December 3, 2018

Getting frustrated, every idea I have exists and is free

Title says it all. I don't really know what my question is, maybe I'm just venting. I feel like I come up with ideas, do some digging only to find not only does a solution already exist, but it works on every device and it's free. How the hell is anyone supposed to make money with anything when all this stuff is out there for free and works well. People are getting so conditioned to having things for free that I don't understand how anyone justifies charging for anything anymore and actually find people willing to pay.

For example, recipes - I use all recipes a lot, but I also find myself googling something and finding a recipe on a some random site, usually a blog. I thought wouldn't it be nice to have something where I could save the recipe itself, strip out all the blog stuff and just save the recipe info, and integrate it with a meal planning and shopping list kinda thing. Well here ya go:

https://lifehacker.com/copy-me-that-is-a-free-excellent-meal-planner-that-wor-1755962522

I've come to accept the fact that people have thought of everything and competition isn't a bad thing, and it proves that there's a market already and blah blah. But when the competition you find is always free, what other angle can you possibly go with to make money. Am I missing something? Maybe I'm thinking about the wrong kinds of products.


  1. 11

    It sounds like your "ideas" are random things you've imagined that might make money. A better approach might be to consider what you've looked for and failed to find in the real world.

    My business is an example of this. In 2016, I was learning Elixir and was genuinely looking for and failing to find a decent screencast series. Both I found were much too fast for me, clearly edited and sped up in various ways and the videos were also shorter than I liked.

    So a year and a half later I made what 2016 me wanted. Due to how I had found this "idea", the market opening was guaranteed.

  2. 10

    Why not start by taking ideas that aren't free and cost money.

    Then either:

    a) Make them better.

    b) Make them faster.

    c) Make them cheaper.

    d) Make them easier to use.

    e) Make them easier to find.

    f) Make them better branded.

    g) Make them better integrated.

    h) Make them more secure.

    i) Make them easier to pay for.

    j) Make them more localized.

    k) Make them more niche oriented.

    l) Make them more social.

    m) Make them more entertaining.

    n) Make them more group oriented.

    etc.

    I like to take an idea and then see how many of the above items I can check off.

    Don't feel like you need to be the first mover in a whole new space. There are countless levels to compete on.

  3. 10

    So what the focus on innovation is super overrated. The great majority of business are just an iteration of other business. i.e.: Altavista-> Google.

    Hi 5-> MySpace -> FB

    Digg-> Reddit

    Picasso said it best: “good artists copy, great artists steal”

  4. 4

    Just keep thinking and seeking new ideas.

    Btw did you notice that CopyMe has a paid version?

    Have you tried this app? I'm asking because maybe you would find it not very convenient or not designed well - and there is a chance to create a better version. Another possible shot is a niche product. Recipes for the elderly, for pregnant women, for single men, for sportsmen (and differentiate by sports), for hikers. For example, I would like to find a good site with recipes of home-made nutrition bars and so on.

    Another tweak - national cuisine, so many opportunities here! Just don't despair too soon and keep searching.

    Good luck!

    1. 2

      as @levelsio mentioned in a recent post, micro niche... nano niche.

      1. 1

        I was also going to mention @levelsio for this. Also checkout his book makebook.io @stuter12

    2. 1

      Very insightful response! Thanks!

  5. 3

    Think of it this way: if X already exists, there should be some demand for it. Odds are that any idea that ever dawned at you have been thought by someone else at some point in the human history.

    Don't get discouraged. Instead build your own version of X and make it "better".

    1. 2

      Think of it this way: if X already exists, there should be some demand for it.

      100% agree.

  6. 3

    I've been paying for plantoeat.com for several years now. CopyMeThat has a paid version. What can we deduce from this?

    Maybe that people will pay for extra convenience. It's possible that good marketing can make people aware of a paid product before being 'locked-in' to a free one. You can expand a market rather than try to get people to switch. Also, you can't assume other products are profitable and will exist forever.

    1. 1

      You can expand a market rather than try to get people to switch.

      Good point. Too often I assume that everyone has heard of everything. Just because something exists doesn't mean everyone knows about it and wouldn't try something else if it reaches them first.

  7. 2

    I make a recipe app that competes with all of the free ones... and mine isn't completely free... and it's making money. (TLDR at end of post)

    • How?

