone's night), or seeing someone else at the table in the same position.

Complaining is an important part of helping restaurants maintain high standards. Managers can't act on something if they don't know what is wrong.

As a business owner myself, I go to great lengths to ensure that customers who complain are treated like gold... because I want them to give us a chance to fix things. Otherwise they might simply take their business elsewhere, or worse, not recommend us on to their friends and colleagues.

Blurtbox gives you a discreet way to complain. It also helps lower the barriers for obtaining customer feedback from the business' perspective.

What they say:

If you're at a coffee shop and get a cup of cold coffee, then you can 'blurt' your complaint within the app (without any of your personal info) and it pops up on the manager's device instantly, just like a text message would.

You get a hot cup of coffee and the business avoids negative online reviews. Think of it as the opposite of Yelp.

Julien started BlurtBox after years in the hospitality industry, and noticing the roundabout ways guests try to communicate with businesses they patron (Yelp, Trip Advisor, etc.) and the obsolete and inefficient ways businesses try to capture feedback (long surveys, comment boxes, etc).


Tours and activities guided by locals

I love this idea. I can only imagine the millions of people travelling around the world wishing there was a way to break the ice and find an in with the locals - as opposed to passing silently amongst the tourist traps without making real, human connections.

I've been on trips to give talks or for business in the past and been thoroughly miserable. Not because there was anything wrong with the places I visited, but because I didn't know where to go or who to hang out with.

For me, trip4real offers a fantastic way to change this reality for lots of people.

What they say:

By creating trip4real, we connect travellers with locals, and change the travel experience from being touristy to being an authentic cultural experience.

Bare baby bottle

Air free baby bottle

Ok, so this idea is pretty far out of my personal sphere of experience, but I am aware that bottle feeding comes fraught with many issues. Seems to me like helping to prevent babies taking in a lot of air when they feed from a bottle is something a lot of new moms (and pops) could use... especially if it means baby is happy and they get a bit more sleep.

What they say:

Bare is the world’s first baby bottle that feeds baby Air-free milk. With a sliding air-plug, it allows the user to expel all the air out of the bottle, like a syringe, and automatically moves towards the nipple as baby feeds. The milk chamber is always air free to dramatically reduce air ingestion while feeding to help prevent gas and colic.

Bare works with suction, allowing baby to feed in a natural, upright position, which is recommended by Paediatricians to prevent ear infections, painful gas, acid reflux symptoms and over-eating, promotes self-feeding, bottle weaning and easier transition to cups.

Del Viejo (Datil Pepper Sauce)

Unique region specific food product (datil peppers)

We all agree that salsa is not something new. So why do I think that the Datil pepper sauce is worthy of mention in a list like this?

Simple. Imagine what a wonderful time us foodies would have if every town decided to come up with a foodstuff and make it their own? Well, we'd have a lot more variety to explore in our foods. Neighbouring towns could compete in local food markets, bringing more vibrancy and choice to the locals.

In my area there is wine, wine, and more wine. And olives. But mainly wine. It's great, but monoculture can become monotonous.

If every town in this region had their own 'Datil pepper sauce' (or whatever), instead of only wine, I guarantee we would be attracting more than the 1 million annual tourists who come already.

What they say:

Very few outside of St. Augustine have ever heard of the Datil Pepper, which gives our company, Del Viejo Gourmet, a large competitive advantage to bring to market an incredible new taste profile that will solve every foodie's palate fatigue.

The Datil Pepper has a slight fruitiness with a latent heat, and when used in the proper proportions, it marries well with so many dishes (including dark chocolate with sea salt!).


Selling on demand with the gone app

We recently moved apartments and ended up not being able to fit everything into the new space. We had a bunch of things to either donate or sell. Some of the larger items were worth a bit of cash so we decided to sell them by listing them in the local Gumtree directory.

It works. It's fine. But it's a real pain. You have to let people come and take a look. They 'conveniently' only bring half of the asking price in cash, and so on. Basically, listing in a directory functions, but, more often than not, you end up having to work for the sale.

The Gone app solves this issue by handling the sale and the delivery on your behalf. Meaning that you can get rid of unwanted items at the click of a button. Saves time and effort, which is a win in my book.

What they say:

In the time it takes you to list something online, the Gone app has already made you an offer and scheduled a free pickup.

So that's all I have time for now, but there are stacks of creative, vibrant and awesome people doing great things in the startup world. Hopefully the above businesses might spark inspiration for your own ideas.

What are some of the coolest companies and ideas you have come across in recent times? What makes them a real 'gap in the market' idea? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Top ideas from university entrepreneurs

Encouraging younger people to become involved in entrepreneurship by holding business idea competitions is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to innovate our way out of the current financial doldrums the world finds itself in.

The creativity and energy exhibited by the students who enter the top business idea competitions from around the U.S. have shown the rest of us just how easy they can make it look when it comes to generating a new idea, putting together a plan, and pitching it to the world like pros.

home business ideas to make money fast

Finding a way to make money quickly is really not as good as finding a way to earn a stable income in the long term - get rich quick schemes tend to be a waste of time and effort (except for the people selling the scheme).

At least that was the point of my argument with a friend the other day. They ended up betting that I couldn't come up with at least one idea that would start generating cash within 24 hours.

In the words of Barney, "Challenge accepted!"

How to earn a passive income online. Pic by John Haler

The Web is arguably the best medium from which to earn a passive income because content, software and online services can persistently drive traffic and revenue for years at a time.

In other words - build once; earn indefinitely.

The downside is that because there is this great potential to make money, a lot of people are trying it. And, with a lot of people, comes a lot of competition that makes starting out tricky. One thing's for sure; if you're not prepared to put in work upfront, forget about earning a passive income online.

University business startup competitions. Pic by tableatny

Starting a business can be a daunting task - often made all the more difficult by a small advertising/marketing budget and an insufficient network of contacts to help get things off the ground.

It's a good thing then that there is always one fantastic, free strategy to generate some high-quality buzz and exposure for your startup that will not only put your idea in front of plenty of the "right" people, but also, potentially, lead to some much-needed funds, influential connections, and media coverage.

I'm talking about university business competitions.

WAH with your own freelance writing job. Pic by Evelina Ander

Believe it or not, it is entirely possible to hire yourself as a freelance writer and turn that part-time job into a successful business that earns decent money and gives you the freedom to work from home (or anywhere you want).

The Internet has an insatiable demand for content, making freelance writing one of the most popular WAH (Work At Home) job choices for thousands of bloggers and journalists around the world. This is because virtually every aspect of digital marketing relies, to some degree or another, on great underlying content.