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Promising Markets for a Startup Company 74

Konstantinos asks: "So far, I have worked as an IT manager in various projects, but I am fed up with someone else getting all the money out of my work. So, I want to do something on my own. Obviously, I don't want to take on the big guys as I will not have the resources or the time to be antagonistic, and I have to go after something totally different. I have made a small market research, but I don't want to risk my hard-earned money on something that is destined to flop. I had some ideas about niche markets that IT hasn't really touched, like agriculture. In your opinion, which are the most promising markets, for a one/two person startup company to try and tackle? I know that there is a risk in everything, and I understand that the IT business is under a global crisis, but I also know that there are some markets (esp. niche markets) that haven't had a significant hit in revenue due to the crisis. I would like to try and hit those markets. I am not afraid of work and I know that I can do the job and do it well, if only I find what it is! Thanks for any help."
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Promising Markets for a Startup Company

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  • by tubabeat ( 605286 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @12:57PM (#4899257)
    1 ??????? 2 ??????? 3 Profit!
  • by capoccia ( 312092 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @12:59PM (#4899273) Journal
    you're not ready to start your own business. there is a reason why entrepreneurs make more than the grunts. they come up with ideas that can make money _on their own_! and they have the planning skills to execute it.
    besides, if any slashdotter had such an idea, why would they give it away on a public forum?
    • Bullshit. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by torpor ( 458 ) <> on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:17PM (#4899420) Homepage Journal

      Entrepreneurs are nothing but smart people who have the desire to do well for themselves.

      Nothing in this article suggests that the poster is *not* this.

      Fact is, anyone who ever had an inkling to start out on their own is an entrepreneur. Anyone who decides to stop working for 'the man' and actually tackle a new market, or try something new and exciting in face of the adversity - well, that's entrepreneurship.

      Entrepreneurship is not an elite club.

      I'm sick up and fed of all these yuppy elite entrepreneur scum who think they're so godamned wonderful because they had some good idea ... side-effect of all those cool 'become an entrepreneur' multi-level marketing campaigns, indcidentally ...

      • Re:Bullshit. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MrAndrews ( 456547 ) <> on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:26PM (#4899501) Homepage
        I second this, but with minor modifications.
        I used to run a company that specialized in a specific product. My starting that company made me an entrepreneur, whether or not the idea was good (the idea was good, my business abilities less so).

        Now I run another company that is essentially re-selling the skills I and my associates built up on the first company. It's very services-driven. While technically that still falls under entrepreneurial activities, it doesn't evoke the same sense of "go out there and do something great!" so much as "bwahaha I know how to make boxes on webpages, I do I do I do!". Not that there's anything wrong with boxes on webpages. It's a very nice change of pace to be able to just do something. But the word "entrepreneur" somehow implies more than that.

        However, point being (and I am living proof of this): entrepreneurs are smart people who have the desire to do well for themselves; hugely bloody rich entrepreneurs are smart people who have crafty ideas and want to do well for themselves.

        People who don't get good accountants are neither, no matter how their ambitions start off.

      • I am also sick of all these "yuppie elite entrepreneur scum", not least because I recently worked for a couple. They wanted to have a consultancy because they figured it was their in to the moneyed C?0 scene. Couldn't run a business and didn't care to.

        Being an "entrepreneur" is just jumping in and doing it on your own. Doesn't require some brilliant idea, just a mountain of hard work, a solid business plan and a good accountant (yes, Virgina, I was that boy). Ideas are a dime a dozen. Doing something with them, and sticking to it even when it gets really, really hard (it will - everyone warns you about it, but you have no idea what it's like until you're there. But the pros far outweigh that). Even the really crafty ideas probably have a dozen companies working on them, so just a good idea won't get you anywhere.

        </end rant type="re other stupid posts in thread">

        To the story poster, (I think) applying your IT skills to a niche sector is definitely a good idea. Agriculture is neck deep in IT, but servicing them directly could be an excellent plan if you're in an agriculture-intense area. Contacts will help even more than usual - agriculture (at least around here) is just barely moving out of the old-boys network days. Health care is another area crying for good IT work. There's an unusual number of shoddy IT providers in that market. If you're better than they are, you've got a good shot. Someone else mentioned service industry and restaurants - maybe look into setting up something centralized where they can get _all_ their stuff instead of dealing with a dozen different providers. Highly time sensitive, but might benefit from an efficient, centralized source. Just un-researched, off-the-top of my head thoughts, so take them for what they're worth ($.02, CDN).

    • 10 things... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by perljon ( 530156 )
      1) A lot of businesses that are started are never more than a job where you work for yourself. Make sure you have real expectations. Some businesses become mega businesses, just like some basketball players become NBA stars. But be realistic. Running a small businesses is more like a job than it is like being a pro basketball player. (You're going to work very hard and not see the riches for a long time, if ever. That's small business.)

      2) No idea, no matter how great, has made someone wealthy on it's own. The determining factor is not the idea, but the hardwork and the commitment to winning. That sounds lame, but when you eat, sleep, dream, and breath your small business goals, you will realize them. New markets are very very hard to create. Try sticking to something standard.

      3) I once hear someone say something to the affect, "It's easy to be a millionare today in America. There are manufacturers, and there are customers. Put yourself somewhere in between." I forget who it was, but he was pretty wealthy from doing just that.

      4) Most small businesses you can start for very cheap and work it while you are working. At first when you don't have a lot of money but some extra time, focus on serviced based businesses. They require 0 financial investment. Use word of mouth, and you'll be servicing for money very soon.

