The 10 Most Tempting Software Startup Categories

Written By: Dharmesh Shah March 1, 2010
I’ve been in the software startup business for a long time.   One thing I have found interesting is that amongst first-time software entrepreneurs, certain “patterns” of applications kept recurring.  Time and time again, entrepreneurs are tempted by one of these application categories.  Not that it’s always a bad thing — I just found it curious.stealing cookies OnStartups


1. Project Management / Time Tracking / Bug Tracking

This is likely because the developer had to work at some point with existing software that just sucked and thought “Hey, I can build something better in a weekend and it will do exactly what I want.  It’ll support custom fields, and query-by-example and persistent views and all sorts of neat stuff.”

2. Community / Discussion Forums

The developer was kicking off a new online community for whatever hobby area she was interested in.  Poked around looking for something to meet her needs, but there was nothing appealing.  “Hey, this is easy — the data model is trivial and I can use this project to learn about this new web framework I’ve been meaning to play with.”

3. Personalized News Aggregation/Filtering

I’m not exactly sure why this one keeps cropping up.  I think the reason is that it seems obvious that there’s just much more information out there than any normal person can consume.  The entrepreneur arrives at some interesting angle on how to better filter the information.  Could be individual voting/learning mechanisms, social features (your friends liked this stuff, so you will too).

4. Content Management (website, blog)

Another one of those seemingly simple apps (“how hard could it be?”) combined with the fact that it’s often harder to learn some existing system and make it do what you want than just hacking together a “minimalist” application (that over time, becomes less and less minimal).

5. Social Voting and Reviews

This ones newer to the scene.  These applications allow users to vote/rate/review something (movies, books, wines, whatever).

6. Music/Events Location Application

What the world really needs is a way to figure out when their favorite band is going to be in town.  Connect with your friends!  Figure out where they’re going!  Hook-up!

7. Dating and Match-Making

This one requires no explanation.  As is the case with most of these application categories, entrepreneurs often like to “scratch their own itch”.

8. Personal Information Management

I think this one is really common because it’s often one of the early applications developers build to learn something new.  “Hey, I can use this new ORM system to track my DVD collection.  It’ll take just 50 lines of code!”

9. Social Network For ______

These were happening well before MySpace and Facebook.  In this case, the application is not completely trivial — but that’s what makes it a bitt more tempting.  The data models can be rich and if one has some UI chops, it’s often a fun application to work on.

10. Photo/video/bookmark/whatever sharing

As humans, we like to share stuff.  The appeal of this application is it’s broad appeal (hey, my girlfriend needs a way to share her photos from her recent trip to Brazil). 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that building an application in any of these categories is doomed to failure.  I just find it curious that these specific themes tend to occur again and again. 

Did I miss any?  Which application categories do you think entrepreneurs are lured by?  Do you just happen to be working on a fun little project that falls into one of these categories?

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