Want to become an billionaire but don’t have a unique business idea? Who says you need a unique idea? Start thinking about packaging, repackaging (or even re-repackaging?) existing products or services instead.
Let’s start with a few examples from the Internet sphere. Why not let yourself be “inspired” by the really clever tools and services which were used on the early Internet and based on really pioneering work? Package them in a new shiny webby way and perhaps add some social aspects to it and you’re done!
– Twitter. I know, it’s a pet peeve of mine, but really, what is twitter other than a simplified repack of irc (internet relay chat)? It lets you create a channel which people can “follow” and then start receiving everything you say.
– Dropbox. Making files available in the “cloud” has been around for as long as the Internet itself, more or less. Specifically through ftp servers (file transfer protocol) which you could access from any device which implemented the open and standardised protocol. Early versions of web browsers even supported dragging and dropping of files to an ftp server by just dragging the icon to the “web page” showing the directory listing of the ftp server. Hey, I even remember the first time when I mounted an ftp server in the file system to make it appear as a storage device. It was almost magical. At least in the early 1990s…
– Facebook. Dare I mention irc one more time? You subscribe to messages from all of your friends’ personal channels. Give each channel, sorry user, their own web page which they can customize a little and you’ve got Facebook. More or less…
What about hardware? Millions of clever electronics components have been invented by people and companies all over the world. Tons of software to control these components have been written and made available freely on the Internet. All of it is just waiting to be packaged into a new product or service.
– Apple. These guys have really understood how successful you can become by being “inspired” by other people’s work. Hey, they even understood that it would be smarter to use an existing operating system (Unix) then creating one for yourself. They hade another stroke of genius; hire a designer and re-design old boring stuff like laptops, mobile phones or music players to make them look new and shiny! Suddenly everyone thinks you’ve actually innovated something and will give you all of their money to get all of your products!
But won’t all of this packaging and re-packaging slow down innovation? Of course it will! Who will do the innovating? When will we see truly new – pioneering! – products and services again?
Ok, I shouldn’t be all bitter in this post since there actually are some merits in re-thinking, re-packaging and re-designing things. The re-packaged thing might actually end up much better than the original and then I think you should give all your money to the people who accomplished it, because it has taken development one step further!
In fact, I actually think it would be great if we re-think things on a regular basis. Why do cars look and work like they do? Can a bicycle be simplified even more? Why are all email programs (including GMail) so inefficient tools, basically a small variation/improvement of the email programs from the 1970s (or even 1960s?).
I wonder which “old Unix program or service” will be come the next big Internet hit. Perhaps sed?