      5) If you want to be wealthy, very quickly turn your serviced based business into one of buying and selling. When you buy and sell, your profit is determined by how cheaply you can buy something and how inflated you can sell it. When you run a service based business, your profit is determined by how much service you can do. I'd rather be wealthy with lots of free time than wealthy working 80 hours per week. (Hint, buying labor to do service, and then selling the service is still buying and selling. But, employees suck. Avoid them until you have no other growth choices.)

      6) Don't go into business with a partner. They'll want to do it their way. You're better off working alone. If you insist on doing a partnership, organize yourself in such a way that they are running their own business and you are running your own business, and you work togethor for a common goal. For example, if you know someone who can get cheap computers, buy them from him where he makes part of the profit, and on your own profit, and then sell the product. This way, he isn't telling you what to do, visa versa. And when he gets tired of working so hard, and he wants to quit to go play video games, you can replace him with another supplier without messing up your business. You avoide money problems too.

      7) Most businesses don't require a huge amount of money investment. I would never spend more than $5000 in a business venture. You will fuck up your first 10 businesses, and it would suck to loose more than that. In fact, I would start your first 5 with no more than $100. You can run most businesses out of your garage with a phone, some business cards, and word of mouth.

      8) Don't be afraid to charge what the successful business people are charging. If the standard rate for server work in your area is $125 an hour, charge $125 an hour. $125 an hour is what other business people have determed it takes to make doing that job worthwhile. Rely on their experience. Customers donot always pick the lowest rate person. They pick who they know and will pay a premium for personal assistance.

      9) There is big money to be made in selling used stuff. Why do you think there are so many used car shops around? Buy low, sell high.

      10) Seek and follow the advice of those who are doing the business you want to run. Don't be so cocky to think that you were born with the knowledge to do everything. Find someone who is doing well, and take their advice. It is priceless information.
      • 6) Don't go into business with a partner. They'll want to do it their way. You're better off working alone. If you insist on doing a partnership, organize yourself in such a way that they are running their own business and you are running your own business, and you work togethor for a common goal

        I have to agree with this... sorta. When I was starting my business with a partner, everyone told me that partners were trouble. Well she wasnt. She had her own skillset that I didn't -- she was an engineer who was really good at sales. But in time, I became better at sales and cold-calling and for other reasons we decided that it was best if we split up, so the partnership became two sole proprietorships. She got new business or took orders from existing customers and sent them to me. I deducted a fixed percentage for Cost of Good Sold and we split gross profit 50/50. Worked really well.

        We both had extensive customer contact at our old job, so we knew what customers wanted. I had told my boss, but he was reluctant, so we started a company to build and sell the product ourselves. The first place to look for unfulfilled customer needs is in the domain you already know: your day job.

        Best of luck!!
      • 7) Most businesses don't require a huge amount of money investment. I would never spend more than $5000 in a business venture. You will fuck up your first 10 businesses, and it would suck to loose more than that. In fact, I would start your first 5 with no more than $100. You can run most businesses out of your garage with a phone, some business cards, and word of mouth.

        $100? Maybe that is why your businesses are fucking up so much.

        • Are you running your own business, or are you just guessing on this?

          Actually, my first business was a MLM. I didn't like doing that. My second business was an attempt to go in with a buddy to sell PC's out of a store. I started that with less than $100. I had the store front rented for 3 months, signs made, store furniture bought, and was getting ready to buy inventory, all with less than $100 investment. (Partners suck, and I realized this before dropping 5k in inventory). HOwever, I payed for all of this from income from clients, and not out of my own pocket. $100 is about right, and none of my failed business ventures had anything to do with lack of capital. That's easy to get.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:01PM (#4899285)
    I'm an unemployed tech worker whos benefits are about to run out. I can find a job any where on this continent, so I've got to do something soon, or I'll be out on the street. I'm pretty smart and have some experience, and I want to make a million dollars working for myself. How do I do that?
  • This is ridiculous (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RaboKrabekian ( 461040 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:04PM (#4899315) Journal
    So basically you want to start a company and make money, but you have no idea what to do or how to do it. So you want all of US to give you an idea?

    Why should we do the work for you? I can't believe this kind of drivel passes muster these days.
  • by eugene ts wong ( 231154 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:07PM (#4899333) Homepage Journal
    Have you ever thought of designing accounting software? There are a lot of companies out there that have accounting software, but need better features. They would be willing to drop what they have in an instant, if you could provide that.

    Have you ever thought of designing software that would help people do better market research? I don't know what would be needed, but it seems to me that there are too many workers fighting for the same jobs, and not enough workers filling other jobs. I realize that education plays a big part, but it's obvious that people aren't thinking hard enough about meeting demands.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      There are two ways to improve accounting software and marketing research software (this applies to other fields of applications as well):

      1) Have your salesmen talk to accountants and market researchers, and give them questionaires and shit, and filter the info back to yourself on what features you should add or design changes you should make. This is very inefficient but it is the way it is mostly done, especially in the proprietary world.

      2) Be an accountant or a market researcher, and write software for your own use. Don't think of selling it until it is something you find work impossible with out, and you have fixed all nagging annoyances. Then look into selling it. When selling it fails, GPL it and try to sell your services customizing it or teaching seminars on how to use it.

      My advice is that you can't do 1) without having a big company and it's accompanying sales force infrastructure behind you. Thankfully, better software is produced by 2). However, that requires being in the right position. An added benefit of 2) is that if you are in such a position, you usually have two complementary careers, which is nice in a tough economy.
      • Idea 1) definitely is the standard way of going about things. The interesting thing, is that no matter how much $$$ or man power that you throw at it, you can never really do as well as someone who has been in the niche industry, for an extended period of time, which must be what you meant in 2). I could be wrong about what I said regarding the niche industry. I came to this conclusion, because a real barrier to market research is the communication. 1 customer might complain all the time to you, but have nothing but high praises for your software, when chatting with his friends. Another customer might be the exact opposite. I worked for a market research company once, & there were so many little intricacies for getting precise information. I suspect that what you say about needing a big company & an accompanying sales force can be compensated with less workers & more time.

