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Ask HN: Can we brainstorm a list of niche site ideas like Bingo Card Creator?
29 points by hodder 896 days ago | 16 comments
Patrick, Amy Hoy and tons of others are making good money on small niche sites and tools. I'd love to join them, and I'm sure others here would as well. I think it could be valuable to brainstorm a list of potential ideas like these.



I like your enthusiasm and I'm similarly interested in build small niche sites and tools. A warning, though: the effort isn't in the product development or coding, or even the idea. The real work is promotion. Suppose you build "Flash Card Maker". Who is going to pay you $25 for it? How will they find you? Will you be able to market to them?

Bingo Card Creator: a ton of SEO work. Patrick himself has admitted that BCC isn't much more than a random number generator, so how is it making him $40K/yr? Long tail SEO, paid content writers to whip up semi-templated pages and non-stop optimizing. If I he handed you the source code and all his product/audience knowledge, you would still be so far behind. It's been years in the making.

Amy Hoy: Her product empire is all about appealing to the right audience. In her case: freelancers. She was a freelance web developer. Her SaaS app is a time tracking tool...for freelancers. Her online course is for people who have the desire to escape their current situation and build profitable products. Who has that burning desire? Freelancers tired of chasing their next client. Freckle isn't making six-figured a year because it was a damn good idea that was the result of brainstorming. She knows her audience, can speak to them and understands good copy writing. Freckle has also been around for quite a few years. Let me ask you this: how do you even know Amy Hoy exists? Hint: it's not because she invented time-tracking tools.

I've been in your shoes. I've thought, for a long time, all I needed is a simple product and a Bootstrap'd landing page and I'd be making a cool $80K/yr. If it was that easy, wouldn't everyone be doing it?

My advice is to build something (anything!) and try to market it. Try to sell something. Try Google Adwords and A/B testing. See how far you get. If, after six months, you haven't sold anything try to understand why and what you could do better.

Final remark about marketing: Amy Hoy is selling a course for potential bootstrappers/single-founders. Patrick McKenzie sells $XX,000/week consulting for small/med-sized SaaS shops. They often post and have their content submitted here. Can you spot the intersection between the HN audience and what they are selling?

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Sure you can. And maybe out of the thousand ideas you come up with, one might have a ghost of a chance.

The reason people make money from these niche sites isn't that they're niche. It's that they gasp SELL PEOPLE SOMETHING THEY NEED.

So rather than take random stabs at stuff that might be useful, it's a quicker path to success to ask people (preferably ones with money) what problems they have in day to day work. Here are a couple ones that I've found random business people on the net say they need.

- Simple inventory for very small businesses

- Site to enter customer details, create an invoice, a packing list and a shipping label. Bonus points for USPS, UPS, FedEx etc integration

- Job estimation: a way to enter time, hourly rate, materials, job details, customer info. and create an estimate for a job to bid on.

Note that similar sites already exist. The problem is often that they are laden with features, and are confusing and overpriced for someone who really only needs the barebones functionality.

So maybe that's what you can brainstorm: pick a bunch of profitable sites, tear them apart into their elements and figure out which 3 features are the most important and then create your own site that implements only those three.

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> random business people on the net say

Last time I checked the net was a pretty huge place. Can you please share specifics? Are general "biz" forums a good place to spend time on looking for ideas?

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I don't know of any general biz forums besides the Bank of America small business forum and it's pretty dead over there. I have spent time over the last week or so on sites for Lawn Care and Snow Removal professionals, Machine Shops, tractor hobbyists and the vendors that support them, field spray equipment operators and others.

My methodology is: pick a business domain and then google it to see if it sounds interesting and if there's an online presence devoted to it. There are hundreds, thousands of businesses in every city in the US and their trucks and vans are driving past you all the time with their names proudly emblazoned on the sides. No need to brainstorm anything!

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Sounds great for a US citizen.

What about a small town in Europe's less advanced country?

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Guess you better start pounding the pavement!

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Great feedback. And yes, you are absolutely right that Amy and Patrick have a product that people need. I quite like the idea of deconstucting existing products and presenting a small subset of the features well.

Also, I realize the niche aspect isn't what drives the success, but at the same time it is surely easier pursuing smaller markets due to lower competition.

Thanks for kicking off some ideas!

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I've been moderately successful with niche website tools and SaaS products. I agree with HeyLaughingBoy in a sense–most of the things I've done that have generated revenue were "accidental" in the sense that a person or problem in the niche came to me. When I go looking for a startup, they usually crash and burn.

I'm reminded of Paul G's interview with Zuck at Startup School where he said (more or less) "I wish more startups started the founders".

