I still like my last start-up idea about converting MP3 music collections to be legal and cleaning up mangled/ugly filenames. As Amazon and others start to sell MP3s, a startup could easily offer some interesting services. For example, I just saw that a new product called TuneUp will clean up your filenames, metadata, and cover art. That’s cool stuff that fixes a real problem a lot of people have.
Ready for another idea? This one is simple. Make an Android or iPhone app for people who need a taxi. Imagine: you’re in another city, and you just learned that from your hotel to dinner is not walkable. You’re standing on a street corner. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO!?
Answer: you fire up “Call me a Cab” on your app-enabled phone. Your phone automatically senses your location and (anywhere in the world) gives you 3-4 suggestions for local cab companies, with phone numbers. That’s the base functionality, but that’s still a huge step forward. When you’re standing on a street corner you don’t often have a page like this in front of you:
Now how would you make the app even better? In some places (like, say, these cities) the app would show you where the closest cab is, call it, and get an “estimated time of arrival” as you watch the cab get closer on a map. Something like this page, but on your phone:
How would you make money? Maybe you sell a premium version of the app that does more (more features, or checks for buses or other public transit nearby). Or maybe taxi/cab companies would be willing to advertise in the app just like they advertise in the yellow pages. Maybe you’re a taxi company and you offer this app for free to make your cabs more efficient or to build a brand (most people think of taxis as a commodity right now). And it doesn’t always have to be about the money, you know. Maybe you do it to build awareness about your software startup and unlock future opportunities down the line.
Once you get GPS + cool sensors + the ability to run an application on a phone, there’s a ton of exciting apps you could write. Sure you could find nearby friends, but why not write a GPS-enabled celebrity spotter? Or an “Am I Speeding Right Now?” app that you can use in your car.
If you need other good ideas, I recommend reading through Paul Graham’s list of suggested start-up ideas. I’m a big fan of #3 (finding “New News”), #13 (online learning), and #28 (fixing email overload). Or for that matter, just think about things around your house or business that are messy or annoying and solve that problem.