        Very good point about having 2 careers. To add to that, it may be best for people to try to move on to the business of contracting work out to others, because this gives all of your experience to other people who are interested in producing accounting software for the niche industry. Advantages include:

        It gives people a chance to learn & earn @ the same time

        It makes it naturally harder for someone to move in right away. I could be wrong in this.

        You pass on your experience & earn money @ the same time.

        With experience being passed on, this allows prices to drop in a fair manner for all, while still allowing for more take home pay, because everybody is producing more.
        The bottleneck for new programmers will be getting programming experience. The bottleneck for experienced programmers will be finding enough man hours to fulfill all contracts. If the experienced programmer continues to focus on programming instead of using the experience in the niche industry, then I don't think that there will be as much profit. The experienced programmer should pass the programming experience on to newcomers, & use the niche industry experience for bringing in more business.

    • For a more specific idea, think about designing accounting software for a niche market.

      As an example, my mother is a psychologist. She does her billing in Word (I've tried to teach her basic Excel, but it's a bit too complex for her). There are aparently software packages out there to help people like her do billing, but she says that her experience with them has be significantly less than positive. If there was a decent application out there that allowed her to manage her billing and print out the necessary forms, she and many other psychologists would probably pay at least a few hundred $s for a license.

      I would start looking into niches where professionals (lawyers, doctors or other people with money) might need custom software (either accounting or otherwise.) Look at the current software (read user reviews, try it, etc) and see if you can find an area where you can produce something that is considerably better than what's available.
      • For a more specific idea, think about designing accounting software for a niche market.
        Yes, that is exactly what I was thinking of, but neglected to mention. If 100,000 programmers are designing accounting packages for 100,000 psychologists, then some programmers are going to have to look for another career. That is, if they all insist that programming in the same niche is all that matters. After all, some of those programmers will naturally service more than 1 psychologist.

        The neatest thing about programming accounting software is that there are always customizations that need to be done, because businesses change daily to adapt to ecomomic conditions. After all, the time a company saves can be used elsewhere, which will require software too.

        Another neat thing is that it is naturally hard for similarly skilled competitors to move in. The natural barrier is the learning curve. My father's software is customized for glass companies & a few other types. It would be harder for us to move into other companies that bill in different ways; ie: psychologists.

        On an unrelated note, I'll let my dad know about how psychologists need software. We're always looking for new niches. I don't know how we'll do it, though.

        On another unrelated note, why don't you try to create a macro for your mother so that she can make use of spread sheet software + database software [such as MySQL]? I'm not experienced enough to know if it'll help, but I speculate that in the future there may be potential to writing macros for the 2 types of software.
        • Well...since you brought up suggestions for implementation, I thought I'd throw out the quick-n-dirty implementation that I'm planning to make her life easier.

          The requirements for my project are pretty simple since my mother only uses two forms in her billing (there are a myriad of other forms, but she doesn't see clients that necessitate the use of those forms).

          So, my plan is to write a nice little palm app to handle the data entry component (easy to take to the office.) Then write a little "glue" component in C++ to use FDF [] to output PDFs which she can store instead of her word documents. Since creating PDFs basically solves all the nasty printing issues, it seemed like an easy way around a lot of the hassles that implementing it from scratch would entail.

          If I were implementing a solution for a much more generalized segment of the psychological community, I might be inclined to include more database functionality like you suggested, but my mom doesn't need that. I might still use the FDF stuff...its pretty darn cool for anything that requires data be printed in a pre-defined format.
          • That is interesting that you mention the forms. I wonder if there is a market for that kind of stuff. In other words, are there a lot of people who would be willing to pay for this software? Would you be able to customize it for other government forms?

            I'm not looking for an answer, because it's best if you keep your trade secrets & knowledge to yourself.

            On an unrelated note, I think that maybe scripting might provide the necessary potential to customize software, because it seems that a script can really get a high level of customization. Unfortunately, the source would probably be "open" for all to see, so there is no point in trying to license it. It a programmer decides to do scripting, then it may be wise to set a price based on the number of hours worked, & not the "value" of the software. Perhaps it would require a licensing that allow the customer to make copies & sell them over & over again, & let the programmer to do likewise.
    • You know, this might be the perfect time to find a new market. As we speak (ok, type) there are people looking for folks with exactly *your* skills, and they have heaps of money to boot...

      yep, it's the U.S. government's new "Information Awareness Office" and based on what we've seen so far, it sure looks like they need talent. Do you have what it takes? Only you can answer that.

      For more information see

  • The irony (Score:5, Funny)

    by benwb ( 96829 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:08PM (#4899339)
    of a manager who is upset that other people are reaping the benefits of his work staggers the mind.
  • Easy money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:08PM (#4899346)
    Read the local newspaper where state and local RFPs get published. Submit a low bid, win a contract and subcontract other techies at 50% of your billing rate if you need more people.

    Don't worry about coming up with an original idea. Every niche has had somebody hocking computers and/or software at them before. Other areas like agriculture, don't need your services or don't have the money to pay you.

    Also avoid evangelism. If the customer wants to build a data warehouse in access, warn them against it, then do it and bill it. Then bill them again to do it right. If they hate linux, don't use it -- the customer is always right.

    • by zulux ( 112259 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:17PM (#4899414) Homepage Journal
      Also avoid evangelism. If the customer wants to build a data warehouse in access, warn them against it, then do it and bill it.

