Being in Chicago places you close to a large number of customers. You can sell to Fortune 500 companies (with Chicago having the most of any major city) or the thousands of businesses supporting these Fortune 500 companies. Or you can sell to the employees of these thousands of companies. There's really no reason for you to be starting the next daily deal site (Yes... someone pitched me a 'hyperlocal daily deal site' idea a few days ago). Especially when your talent could be used to impact lives and provide yourself fulfillment (and most likely a few bucks). So here are real problems you can solve with your business. You can thank me later.
- Small data (my personal favorite): I've got a coffee shop close to my home. Less than a block away is a Starbucks that is crushing the coffee shop. Why do I (and all the other folk) make a beeline for the Starbucks on the way to my train while walking straight past the local coffee shop? Imagine if you could provide that local coffee shop some 'small data' on the people who go to Starbucks, what we buy, when we buy, how much we spend etc All this data you can get by sitting in the Starbucks and observing customers for a few days/week? If you can help the coffee shop reduce their costs so they stop making products we won't buy, and help the shop make money you will make some money. How about updating this data and continuing to roll out this local 'small' data out to all the local shops around to improve their business. Idea: Find a local need and solve it. 'Big data' does not matter in local economies, small data does. Help people make money and they'll make you money.
- Real Estate: A few million people move and/or buy homes in the US every year. You probably moved in the last few years. It's a frustrating experience because of the archaic methods that are still utilized for appraisals, document/contract version management, opaqueness of the bank/agent process, 'agency' problem etc. A friend and his wife were supposed to sign and fax (yes fax) a copy of an appraisal document to their agent. Time was of the essence. The couple and agent were all in separate locations during work hours. Between docusign and myfax this would have been a cinch. But not all agents use these tools. Imagine a web based and truly paperless real estate agency where all the processing is done quickly and conveniently from your phone/computer. The only trip you make is to visit the home and meet the owner, the agent is TRULY just a facilitator and you don't have to see him/her (or use him/her). Same friend, like most of his generation who do everything (and I mean everything) online would pay money for such a service. He currently pays something he can scarcely afford, his time. Idea: Where there is an agency problem, there is a chance for transparency and a business opportunity.
- Hospitals: Have you been to a hospital lately? Have you wondered how your healthcare provider gets supplies? Do you see the amount of stuff (medicine, scrubs, disposables) that gets used/provided in those places? Guess what? Most of the providers of those products are monopolies or oligopolies. Change this by developing a marketplace for the next generation of doctors/medical practitioners who use the Internet to buy everything they need in their lives but still have to resort to paper requisitions for their jobs. Idea: the healthcare industry is changing due to regulations, demography etc, it means there is opportunity.
- Marketing: You probably heard about the Publicis/Omnicon merger? What has it done? It's created/will create a huge full stack marketing company that will no longer really care about those deals that aren't millions of dollars in possible revenue. What does that mean? It means you just got the opportunity to find a niche market segment (craft beer breweries, organic energy drinks, manufacturers of tablets for kids etc) that your 3 person full stack digital marketing company can serve with personalized service and 'own'. You'll become experts in a space and probably make a some good money; chicken change for 'OmniPubliciscon', great lifestyle business for you. Idea: find the 'neglected' customer in your space and treat them well, they'll thank you with their business.
- Recruiting: The job market is slowly picking back up, companies are hiring, people are changing careers or finding jobs that move them out of the underemployment that's been the case since the depression. Where is the job board/recruitment agency that sieves through resumes and figures out that just because you didn't do the job before doesn't mean you haven't got the skills to do the job you are applying for? Job titles say very little about what you actually did in your previous role. A new kind of job board that reflects this approach of thinking would serve millions of people right now. (hat tip to my brother who is championing this kind of thinking/data driven approach to recruitment thinking). Idea: People will always seek jobs, improve their chances of success and you'll improve yours.
So stop wasting time on pointless apps or trying to find a problem for the solution you've created. You'll do yourself and the rest of us a lot more good by finding something worthwhile and committing your time to it. I'd work on any one of these ideas but I still need to focus.