10 overcrowded start-up niches


6. Energy comparison sites


Rising energy prices are certainly topical at the moment and heightened consumer concerns over bills provides a seemingly ideal opportunity for a website that compares prices of the different suppliers.


The problem is that it has already been done. The likes of Energy Watch, GoSwitch, SwitchPower, Make It Cheaper and SwitchWise, to name a few, have all sprung up in recent years.


Next year’s carbon tax may provide the perfect storm to assist those looking for a cheaper deal, but you will be up against some well-entrenched competition if you feel that price comparison is a basis of a viable start-up.



7. Recruitment firms


The general recruitment market has long been saturated by generalist firms, prompting many to seek niches in areas such as IT or education.


While this has proved fruitful for some, judging by our recent awards submissions, there still appears to be plenty of start-ups willing to wade into the recruitment sector by promising to be something different, but not exactly defining what that difference is.


Another thing to bear in mind is competition. Not only do recruitment start-ups have to battle against large competitors with long-held clients, they have to convince smaller-scale employers why they should spend money on an agency when online tools such as Twitter and LinkedIn can provide a quick, and free, solution to vacancies.


8. Email replacements


The demise of email has been predicted for years. It’s easy to see why – while social media and peer-to-peer sites such as Twitter and Skype have pushed the boundaries of communication, email has plodded along in much the same guise as when it first emerged.


Some have attempted to kill or radically modify it – just look at the disastrous example of Google Wave. An Australian-based entrepreneur, Bart Jellema, is the latest to try to move the email model along.


Improvements to email certainly aren’t impossible, but it’s clear that it’s very hard for any kind of business to get users to kick the habit entirely.



9. Social media consultancies


Call yourself a social media expert/guru/consultant and you risk derision in some quarters. The role has been parodied endlessly as being a pointless and expensive waste of time.


This isn’t entirely fair. Many Australian businesses still don’t have a social media presence – 14% at the last count – and as this number grows, bosses will need help along the way.


However, the impression persists that this is an industry built on sand, especially as advertising agencies and specialist content creation businesses start to offer social media expertise as a bolt-on to existing services.


10. Solar panel PV installers


With Australia committed to 20% renewable energy generation by 2020, there should, theoretically, be plenty of opportunity for new businesses in the renewables industry.


The installation of solar panels is the most widespread of this green business wave, with the market becoming clogged with start-ups keen to take advantage of generous feed-in tariffs.


However, the future of the sector is uncertain. Not only is the number of solar panel installers unsustainable, many face ruin as feed-in tariff rates are scaled back, as witnessed recently in NSW and WA.