      Or even better, Build it in PostgreSQL and bill them for the MS SQL Server licence. Have the database randomly drop records and tell them it's MS SQL. Then rebill them for doing it in PostgreSQL. Don't forget to turn off the randomly drop record 'feature.'

      • A former co-worker of mine told me once about a scam she encountered. A consulting firm had sold a business a software package written in COBOL. As the business added more records over the years, the software package got slower and slower, and they contracted with the consulting firm again to speed it up. This happened several times over the years.

        Finally, this co-worker was hired to convert the COBOL program into a modern client-server program using an SQL database. What she discovered was that there was an integer variable, "BIGDELAY" at the top of the program -- and there were delay loops using this variable all through the program! Yep, that's right, the consulting firm's "fixes" for "performance problems" consisted of simply editing the file to bump BIGDELAY downwards, then billing the company thousands of dollars for "re-architecting" the program! And they could have gotten away with it for years, probably, if not for the business wanting to go to a more attractive user interface than the old character-oriented COBOL...

  • by dmorin ( 25609 ) <> on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:09PM (#4899357) Homepage Journal
    I looked everywhere for these things for christmas, but of the few that exist, most are over $400. I think this is the most popular thing I've seen on slashdot for geeks to make from scratch (not counting beowulf clusters yadda yadda). All you really need is a cheap source for a flat panel display. Here, I'll give you the whole plan, since my boss and I just discussed this an hour ago:
    • Must have a memory card as primary source. Networking optional. Given the potential audience for the thing, it's must more likely that they will have access to a digital camera (such as an uncle who comes by on christmas to take pictures) than a network source (who wants a picture frame that ties up the phone line?)
    • Simple battery source w/AC backup. Normally the thing should plug into the wall, like when it is standing up on the mantle. But you should be able eto take it down and sit it in your lap when people come over and you want to walk through it like an album.
    • No syncing or USB. Why? Make it a straight player. Put the card in, play the pictures. Done. Change the card, change the pictures.
    • The whole thing can be operated with three buttons, BACK, PAUSE/PLAY, and NEXT. Normally it runs in random slide show mode, unless you hit PAUSE to freeze the picture you like. You can then hit BACK/NEXT to move around like pages of an album. Press PAUSE/PLAY again to return to slide show mode.
    • That's IT for options. Sure, you could add stuff like deleting pictures from the card, or adding captions, or doing random swipe transitions between pictures. But if it pushes the price point too high, no one will care. You could do all those things with a computer and THEN give the flash card to gramma to put on the mantle.
    Get the price point down under $150 and you'd sell a million of em. Grammie won't necessarily buy one but Uncle Bill with the digital camera will get her one for Christmas, and he'll also get his wife one so that she can see the pictures in the living room instead of on the computer, and they'll send one to their boy Tommy off at college (who will load his up with porn and take it to classes when he is bored)...

    If you actually do it, send me a couple of free ones for Grammie and Uncle Bill.

    • I looked into this idea. The real problem is most of the cost in making one of those picture frames is the LCD panel, not all the other little frills they add on. So getting one in at under $150 and still making money would be hard to do.
      • A company called Ceiva makes one for $150, but it is the one that only has a modem, no memory card or ethernet. I am assuming that the frame itself is a loss leader to the subscription service. But it gives me hope that the screen is not that outrageous a cost.

        Kodak makes one similar to what I'm thinking of, for $350. So that could be considered a straightforward competitor and a good market price point. Make it cheaper.

        • Kodak quit making theirs, but at the very end they blew out their inventory for $99. I bought one and I wish I had bought 20. You can still get them on the internet, used, but the price is $300 plus now. Ceiva does make all their money off the subscription. $48 a year and if you dont pay them for the rest of your life the frame becomes worthless. Pacific Digitial is coming out with one early next year. It will also be around $350. Those are all 640x480 5x7inch frames. There is another company that makes larger, higher resolution frames. They cost thousands of dollars.

          If you really want to make a quick buck on digital frames, write some software that will let a computer with a null modem cable upload photos to the Ceiva frame Then you could buy the Ceiva frame for $150 and this software for $20-$30 and have a usable frame forever without the subscription. Ceiva might not like that though.
  • by L. VeGas ( 580015 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:09PM (#4899359) Homepage Journal
    I think it's important to be diverse. Try both brick and mortar.
  • yeah, right (Score:4, Funny)

    by tongue ( 30814 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:10PM (#4899365) Homepage
    I've got this great idea for a company in a niche market that's small enough to make money, but too small for the big boys to bother coming after me... i've put all the work and research into finding it. but what the hell, you can have it... after all, you obviously really WANT it more than I do.

    chump. go join the underpants gnomes, they could use someone like you, methinks.
  • Niches for you... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by glamslam ( 535995 )
    In my very unscientific assessment, the following seem to be good IT sectors these days:

    Anything healthcare related: research, hospitals, doctor offices, etc...

    Food Industry: Restaurants, suppliers, etc...

    Vice related items are always good in a down economy: alcohol, cigs, and whatever vices people may have.

    Me? I'm planning on winning the lottery, so I'm not too worried.

  • Design Supplier (Score:4, Interesting)

    by moogla ( 118134 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:12PM (#4899379) Homepage Journal
    Little story: when we were shopping for Christmas decorations I was appaled at the sorry state and poor quality of the goods available at various home improvement stores. Most of the joints online were just "Christmas" suppliers that 2 months ago were "Halloween" suppliers. It's hard to get at the companies who supply THEM,and if we could talk to them we could have probably gotten exactly what we needed instead of compromising, buying crap from Target.