    My app doesn't require the source website to us microdata/microformatting in order to clip recipes from the site. Every other recipe clipping app relies heavily on microformatting to extract recipe data. For all of the other sites they don't support, they offer a "cut and paste your own damn recipe" interface which is not exactly delightful from a user perspective.

    • Why don't other apps rip your idea off?

    Because what my app does is hard to replicate. People can decide to rip my 'idea' off all day long, but if they can't execute, it doesn't matter.

    Recipe apps are the 'go to' app for people who don't know what they want to build. People generally think they can make a good recipe app the way that lots of people think they can play the piano by mashing a bunch of white keys after too many cocktails.

    • There must be someone who can reimplement your app!

    There are lots of people who can do it... but AI/machine learning people aren't dying to get into the recipe app business which is not glamorous.

    • Why don't you do something else with your skills?

    I love to cook. I use my app almost every day. (I can't always cook on vacation) It's a stupid amount of work and I never feel like I'm moving fast enough, but at the end of the day I'm solving problems that I'm personally familiar with and passionate about.

    • Don't you lose users to free apps?

    Certainly. I'm good with that. If your primary differentiation point is price, my app is not for you.

    TLDR:

    You can compete with free if you solve a legitimate and annoying problem that's technically and/or logistically difficult to solve.

  8. 1

    My suggestion would be to use their paid features as your free features and try to find another way to monetize.

    Maybe a mailchimp structure where they get X free uses or extra analytics or something similar.

    Another option could be totally free with ads (we all hate these but it may work) or another angle that can help you monetize on the back-end? Maybe a training or something.

    Just my two cents.

  9. 1

    Thanks everyone for your feedback. The consensus seems to be, so what if you aren't first, find a way to add value, which makes sense. I think I got myself in a little spiral of negativity, so thank you for the kick in the ass.

    I heard an ad on the radio in the car this morning that was fitting for this discussion. The company was Bombas - they make socks. Who would've thought you could compete by opening a sock company. But apparently their focus is on comfort, and they sold 1M pairs in the first 2.5 years. I thought it was funny timing to hear that. They are apparently doing well, even though you can get socks basically everywhere.

    1. 1

      Don't look at what you use for free, look at what you're spending a lot of time and money on already. What are you willing to spend a premium on? What would you like to use or spend money on but it's super expensive and you'd be fine with fewer features? What is something that is pretty expensive and you can't believe people actually pay that much money for it? Here's an example: https://www.wonderbly.com/ca - A $40 children's book!

      I for one spend a lot of money on courses, mechanical keyboards, gym gear, children's books. That's where I can look for ideas. A few years ago I really wanted something like Tableau, but with 25% of the features. Now there are alternatives and Tableau prices have gone down, but it would have been a decent idea.

      I was also spending too much time setting the proper environments for machine learning in the cloud a couple of years ago. That's when I found FloydHub.

      It doesn't have to be something that nobody has made before. I mean look at Github. Git was free, they just put in up in the cloud.

      Here's another way to think about it, there's another post for B2C, I'm sure you can find it: https://medium.com/the-mission/the-startup-idea-matrix-b2b-edition-3973894d47dd

  10. 1

    As others have said, it's hard. You're probably not going to just think of something no one else has, because everyone else is trying to do the same thing.

    Honestly, at this point, I think if you want a novel or original idea, you have to become a domain expert, or at least, learn a lot about a given domain and try to find a problem that fills a gap somewhere.

    I struggle with this too. I'm a software dev, so how the hell am I supposed to solve a problem in the real estate industry, for example, when I don't know anything about it other than going on craigslist to find apartments? I guess a solution to this is to network, meet a person who has knowledge in a field, find a problem they are having.

    Two people I used to work with(devs as well) have recently left to form companies that have been funded. One with a friend who is a radiologist and are solving a problem in that space, the other has a partner who is a successful lawyer and they are implementing an idea the lawyer guy had that solves a problem in his field.

  11. 1

    I started my email life on Hotmail. That changed to Outlook and I paid the premium to have it ad-free. It didn;t perform any better than the free version: I just didn't see the ads.

    Then I disovered ad-blockers and stopped paying for Outlook. It offered me nothing for my £15 per year that I couldn't do for myself.

    I use the Outlook Web Application on my browser (I have very few desktop programs these days).

    Next year, once I have got a few other things out of the way, I am going to transition my partner and myself over to our own mail server and run our own email software.

    Why?

    Several reasons.

    The first is that Outlook is increasingly unreliable. It has unexpected outages.

