Top industry targets for tech-savvy start-ups

Published 05 June 2012 10:55, Updated 07 June 2012 09:49

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Look around. You may not notice it but there’s billions of dollars worth of opportunity. Where you see a customer in pain, there’s opportunity. Where you see inefficiency, there’s opportunity. Where you see someone with a job description that can be described by an algorithm, there’s opportunity.

Humans are inefficient, expensive, error prone and unreliable. Replace someone with a few lines of code and a business can become efficient – and global. There’s a remarkable number of jobs that can be replaced with software or a website. All around us industries are being transformed as code replaces humans, bandwidth replaces trucks and bits replace dead trees.

These new internet businesses are bringing astronomical wealth to the entrepreneurs. There’s not many industries that can make a 28-year-old $15 billion in eight years.

Life is generally inefficient. Facebook made it easier to stay in contact with your friends (and for marketers to target advertising); Amazon made it easier to buy things; eBay made it easier to sell things. Solve life’s inefficiencies and there’s opportunity. Make the solution disruptive – 10 times better – and you can make a great business out of it.

To get you going, here’s some industries I would like to see disrupted. Businesses that annoy me, that are painful and inefficient and that I would like to see remapped by tech-savvy upstarts.

What on earth do real estate agents do? Talk about an archaic, inefficient industry. We have all these little shops occupying the most expensive real estate in every single suburb, housing people whose sole purpose it seems is to fetch some keys and open the front door of a place to let you take a look. And there won’t just be one of them, there will be a strip of five agents in a row, smack bang in the best location in town. Do they find buyers and tenants for your property?

No, nowadays 80 per cent of leads come from Domain.com.au and Realestate.com.au. Do they really think that putting their mugs on advertisements really brings in a better price? Surely, it’s possible to sell a house or rent a property over the internet. Surely you can do a rental inspection and organise a plumber the same way. This is an industry just waiting to be decimated.

Just think of all that high-end rental property that will be unlocked when this industry disrupts. (Disclaimer: I’m chairman of a company, Leasate, that’s going to do just this).

The recruiting industry has been hacked at a bit over the years but there’s still a huge way to go before it’s efficient. How on earth can a recruiter justify charging 15 per cent of the first year’s salary to rummage through a database of old CVs, make a few phone calls and line up a meeting? Really?

LinkedIn and Seek are a start but there’s a multi-billion dollar opportunity still to come disrupting this industry. Seek needs a bit of a competition. It manages to charge $250-$500 to post a couple of paragraphs on its website. The marginal cost for Seek to provide this service is zero. That’s a big mark-up.

Don’t get me started on the legal world. I’ve paid more for corporate lawyers than the GDP of some kingdoms in Africa. In the tech industry, lawyers manage to charge $40,000 just to draft the documents for venture financing. Why? We know they just go to the main file server and pluck out a template.

The space is crying out for a TemplateMonster.com to replace $10,000 of “$525 per hour legal services” with a $99 smart online template.

Accountants. For me, it involves rummaging through my old mail (printed on dead trees) and dumping a shoe box of statements and receipts (printed on dead trees) at the accountant’s office. For three figures an hour, they perform data entry, sorting and filtering algorithm on the dead trees. There’s got to be a better way.

I love Find My iPhone. Now can someone please make Find My Keys or Find My Wallet? Why do we need to carry a wallet? Why do I have to carry bits of plastic around with me to function in society? Keys? I have to carry hunks of metal with squiggly lines carved into them to get into places? Really?

Want a more ideas? Go to Craigslist or eBay – pick off a vertical and do it better. My company, Freelancer.com, took freelance jobs. OkCupid took dating. Airbnb took holiday rentals. Etsy took craft. There’s hundreds more.

Matt Barrie is founder and CEO of Freelancer.com, a global outsourcing website connecting more than 3.6 million professionals worldwide.

Next week: Virgin Group founder Richard Branson

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