I can recall once being out for drinks with some business acquaintances and we started spit-balling rapid-fire start-up ideas, many of them pretty funny. A couple were actually too good for the game and people were penalized for shouting out an actually viable idea. We’ve repeated the game a few times, but it’s been a while, because it’s really not much of a game anymore – we’re living in an amazing time when you can actually do this and walk away with a dozen viable ideas.
Some of this has to do with the new technology available to us that makes building a business much easier and less expensive, but it also has a lot to do with the way this technology has changed the world, because ownership and social contact has undergone a seismic shift.
The Borrowed World
Consider the way music has changed: In the past you had some very narrow promotional channels (radio, television, perhaps movies) and if you heard a song you liked you had to go buy a physical thing in order to hear it whenever you liked. You owned that record or CD, but you only had a license to the music.
Today, you don’t need to own anything; you can simply subscribe to a service like Spotify and hear that song as often as you like without actually owning anything. Surprisingly to some, people don’t seem particularly worried about owning anything. As one friend put it to me, when there’s a new song he likes he wants to play it every day for a month, but then he gets tired of it and stops, so why should he bother buying the album?
This new attitude towards ownership is spreading, thanks to social media and the increasing connectedness of the world. People are sharing cars and even homes, putting their possessions up for micro-rental when they’re not using them. This is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs, because it’s opening up a whole slew of markets for micro-transactions, shared services and possessions, and time sharing of everything. The start-up costs are low because you don’t need any products – you just need connected infrastructure, and you can use existing social media for your promotion and customer service.
Just like our little game, the opportunities are endless – just use your imagination – and someone else’s stuff!