As an early adopter of new technologies, now and again I discover some “whitespace”; a web or app that seems to provide a disproportionate ROI for my use. Tripit is a great example: I travel frequently and rely on my calendar to stay on schedule. With virtually no additional overhead, Tripit grabs all my travel bookings from Gmail, aggregates it in one place, with all the details, and allows me to easily share with family or co-workers. That’s a huge ROI in the form of time savings for only $40 a year. Since Tripit mines Gmail and knows my preferences, I also don’t have what Sam Lessin recently referred to as “hidden costs” in terms of mental overhead, i.e., manual setup and needing to make corrections all the time.
Software solutions that save me time, like Tripit, are awesome but an even more interesting whitespace dynamic is with “network” models. A network model is that where the software or community benefits from each new user added. In these types of models the earliest adopters can reap huge rewards in terms of ROI. While saving time is extremely valuable, ROI from network models could also be in the form of monetary compensation, career advancement or other.
Quora is a great example of huge ROI from early adoption of a network model. In the early days Quora was a small group of silicon valley insiders. It was not uncommon for anyone on the network to be able to ask a question and receive an answer from a well know startup executive or venture capitalist. Further, early on you could message anyone directly, creating an amazing networking opportunity. Answering many “80/20” type questions early led several of my answers to become “Quora Top Answers” giving me at least the appearance of subject matter expertise. It wasn’t so much that my answers were amazing, but rather, I benefited from being early, and then rose the social proof and compounding effects of others up-voting responses.
Another great example of finding whitespace was an app called Ohours. Ohours provided a way to offer “office hours,” essentially opening yourself up to 20-minute coffee sessions with anyone who wanted to sign-up to chat with you. Since it was originally a small group of like-minded NYC techies who knew of it, the early meetings were phenomenal. I’ve stayed in touch with many great entrepreneurs and investors I met through it including @werdelin. Unfortunately, over time and arguably as it grew “more popular”, the quality of folks dwindled and ultimately the project was tabled.
Finding ROI Today.
It’s been a while since I’ve found a great network whitespace opportunity. Angellist and cryptocurrenices are two I have been experimenting with. In terms of point solutions, especially those that allow you to leverage software to save time, I would highly recommend Clara. My company works extensively with folks overseas (Israel, Dubai, Brazil, etc) and thus daily I am scheduling meetings across time zones. Googling time zone conversions, waiting for responses, last minute reschedules, coordinating dial-ins/screen shares, talk about a pain in the ass. Enter Clara. For a little over $100 a month, Clara has completely automated this process for me (check it out for more details).
What software or services do use that offer whitespace opportunity?