    There should be a forum where goods like that are rented, traded, and so is labor by contracters and designers. There should representation for residential and commercial products. For large jobs, people could make bids on packages by local contractors.

    I don't think these kind of things are handled exclusively by one "market", and are often offshoots of hospitality, catering, appliance and home furnishing businesses.

    These kind of things need to be brough together in some fashion so people can see all the options they have for doing elaborate rennovations or decorating for events.

    Just an idea.
  • 2. Profit!

    It's not really clear what your skills are, for one thing. "Managing IT projects" could mean a 3 million dollar SAP integration, or it could mean you're a liberal arts graduate that manages a web site.

    If you're a programmer, that's one thing, but I'm not really sure what you'd be capable of.

    You probably don't have a lot of money to hire someone, so I'm afraid the best you can hope for is to get freelance projects and contract your talent. Then at least you keep your own rate, and maybe a chunk of your contractor's. Of course, most companies are not currently seeking out outside $100/hour managers...

    If you're looking to slashdot for niche markets, then you obviously have no experience or contacts in said markets, and thus, you'd have a hard time getting in the door anyway.

    If you work for a service company, steal a client from your employer (worked for me, of course my employer was collapsing at the time :)...otherwise, go get an MBA so you can learn to do market research like a real entrepreneur!
  • In this society, ideas are not able to be protected by intellectual property laws. That said, good ideas are still the most precious intellectual capital anyone here has.

    And you want them for free?

    Find yer own niche dangit! :+)
    • In this society, ideas are not able to be protected by intellectual property laws. That said, good ideas are still the most precious intellectual capital anyone here has.

      Ideas are cheap. You can walk into any meeting in any company in the world and for the price of a box of donuts get more ideas than anyone knows what to do with.

      The secret of entrepreneurship is to take a basically simple idea and execute it as perfectly as possible. Look at Dell or Starbucks or Gap - what they do is not original at all, but they are successful because they know that it's all about execution.
  • Agriculture (Score:4, Informative)

    by MrResistor ( 120588 ) <> on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:16PM (#4899404) Homepage
    Agriculture is becoming automated quickly, especially irrigation. However, it simply isn't complex enough, nor does it need to be, to require IT personel.

    It's a very tough market to sell to. The best pitch I've seen was basically "you can use this system to control irrigation automatically based on soil moisture and temperature", which is pretty damned cool if you're a farmer, but only requires a pentium that can boot Win95, and even that is only because the interface was written in VB.

  • by abulafia ( 7826 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:16PM (#4899407)
    But then I'd have to compete with you.
  • Local NPO's (Score:4, Informative)

    by Strange Ranger ( 454494 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:16PM (#4899408)
    ..are very likely in desperate need of help. Not too many Non-Profit Organizations have their own 50+ K a year IT person. They have Suzy the receptionist and Dan the accountant who know how to reboot things. Most NPO's that I've seen are caught in this expensive loop:
    "We bought this tech to keep up with the world, we bought it piecemeal as we could afford it. It's a hodge-podge myriad of HW and SW that we can barely get to work most of the time. We can't afford to upgrade everything, and if we could we wouldn't know where to start. ROI? what is that?"

    So if you could function as a for-profit IT outsource to enough of your local NPO's who can't afford their own in-house IT you'd likely make good money and be a regular hero. There's no billions in it, but it might be a great gig.

    So do some in-depth market research in this area and report back here. Cuz now you owe me that. ;)
  • It's a "Jump To Conclusions" mat. You see, you have this mat, with different conclusions on it that you could jump to.
  • A niche market if the DIY crowd. They love this stuff. I have a marvelous product you need to go out and patent right away. The OCer's grill...Thats right, now you can void the warranty on you CPU AND have doggies in time for dinner. It is simple really. Just take one side of a case off of an Athalon machine, remove that pesky CPU fan (because we all know it just gets in the way and winds up making a shit load of noise and stopping eventually) , pop dem dogs right on that Heatsink with the lil bugger OC'd by %50... WHOO HOO, now grab a beer, buy a CPU FAN/HEATSINK company, get good lawyers, take another swig of that beer, geet good lawyers to watch the other lawyers, get a website, and SELL SELL SELL! Good eats BABY good eats!
  • Sell the widows and go into South American zinc.
  • by avi33 ( 116048 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:21PM (#4899458) Homepage
    How, after all the well-researched, well-linked stories and 'askdots' I've had rejected, this absolute piece of garbage gets through.

    Exactly how slow of a newsday does it have to be, when an "IT manager" with unspecified skills, if any, comes wagging the slashdot dog looking for business ideas?
  • Risk (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:25PM (#4899497)
    > I don't want to risk my hard-earned money on something that is destined to flop.

    Nothing is guaranteed. Great ideas often flop. Mediocre ideas sometimes become profitable.

    > I am fed up with someone else getting all the money out of my work.

    The reason they get "all the money" is (presumably) because they were the ones who risked their "hard-earned money" in the beginning.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:26PM (#4899499) Homepage Journal
    but unfortunately the margins of this page are too small to contain it.

    Seriously, why should anyone part with their money to pay you? Because (a) you know things they don't know or (b) are willing and able to do things they don't want to.

    This means that if you are going to start a business you are most likely to have success with one based on your experience and knowledge, not some idea handed to you out of the blue. If you do something in your job, and have figured out how to do it better than most, then this would be a good thing to sell. There are exceptions of course; there may be some new surefire business schemes for the individual entrepreneur, but I sure as hell am not giving away any of my secrets.

    Finally a word to the wise. Businesses run on their relationships. They way you get a bunch a work that becomes your dinner ticket and unassailable by competition is that you have customers that believe in you and like working with you. Therefore as a small businessman, your success depends more than anything else on your ability to deal with people, to inspire confidence and good feelings. If you don't envision stroking the customer as part of your job, then you should work for somebody else, probably as a large an outfit as you can find.

