If the tech sector were a department store, you’d find yourself elbow-to-elbow with other shoppers. After all, it’s notoriously crowded. How, then, can you shoehorn your way in and make a name for your next “big thing” product or service? The answer is deceptively simple: Find and exploit a niche.
Of course, some niches in tech have been so overrun that they’re virtually impenetrable and may not be worth pursuing. But others are wide open and eager for disruption. Those are the places to hang your hat and showcase your strongest solutions, especially if you’re somewhat familiar with the tech space and have a little momentum.
Not sure where you can shine as a tech-preneur? For inspiration, check out these four “Aha!” innovations that didn’t disrupt, but actually built their own niche:
1. A Phone Truly Made for the Younger Set
When Stephen Dalby went looking for a first phone for his son, he kept running into disappointments. Most phone sellers were just slapping patches and controls onto existing smartphones, but weren’t doing enough to create safe, protected communication devices meant for youngsters.
Dalby was already a business owner and knew he’d hit upon a problem worth solving: Developing a kids phone that both kids and parents could appreciate. The result of his digging into this niche was Gabb Wireless, a kid’s phone boasting fun features without access to the Internet, app store, or any social media sites.
What you can learn from Dalby’s experience: Whenever you encounter a challenge, consider it a chance to throw your hat into the ring with a tech-driven answer. You could tunnel your way underneath an existing market and surprise everyone by popping up in the middle of the hubbub.
2. An Old-School Padlock With Biometric Sensors
Robbie Cabral may have been out of work when he dreamed up the prototype for BenjiLock, but he wasn’t out of ideas or passion. His sector? Personal security, but not the high-tech type. Think more along the lines of the standard lock that’s used in gyms and schools everywhere.
Cabral’s goal was to get rid of all the fumbling, keys, and memorization involved with dealing with typical locks. And he did it by conceiving a padlock product design, the BenjiLock, that would open at the touch of a finger only for the user. After testing and landing a Shark Tank appearance, Cabral found himself at the head of an innovative company about to revolutionize the way students, professionals, and people on the go protect their stuff.
What shines through with the BenjiLock: Your tech niche may well disrupt a non-tech industry. Padlocks were traditionally lower-tech devices. By overlaying a tech element onto an existing and known commodity, Cabral entered the field as a forward-thinking tech founder.
3. A Personal Assistive Device That Can “See” Ahead
Kürşat Ceylan may be visually impaired, but he had the foresight to ramp up safety, information, and security for people like him who rely on canes to get around. After literally running into an obstacle on the street in New York City, he realized that smart technology wasn’t just for phones and homes. It was for canes, too.
Fast forward and Ceylan’s WeWALK cane has hit its stride and caught attention worldwide. The cane taps into Google Maps to assist with navigation when paired with any type of smartphone. The WeWALK also vibrates to alert users of potential dangers such as upcoming street signs or unexpected barriers.
How your eyes can be opened by this invention: Ceylan knew that anyone using a cane currently could be a potential buyer of the WeWALK. He brought his own knowledge of being part of a niche sector of society into the design of a tech product that makes standard canes seem unimaginably behind-the-times.
4. A Digital Companion for the Elderly and Homebound
Already gaining steam despite just being unveiled to beta testers, ElliQ and its parent company, Intuition Robotics, are riding the waves of positive responses. ElliQ might well be considered the digital assistant that’s meant specifically for older people who are alone.
Is ElliQ the first device of its kind? Of course not. Alexa comes to mind as a competitor. Yet ElliQ’s big differentiator is that it’s programmed specially for people who might be lonely or at risk due to their age, mental health, or home situation. In other words, it gets as close to being a friend to individuals who are aging in place as any AI-solution can.
What’s most important about ElliQ: It proves that compassion for others can help spur invention and creation. Wherever there’s a human need, you can potentially fill the void with tech-enabled products.
If you’ve come to believe that there’s nothing new left to dream up, think again. In 1899, an authority at the U.S. patent office averred that mankind had invented everything it could. More than 100 years later, entrepreneurs like you continue to prove him wrong by offering the world great tech innovations that make life more comfortable, safe, affordable, and interesting.