As an early adopter of new technologies, I am always on the hunt for apps that offer white space, or an asymmetric return on investment, for those willing to be early supporters.
Tripit is an example: I travel frequently and rely on my calendar to stay on schedule. With virtually no additional overhead, Tripit grabs all my travel bookings from Gmail, aggregates it in one place, with all the details, and allows me to easily share with family or co-workers. That’s massive ROI in terms of time savings. Because I was early on the Tripit bandwagon, I have saved myself countless hours and seem to have been grandfathered into certain features.
Tools like Tripit are great, but as an early adopter I’m really on the hunt for the unicorns, the apps where the value accruing to early users is just insane. Often this comes from apps with true network effects.
Quora: A Case Study In Massive Personal ROI
Quora is my current example of a massive personal return on investment simply for being an early (and aggressive) user. In the early days, Quora was a small group of Silicon Valley insiders. It was not uncommon to ask a question and then receive an answer from a celebrity, startup executive or venture capitalist. Furthermore, early on in Quora you could directly message anyone — an amazing networking hack.
Simply being the first personal to answer questions led several of my responses to become “Quora Top Answers.” Piggybacking on Quora’s network effects, my answers were promoted not because the great quality, but because they were first.
Another example of finding incredible personal ROI was an app called Ohours. Ohours provided a way to offer “office hours,” essentially opening yourself up to 20-minute coffee sessions with anyone who wanted to sign-up to chat with you.
Since Ohours was built by a serial founder in NYC, initially only a small group of like-minded techies knew it existed. The early meetings were phenomenal. I’ve stayed in touch with many great entrepreneurs and investors I met, including @werdelin. Unfortunately, as Ohours grew more popular, the quality of the network faded and the project was tabled.
Where I See White Space Opportunities Today
It’s now been a bit since I’ve found a great white space opportunity, but AngelList and crypto currencies (bitcoin) are two areas where I have been experimenting. Tinkering in these ecosystems feels like it could have a massive payoff.
Tool-wise, I highly recommend Clara (virtual assistants). Heights Media has customers across the globe (Israel, Dubai, Brazil, etc) and Clara saves me the headaches of back and forth time zone scheduling for a fraction of the cost of a human assistant.
I remain on the hunt for more white space opportunties.