  • by torpor ( 458 ) <> on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:34PM (#4899528) Homepage Journal
    First of all, I'm sickened by the responses.

    As a lifetime entrepreneur myself, I think this is actually an interesting article on slashdot - what *are* the new technology markets, in the opinion of /. readers?

    And don't say 'Portman dolls' or "land grabs in the Soviet Union"!

    I personally asked this question myself (of myself) a few years ago and decided that one way to approach it is to look at any computer technology market in which Microsoft has not established a foothold ... and I settled in the digital musical instrument industry, for which I'm quite qualified to work in, as well as extremely interested. I'm lucky to work in this business now - having founded my fair share of big Internet companies in the 90's, I'm glad to be out of that field and working in one I like ... a lot.

    Microsoft don't have a synthesizer on the market (shudder), yet this industry (in which I work) is still very fresh and new, and expanding yearly.

    Traditionally, musical-instrument manufacturing and design has been pretty resilient to the types of techniques that MS uses to dominate - well, what about doing something cool in this market?

    Why this "MS"-slant to my evaluation? Well, since I practically grew up in the industry (wrote my first code at 8 years old back in '78), I've watched the MS juggernaut make its way, and I get a feeling that any tech industry in which MS *doesnt* have a presence, or intention, is a growth market. Thus, its ripe for entrepreneurs... by the time MS gets to it, it's usually fairly well established.

    There's a lot of room for improvement in this industry right now.

    You might also want to have a look at other markets along similar lines. I know, for example, that there's a fairly good potential for automated agriculture systems right now - agricultural markets are looking to get very high tech in the growth processes - maybe there's a way you can apply computer skills to these markets?

    Embedded Linux systems monitoring and maintaining massive hydroponic farms efficiently and productively? Why not? If the product is good, it could sell very well - especially in foreign markets. (Don't mention the Netherlands, heh heh...)

    In summary, what I would do is look at markets that are *not* being reviewed by the ever-hungry eyes and mouths of big corporations, yet which still traditionally generate income and revenue, and see if there is something in there you can apply your entrepreneurial skills.

    Good luck, and remember: successful entrepreneurs are usually the ones who work hard in a field in which they are intensely personally interested.

    Keep that in mind!

    • Great post! I think I'll print this one out and save a copy to re-read when/if I decide to do something more enterprising.
    • ...and having been there before, you realize that "a one/two person startup company" is going to take more than hard-work to get off the ground. Technical prowess only goes so far; passion & vision are going to be needed to actually make it big. Without inspiration & creativity, he's just going to be another schmuck hammering out code to make a buck.

      The original poster simply wants to run his own company for the money. It sounds to me like the only reason he wants to stay in IT is because it's what is on his resume; I'm sure he'd jump at a chance to sell chocolate covered lag-bolts if he could get rich off them.
  • Send $5,000 to and I'll be glad to let you in on my money making ideas.
  • by TheWanderingHermit ( 513872 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @02:09PM (#4899748)
    I have made a small market research, but I don't want to risk my hard-earned money on something that is destined to flop.

    Quite simple. If you know it's destined to flop, don't do it. Otherwise, and I know this sounds corny, but there's a speech Kirk gives in the episode "Return to Tomorrow" that I used in a high school project. I call it his "Risk, inc." speech. Rent or buy the video and watch it -- it's when they're debating doing a mind/body transfer. He is 100% right. Risk is our business. If you don't want to take a risk, then don't do it. Keep working for someone who has taken the risk.

    I'm not trying to troll or be negative, but one of the reasons many of these people make so much is because they're willing to risk their money and go for broke.

    If you are willing to take a risk (and I think you probably are -- just felt the first point should be addressed first), I can tell you part of what I've done, in the hope that it will help you.

    I kept my eyes open for small things, looking for as many information sources as I could find, and looking for as many people that needed data as possible. Then I found people that could use data they did not know could be retreived by computer. I got the owner of a small business to back me by contracting to deliver a self-sufficient system to him if he underwrote the development cost. He paid a flat fee and loves the system he's getting. Now he's helping me find other people out of the area who can use the same service. Instead of opening an office and hiring a receptionist to answer the phones when I'm in the field, my backer was so excited about the project, he's handling my sales and stuff for a commission (which means I can keep working out of my house for years and don't need employees or an office). He makes more money, and I pay him less than I'd pay for the rent and employees.

    In this particular case, the whole thing started from an offhand remark I made to this business owner's son, a long time friend. I forgot what I said, but it triggered an association in my friend's mind and suddenly he asked if I could access that information and provide it to them in reports and spreadsheets they could use. I said I could, and the deal was made.

    There are also a lot of other benefits to this setup. I don't have to do any advertising. I'm dealing with data that only people in certain fields want, so I can't really advertise too widely. This also means my company keeps a VERY low profile, so many potential competitors never even hear about what I'm doing.

    I know this is my case, but there are a few points I think can be generalized. 1) Look over all the possible services or products you can supply. 2) Look over ALL combinations and permutations (in my case, I found a way of combining several factors nobody had combined before). 3) Look over all potential clients, and look over all combinations and permutations of clients, products, and services. 4) Try to find a service that will help potential clients make a lot of money, but which they didn't know existed. 5) Don't give away secrets, but tell EVERYONE about your skills and background. These are your assests, and you need to advertise them. Just like my comment to my friend sparked something that became a huge salary for me, you don't know when someone will need a service you can supply. 6) Once you're going, try to keep a low profile and see if you can focus any advertising tightly on people who can use your services. Advertising can be seen by everybody, including programmers or other IT people who can work faster than you or have more resources than you.

