Brainstorming in an Untapped Market

Those who know me enough, know that my day job these days is to launch a first of a series of best-in-class business incubators, which will be within the campus of KFUPM.

This morning I met with a number of students who were eager to join our incubator and make big things happen, have the capability and drive, but lack the idea or direction. I find that to be exceptionally interesting given the untapped market that Saudi Arabia represents.

We live in a country that has the second highest smartphone penetration rate globally and the strongest purchasing power in the region. Add to this the weak infrastructure, unique cultural challenges, and sickeningly traditional business models. What you get is a goldmine for creative IT entrepreneurs.

Here are few hints I hope to inspire you:

  1. Payment Systems: the Kingdom have exceptionally difficult to manoeuvre regulations with regards to payment solutions. We all know of the effect which PayPal had on home businesses. The opportunity here is to build a similar infrastructure with the support of decision makers and banks, and that which is less dependent on credit cards, but a combination of debit accounts and smartphones.
  2. White Labeled Solutions: small businesses always seek to present themselves in the most professional way and in a most cost effective manner. There might be a demand to develop a white-labeled solution for events, posters, catalogues, brochures, etc.
  3. Accounting Solutions: small businesses in the Kingdom rely on one of two brands of software (cashier) systems. They suck big time. These systems are super expensive (the software alone is SAR 6K and with the hardware goes up to SAR 30K). They created a monopoly in the region because they are among the few which have Arabic interfaces. The recent regulations to Arabize receipts boosted this sector by insane magnitudes. These systems offer no intelligence reporting and almost none of them leverage the power of the cloud.
  4. Big Data: this is an area that none AFAIK have capitalised on in the region. There is an enormous amount of unstructured data which can be mined for intelligence or as an inventory. Checkout the databases of GulfCloud, Zawya, and Kooora. These are traditional examples of businesses which anchored themselves as an authoritative source for data. The challenge here is to do something similar but in a less traditional way: think of the social interactions, car traffic, seasonal events, etc.
  5. Augmented Reality: there’s a big opportunity here to be leveraged for real estate, regional tourism, education, life style, etc. Think of Google Glasses; how will this impact our daily lives?
  6. Niche Markets: what are the pains and gaps faced in niched communities, such as university students? They have users with similar interests and in close perimeters. They present opportunities for craigslist-like markets, fiverr, and other peer-to-peer models.

The next person to tell me of his plan to create a real estate website will be stabbed with a spoon. Same goes for car-selling websites.

Having the drive and passion is %90 of the equation, however, choosing the right problem at the right time is also a make-it-or-break-it factor. Think outside the box and study the models out there.

If you have other ideas you’d like to share with the aspiring entrepreneurs, leave a note in the comment.