Andrew Parker's insight into all startup markets already being on Craigslist

Andrew Parker’s insight into all startup markets already being on Craigslist

If you’re looking for opportunities to launch new and innovative businesses, the best place to start looking appears to be Craigslist

Craigslist is one of the granddaddies of the internet. It’s been around since 1995 (older than some entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley!), and frankly is as basic-looking as a website can get. It also has customised versions for many of the largest cities in the world.

But what savvy dude Andrew Parker realised more than four years ago is that it already does what many Tech Startups now do, which individually have grown to be worth billions. In his image above (from 2010), he shows the front page of Craigslist which shows the various services it’s users either offer or are looking for, along with some of the Tech companies at the time who were specialising in those services. Some of those Tech companies have since had an IPO.

In fact, over the last 4 years you could add even more Startups, both online and offline, matched onto that list (Eventbrite, Uber, Tinder and renting services come to mind).

So how can we use Craigslist to find new innovations?

What Craigslist essentially shows is a list of services / businesses which have proven sufficient demand at a local level to deserve a listing.

Yes, of course some of the links will be more popular than others (I would assume that the links for temporary accommodation would be more popular than the link for discussion of haiku, but you never know on the internet…). But the fact is that each of them has shown there is a community who use that service.

This is useful in assessing innovations in three main ways:

  1. If starting from the very early stages of an innovation programme, to gauge the likelihood of whether there is already a market out there which could be improved. This is far more likely to result in success than having a solution and then looking for whether it has a market (See why this is such a problem for London Startups here).
  2. Can you find an innovative company in each of the markets listed? If not, is it because:
    • Others have tried to innovate, and there is no market?
    • Customers really are completely happy with their current offerings?
    • Nobody has spotted an opportunity to innovate yet?
  3. When investigating what offerings are already in the market, you can immediately see what people are offering in their local area, and therefore get an indication of what customers are currently used to.
  4. By comparing the features and number of providers between cities, you can spot patterns of service usage across the world (How does the USA compare to the UK?), but in some cases even between large cities in the same country. This could provide valuable insights on market opportunities where an innovative solution could really compete against current offerings.

So the next time you’re wondering where you could find market opportunities, take a look at one of the simplest-looking websites you’ll ever see. You might just spot an opportunity.

What markets do you think are ripe for innovation? Is your company working on something? Let me know in the comments below.