    Good luck!

    Oh, and I do have to add I was disappointed with the majority of replies so far. Many were mocking the poster, as if he expected /. to give him a full business plan or answer all his questions. A person starting a business needs to listen to everyone's ideas and keep the ones s/he thinks are useful. Posting this to Ask Slashdot was a wise thing to do.
  • Where I live (Score:4, Informative)

    by Znonymous Coward ( 615009 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @02:42PM (#4900121) Journal
    I live in Wichita, KS. There are a lot of small to medium sized business here. But, there aren't any sources of consultants for that market. Small businesses here are starving for IT help. I make quite a bit of $ catering to to them (on the side).
  • Keep in mind if you find a new market, and make money at it, you will quickly see competition pouring in, and monolithic corporations undercutting or litigating you out of the market.
  • I think there is a vast untapped market for "B2B portals." Basically, you create a World-Wide-Web page that businesses will want to use as their "start page" (sometimes called a "home page") on the Internet. This page connects together businesses with great links and technologies like XML! With the new top-level-domains, you can create an Internet name that's memorable and lasting. For instance, ULTIMATEB2BPORTAL.BIZ is available right now!!

    The only thing is, portal sites usually need more than two people (usually 20 or 30) to run them. You guys had better get ready to work hard!
  • This is a market that hasn't been tapped yet. Build a website where pet owners can go and buy pet food and supplies and have it delivered to their house. Suprisingly, no one has thought of this. It is definitely a sure win. I know of so many pet owners who wish they could order a pet toy online instead of going all the way to the pet store and buying it there.
  • Or at least, find a scratch for an itch you know exists, and one you can understand. It does you no good if the whole slashdot tells you that fisheries need special software, if you have no understanding of the conditions and needs of fishermen.

    So, what are your interests? What do you know about? What kind of people do you know? What problems do those people have? Anything in those lines that looks like you could be of help? Any chance someone in those fields would be willing to pay for that help?

    I think you have your premises badly wrong. There is a reason why someone else is reaping "great" profits off your labour. For every success story there are ten that went bankrupt - at huge personal costs.

    Assuming you manage to start a company, find some business, and get some money rolling. How long can you survive without getting any salary yourself? How long are you willing to pay others to do the work, without getting anything much for yourself? If you some day manage to start to recoup the (inevitable) starting losses, will you be able and willing to pay your folks so much that they all will not rush to start their own?

    Think hard about this. Most successfull businesses are started to get some work done, not just to make shitloads of money. The costs of starting one are high, both economically and personally. A few make it rich - many fail horribly. Some make do for a long time, maybe even growing slowly. This is about the most you can reasonably expect.

    Good luck anyway, even if I sound pessimistic

  • "...niche markets that IT hasn't really touched, like agriculture"

    Oh? IT hasn't really touched agriculture?

    "Agriculture" is a lot bigger than you seem to think, and you haven't done much research if you believe that farmers are unacquainted with computers.

    While ag firms do the same things that a lot of companies do -- general accounting, payables, receivables, payroll, tax accounting, fixed assets and so on -- they also contain dozens and dozens of little subsidiary businesses which all have unique requirements. IOW, targeting "agriculture" is like saying you're going to target "medicine" or "education". It's a big world out here.

    Our company collects crops from our own fields, or from independent growers. We pack these, palletize them, and give them to truckers for delivery to a remote distributor or broker. Sound easy? Well the rules are different for every type of crop (we do vegetables, citrus, and cane sugar, shipped not only across state lines, but internationally). The "paperwork" required by the government differs for each type of crop. Labeling differs. Trucking manifests differ. Storage characteristics differ (we're dealing with perishables, and every hour counts).

    Growers are paid differently depending on the type of crop, sometimes by weight, sometimes by unit counts. Frequently the price to the grower isn't set until the truck is actually in transit -- and that truck may be carrying produce from different lots, representing different growers.

    We are answerable to the state for pesticide and fertilizer use, and have to be able to provide a history of any given crate of produce -- when it was treated, how it was treated, and by whom. We maintain the equivalent of file cabinets of Material Safety Data Sheets, and we are required to provide paper copies of these to each pesticide crew, upon application.

    Many ag workers are paid "piece rate", where the number of boxes they pack, or the number of pallets they load figure into their salary. I'm sure many places still do this by hand... but the technology to do data collection in the field has been around for a long time.

    Packing lines are becoming more and more automated with palletizers, sizers and whatnot. Citrus and concentrate are monitored end-to-end on the line. The state testing lab is automated and reports results in realtime to the state citrus division as well as to our own information systems.

    EDI came slowly to the ag community -- there's so many unstandardized products and container sizes. But it's here, along with a handful of VANs and industry organizations to help it along, such as Agribuys, iTrade Network and

    I don't want this to degenerate into a description of the ag business -- slashdotters wouldn't appreciate it much. But your ignorance of a marketplace in which you propose to make your living is a big liability. You have NOT done your homework. A simple googling of "software" and "agriculture" turned up a comprehensive index of products used in the ag community [] as hit number one.
  • Why don't you write a program to help people like yourself with no real ideas to start their own business.

    Yeah, that's the ticket. You could call it "Make Money Fast" and advertise via email and popup ads.

    Later you could create a "Pro" version and a "Home Edition" as well.

  • First, I admit I was not very clear about the title 'IT Manager'. I meant that I work in a IT company and 'manage' things. I am NOT a business oriented person, rather a science/programming oriented person. I, like most of the posters who were annoyed by my post, do coding for a living and I don't get paid extra for the extra work I do for a project. I _know_ I have good ideas about doing things and that's why they keep me. I love Linux, I love Debian, I am a Debian Developer myself, the only one in Greece, check, if you don't believe me.

