Challenging the Mundane

Some of the best business ideas are borne from the dull and boring. A simpler way to take credit card payments: Square. Easier access to town cars: Uber. Sensible dental insurance: Brighter. Notes synched on all computers and devices: Evernote. Renting unused office space: eVenues.

And now, a better thermostat: Nest.

This is what happens when a bright entrepreneur decides not to take an everyday inconvenience for granted. How many ordinary problems do we live with that we'll one day say, "I can't believe we used to..."?

Here's a few off the top of my head:

  • Traffic lights that stay red when there's no crossing cars
  • Logging into social networks and seeing stuff from people we don't care about
  • Alarm clocks that suck; it's the first thing we look when we wake up and last thing we look at before we go to bed, and it's ugly and still thinks it should be programmed like a 1980's VCR
  • No way to tell which water bottle belongs to whom at home, with guests, when playing basketball, etc. (yep, I said mundane), resulting in massive waste globally
  • The hundreds of billions of spent each year to pay people to prepare tax returns, a total waste
  • The 99% of boats that sit in harbors unused 99% of the time
  • The billions spent by advertisers reaching people who are totally outside their target audience
  • Paper money, a model left over from centuries ago

And countless other troubles and inefficiencies small and large that vex and hassle us on a daily basis, and which we assume are just a given. In solving these problems, entrepreneurs will build hugely valuable businesses. For example, Square looks like a simple device to scan a credit card, but it opens the door for small merchants to manage their customer relationships like never before, and Nest seems like a better looking thermostat but could allow consumers and producers of energy unprecedented control over their costs.

The trouble we take for granted today could turn out to be a billion dollar opportunity for the entrepreneur who sees things differently.