I would start by (a) putting an ad in the jobs section of craigslist and asking for owner/manager types to do some interviewing/beta testing. Many see it as a cool opportunity and will sit down and tell you their problems. Then, (b) take 2 days off and go talk to owner/manager types at local businesses in your town. Make sure to visit during slow times (don't go to a restaurant at 7pm on Friday or a bank on the 1st of the month).

Now that I have that out of the way, here are actual ideas I think could work because I've heard people complain about them:

Weekly schedule manager: I personally help a few local gyms and churches manage web stuff. Every day they field phone calls that ask "What time is yoga tonight?" or "What time are your Sunday services?". Now, imagine if they could manage that info in one place and then embed it in their website, post on their Facebook page, print it, embed it in a mobile or native app, or have an automatic voice/text line (Twilio).

Niche SEO: we do some SEO work for wedding vendors, but I think there's a need for other segments too. Basically, any business that is going to get traffic from regional google searches but not necessarily Yelp (think lawyers, dentists but not restaurants or hotels). This company in my town is doing it for plastic surgeons (along with web design) and killing it: http://www.etnainteractive.com

I will add some more later ...

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Lots of good stuff in the New Startup Ideas spreadsheet

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ag-R_ZlGO21NdE9...

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Brainstorming is not the route to go unless you also believe buying a lottery ticket will pay your rent this month (i.e. they are both foolish). One way to identify an under-served niche is to consult - thereby helping clients solve problems. Sometimes you can be the 1st to solve a problem in a unique way, or at least become knowledgeable about a niche you didn't know existed, and have someone to learn from (client). Without a deep understanding of a niche you won't be able to spot opportunities as well as understanding the customer.

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Wpengine for nagios

Nagios and pretty much all other system monitoring tools are very ugly, hard to use and hard to install. Put a pretty bootstrappy face in front of nagios and make it easy to install and make it simpler with only the stuff I should care, and collect your $100/month from half of the HN crowd.

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$100/month seems a lot when New Relic does the same for $24/server/month or even for free.

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I own a niche website that sells a digital service that i started in june. It gets 5-8 sales a month now (each of $30) and raked 1700 people who registered in the past to a mailchimp email list. It has the potential of making >120 sales a month with a good push from seo, email campaigns and the like. I haven't touched the website for 2 months and i'm considering selling it if someone is interested. Maybe even something else? if anyone owns a website that sales, maybe we can take percentage out of each others websites and spice it up?

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check out flippa.com they have lost of niche sites wiht all kinds of info on sites for sale. revenue, google rank, etc. It will have lots of ideas.

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"HeyLaughingBoy 3 days ago | link

I don't know of any general biz forums besides the Bank of America small business forum and it's pretty dead over there."

um niche idea small business forums

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I have no idea what Amy Hoy does, but I have some passing familiarity with Patrick's story. He knew the market -- i.e. the people who needed this -- and he saw that what was available was utterly crappy. Then he made something better -- as in vastly superior and actually functional. I vaguely recall some tale of what a nightmare it was to actually print the bingo cards from some site that existed at the time he began working on solving this. As someone else here said, he also did some heavy duty SEO/marketing.

So I really am skeptical about brainstorming a list of niche thingies to choose from, picking one, and raking in the dough. I do not really agree that "ideas are worthless, it is all about execution". But I don't think the language exists to readily express the difference between some completely superficial idea like listing off a bunch of niche markets and the deeper conceptualization that makes "an idea" valuable and executable. Clearly, Patrick had that second thing. His tale is not one of "I know, I am going to brainstorm An Idea and then rake in the dough!"

Ironically, I am routinely told that two of my sites can't be monetized at least in part because they are "too niche". I don't think that is necessarily true, but so far I have not found a solution (and I am willing to go do something else and let those go, if I can figure out what else to do that would actually work for me). I have no idea what Amy Hoy does, but I have some passing familiarity with Patrick's story. He knew the market -- i.e. the people who needed this -- and he saw that what was available was utterly crappy. Then he made something better -- as in vastly superior and actually functional. I vaguely recall some tale of what a nightmare it was to actually print the bingo cards from some site that existed at the time he began working on solving this. As someone else here said, he also did some heavy duty SEO/marketing.

So I really am skeptical about brainstorming a list of niche thingies to choose from, picking one, and raking in the dough. I do not really agree that "ideas are worthless, it is all about execution". But I don't think the language exists to readily express the difference between some completely superficial idea like listing off a bunch of niche markets and the deeper conceptualization that makes "an idea" valuable and executable. Clearly, Patrick had that second thing. His tale is not one of "I know, I am going to brainstorm An Idea and then rake in the dough!"

Ironically, I am routinely told that two of my sites can't be monetized at least in part because they are "too niche". I don't think that is necessarily true, but so far I have not found a solution (and I am willing to go do something else and let those go, if I can figure out what else to do that would actually work for me).

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