As an early adopter in the startup and technology space, now and again I discover technology whitespace; a web or mobile application 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 virtunally no additional overhead, Tripit grabs all my travel bookings from Gmail, aggregates it in one place, allows me to share the details with people like my parents and populate my work calendar so our team knows my whereabouts and availability. That’s a huge ROI (at least for me) and my only cost is $40 a year. Also since Tripit mines my Gmail and knows my preferences, I 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.
Also noteworthy is that many apps I’ve found whitespace with early on have proved to have diminishing returns over time. This seems particularly likely when an app has a network or community component. While users of these applications should in theory ‘benefit’ as the applications attracts more users, I’ve found the opposite to be true: as the app gains in popularity I actually see a diminishing return. It pays to be an early adopter!
Examples of Former High ROI Apps:
Quora: In the early days of Quora it was very small group of Silicon Valley influencers. It was not uncommon for VIPs in the tech space to engage you in conversation. Quora also let you message anyone directly, creating amazing networking opportunities. Further, answering many questions early on led several of my answers to become “top answers” which then benefitted over time from “social proof” — others up-voting my responses based on the fact that others had previously up-voted.
Unfortunately my ROI from Quora has dropped dramatically. Many of the questions and answers I see now are very low quality, or just variations of questions that are re-hashed.
Ohours: When Ohours first came out it was a really easy way to network with super high quality entrepreneurs in NYC. Since it was originally just small group of insiders 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.
Aside from Tripit and a few others, an app providing me incredible whitespace/ROI is Clara. At my company we work extensively with folks overseas (Israel, Dubai, Brazil, etc) and thus constantly need to schedule meetings across time zones. Googling time zone conversions, waiting for responses, last minute re-schedules, coordinating dial-ins/screen shares. Talk about a pain in the ass! Enter Clara. For a little over $100 a month, Clara has completely removed this pain point (check it out for more details).
So I’m curious: what app(s) currently provide you the most whitespace?
PS: Feel free to email me if you want your “secret” to stay safe ;)