    The second reason is that it treats me like a teenager. Whoever maintains it seems to be completely unaware that, for many people, email is an essential business tool. We don't want it to look toy-like and we don't want constant change foisted on us without warning, without consultation and often without any discernible improvement.

    Three: I am increasingly worried about the stability of the code base because, every so often, the interface reverts to some weird Windows 1935 hand-cranked desktop look and I lose the functionalirty to delete emails for varying, unknown periods of time.

    Fourthly, functionality I use and rely on (such as bulk delete) is randomly removed. In the latest version of a few days ago, I logged in to discover that the interface has changed again. Not as childish as it was before but still presenting information to me with a host of unwanted avatars, icons, Messenger, Skype, notifications and God alone knows what else that I have had to switch off again.

    Fifthly, I have serious privacy concerns with respect to the cavalier treatment by all the big American players of what I consider to be my private conversation. I am well aware that a plain text email can be read everywhere from sending point to destination point and copied, diverted, passed to secret service of choice for detailed textual analysis and so on - but the data farming is blatant, intrusive and unwanted, whether you pay for the service or not.

    Sicthly, customer support when things go wrong is completely non-existent. Currently, I have to open FireFox to read my email because there is a bug which means that, on Chrome, Outlook goes into an infinite loop and cannot load my email box or even allow me access to the bloody thing so I can report it to a non-existent suppor group.

    So, next year, when I have time, I will set up a private mailserver, install a decent email application, transition everything over and get away from Microsoft.

    So just because something is free or widespread or common or "done" doesn't mean that there is not a place for innovation. In this case, a company which could guarantee my privacy, encrypt my emails and let me use an email address of my own choosing (including my own domain name) has a potential customer. In my specific case, I hate outsourcing so probably would not go with it but I am not the only person in the world who has the concerns and frustrations outlined above.

    So your angle is this: what is it about the existing solutions that does not work for everyone? Remember, you don't need to take everyone across with you, just identify enough people to provide you with a good living.

    So: find your malcontents and work out how to make them happy.

  12. 1

    I've done this "finding a great idea nobody had" for too long and failed too many times. Over time I learned that your "idea" doesn't have to be unique, it's enough to have the same main idea but with a spin that severs a specific niche.

    It's very hard to find unique ideas that nobody thought of and tried to implement when almost anyone can start an online business these days.

    You're saying you find too many free competitors. So what? Doesn't matter you can't compete with them. Also, on B2C almost every app has a free version, try B2B where freemium is less used and more money are to be made. IMO, for a solo bootstrapper, a B2B SaaS it's by far the best way to get started.

  13. 1

    Can i give a idea for free. make a app that suggest items to cook based on things avaiable in the house plus a tool that auto plan what to cook daily based on preferan. Me and my wife have hour long talk on what to cook !!!!! :-)

    1. 1

      In practice it is very complicated problem to solve. If you have ingredient X, what app should show? Every recipe which contain this ingredient (among many others) or only recipes that contains only this one ingredient? In other words, should app narrow or expand results with each ingredient provided? If it narrows it means that you get results that also have other ingredients that you actually don't have. If it broadens there maybe situation that it will show nothing, because provided collection of ingredients does not contains some specific one (even simple salt or pepper which is in recipe). There must be golden mean somewhere :)

      1. 2

        lets say cooking ABCD need ingredients A,B,C,D. I say to app i wanna make some thing using B and C as i have those. It looks up and ask to user do u have A, D, E and G. If user say i have A and G. then app finds a recipe which needs ABCG. Basically u tell what u have , the app tell u the least remainig item needed for possible option.

        1. 1

          Nice solution! Asking user about additional ingredients actually solves all problems.

  14. 1

    Two things,

    1. find a problem you have that you can’t find a solution for. Yes a lot of problems are solved but I guarantee there’s something you can improve

    2. find a niche, yes there are tons of solution to problems that you will find - but finding a niche will let you create more value to the customer hence create an ability to monetize.

    For example there might be the recipe planning app that is free - but for example if you niched down receips for all to for those who are doing a keto diet or something - than build more value upon that niche needs you can justify charging

  15. 1

    I've felt similar. Now, I'm just focusing on my brand, hobbies, and skills kinda waiting for something to put all my time into hoping I can build/have some ground under me before I full-time commit to a specific project. Probably not good hacker advice, but I'm just being honest. Good luck!

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