    This one goes also for the guys that felt threatened by my question. I want to DO things. I'm sick with dealing with stupid web sites and useless databases, I want to create something that I like, but I also want to survive. And I don't want to take orders from ignorant businessmen who buy porsches with MY work. This is to make things clear. And yes, it's their money that they risk, but after setting on my own a network infrastructure of 80 people, 12 servers, 1 custom C++ application project on ACE, 20 websites on Zope, custom developed linux firewalls, virtual domain email infrastructure, doing the support for 80 people, cleaning up virii, fixing PCs, oh not to mention helping out in setting up Linux clusters, I somehow feel it is unfair to call me a 'smartass' manager who's trying to get a few ideas from others. All this work, and I haven't got more than a meager -for my standards, others might find it acceptable- salary. I have a lot of ideas of my own, but I am no marketing specialist. If I was, I wouldn't be on slashdot, but on That's why I ask people to help me. I haven't asked for a business plan, nor complete ideas, just general directions. I would have no problem giving similar help to a person, because I know that an idea may be the start, but you also have to actually MATERIALIZE the idea to earn money.

    Having said that, I really want to thank all the positive answers and all the kind persons that offered me some really valuable advise. I intend to keep notes of everything important said here, and I will try to use it.

    • ...ask any potential customers what they might want, let them use their imaginations for you, then make their IT dreams and desires reality. Then charge them for it. I guess to be very general about it-say-ask them to tell you "if you wanted this whole computer infrastructure you have to DO something for you, what would it be? what isn't happening for you you'd like to see happening?" Something along those lines. Innovation comes from either a desire for something new, or just a lack of anything to "do" what needs to be done. Traditional "sales" efforts are most times backwards, they revolve around Product A being pushed on a potential customer-whether that customer actually NEEDS that thing or not or if this product A will actually benfit him. Ask the customer what they want FIRST, see if it's possible, see what they might be willing to spend for the solution you can provide. Turn their frustrations into your business. I imagine every businessman out there wants something that he doesn't have yet, or what he has doesn't really do what he wants, he can probably verbalise what he wants, but the application and implication elude him, that's where you step in.
    • I have been out of work (Sysadmin) for a while and I have been considering starting my own business as well. I think you need to know something about what you plan on starting a business in. I cant think of one thing that hasnt already been done in IT that my skill set could do (Not a huge programmer). Sure I could start another appliance company or some sort of consulting service, but the market doesnt seem to be able to support those business ideas right now. Do you have any hobbies outside of IT that could become a great business idea? I enjoy doing home improvement and working around my house a lot. I have done tons of projects for friends/family. So I am going to start a handyman business.
    • Canned farts man, I think there is a market for canned farts - with a web interface, XML and Linux.
  • I actually have a pretty decent idea, not revolutionary, but fills a good-sized niche (two million units at last calculation). It's an idea I've had and documented since late 1999. Also, I've already done most of the work, as a working prototype existed earlier this year. I'm working on a refined version now (soldering a circuit board I had professionally made).

    I once hacked together a movable webcam out of junk parts. My cam was soon accounting for 12% of the school's web hits. Then I had the idea to refine the device, and make it available at a low cost. Cheap webcams are everywhere; if I could build a working system with an hour of two of lashing junk parts together, then mass production should take the cost down to nothing. The device I built is controlled over USB, and has a USB hub controller integrated with three open ports. This allows you to plug in the pan/tilt base, then plug your camera into the base: only one wire to the pan/tilt cam, and two extra ports open up! Another thing I built, and am considering making available as a kit, is a really simple pan/tilt unit. Only three heat formed plastic parts, and it looks a lot better than two servos lashed together. I estimate total cost, if you bought the parts retail, about $25.

    Anyway, the problem is not having the ideas, but doing something about them. And after that, the problem is getting the courage to take that next step. I have not been able to do it. I graduated from school this spring, and have been unable to find a job except for one that is purely mechanical design and pays temp office worker wages. I have to live with my parents still, as otherwise I would have barely enough money to live on and pay my student loans. And I can feel everything I knew about electrical engineering slipping away, as I sit in safety meetings and draw sheet metal parts in AutoCAD. Still, I'm trying to work on a few interesting projects and beef up my C++.

    If you are in the position to start a new business, and you find some good ideas, go for it. I would do it in a heartbeat, if I could.
  • Learn HIPPA and get con-sulting. It's the new Y2K.
  • I feel pretty same as you do.

    I also feel that my company is earning a lot due to me and what I get as my pay/stocks is nothing compared to their share.

    Should I start my own company or only try to rise up the corporate ladder.
  • Your original idea for a business won't be the one that makes you successful. Most successful businesses change and adapt from their original business plan into an organization that meets the needs of the market.

    For example, MS was born with DOS, but their cash cow is Office. Autodesk's specialized CAD software evolved into 3D Studio Max. Dr. Dobb's Journal was started by two guys trying to publish their own version of BASIC.

    I was involved in two start-ups. The first one stuck to the original business plan, refusing to vary and ignoring other opportunities that presented themselves. The thinking was that if we took our eyes off the original goal, we would fail. Well, we failed anyway. In the second start-up, when new opportunities presented themselves, we took advantage of them. We adapted. The end result was that the company that finally "made it" was very different from the one laid out in the business plan.

    My point is this - don't agonize over what you should do. Your idea only needs to be good enough to get you into the marketplace. Once there, the real opportunities will present themselves. Don't be afraid to change course and take advantage of them.

"Been through Hell? Whaddya bring back for me?" -- A. Brilliant