Niche the new black for start-up opportunities in 2014…
So, suggesting 14 great business opportunities for 2014 might seem a misnomer. But stick with me. If you’d leapt onto the mobile phone bandwagon in the late 1980s chances are, with a prevailing wind and a bit of nous, you’d have done ok. And the beauty of some of the fastest growing business sectors is there’s an idea to fit every shape, size and flavour of ambition. Niche, independent and micro are terms that will open an absolute raft of commercial possibilities this year. And among them there will be some big-time winners, some nice little earners, and some challengers deserving of respect. So what are they?
Ok, you’ll say Britain has been a craft beer and cider maker for centuries. But in recent decades the big brands began to pervade our senses and dominate the taps of our local refuelling stations. The reaction has been noted and the likes of Brewdog emerged as a taste of independence. But with 12% compound growth in the sector over the past five years, this trend is not going away and as appetites catch up with the latter-day pioneers there’s a grand chance to join the renaissance.
The fitness industry here is worth close to £4bn. And while the UK’s obesity crisis suggests more than half the nation will be in that category by 2050, the fit and overweight alike are fuelling the personal training market. David Lloyd Leisure’s own research suggested personal training-led groups are a big growth area for those seeking a “more tailored” approach over one size fits all.
The online work marketplace will be worth $5bn in just four years, more than doubling in that time. And with the rise of virtual freelancers will come the rising need for personal assistants who don’t require an office to do their job. The seemingly menial tasks and secretarial work we’d love to delegate will find their virtual way to the homes of an organised and efficient army of assistants. The likes of online work platforms Odesk, Elance and Time Etc will make the necessary introductions.
Niche price comparison website
The comparison industry is worth an estimated £1bn. But beyond the saturated areas of insurance and utilities there are some great niche opportunities to be had. Already Startups.co.uk has spotted the likes of car sharing comparison site Compareandshare.com, shopping focused Swogo, and cycling products comparison business Bikmo. Doubtless there are many more besides and an enormous number of unexploited products and service-based engines to generate affiliate revenue from.
Raspberry Pi accessories
The microcomputer small enough to fit in your pocket is as basic as it’s possible to be. But with over two million units sold to hackers, modders – those that modify hardware – and the education sector, the world around Raspberry Pi is growing fast. Co-founder of the foundation Eben Upton told us he “would recommend looking into educational accessories” as well as customised cases and other Pi products. Raspi.tv, having raised £261,000 on crowdfunding site Kickstarter (almost five times the required £55,000), will produce affordable 9-inch monitors specifically for the device.
A surge of interest in the Victorian era recently has been termed Victoriana or Victorian Revivalism. Renowned fashion designer Marc Jacobs made it a focus of his Spring collection. Taxidermy classes are selling out. And the romanticism of programmes such as Mr Selfridge suggest that fashion, food, and jewellery themed around the age of Empire will lead to consumer demand.
Independent BYOD consultant
The bring your own device (BYOD) phenomenon has scared business owners into considering their data and technology policies. But rather than trusting a software security firm alone – or the manufacturer of the hardware – businesses will turn to IT consultants who can share best practice to ensure both employers and employees alike remain content.
There are more than 50 recognised ‘tech clusters’ in the UK now, places where tech start-ups are congregating across the nation. There are major community initiatives such as parkrun. And there’s demand for something different. Gourmet global cuisine on the move provides an answer, and Street Kitchen is just one example of the rising street food revolutionaries.
Blogging’s hardly a new concept, but there’s room for more. Advertisers realise that niche content is a way to highly target their audience. Mummy and lifestyle bloggers will now benefit from access to a new wave of platforms, such as social blogging technology Glipho.com.
The big news here came from the government, which announced that it would open up 40,000 data files by 2015. Minister Francis Maude hailed it as a huge opportunity and the government’s site data.gov.uk already shares some of the apps that have been built around it. “This is a huge step forward,” said Maude, “and will be a particular boost for the innovators and entrepreneurs who can use open data to create products and businesses that will fuel growth in our economies.”
Oculus Rift game development
Ok, this one isn’t an instant win. The virtual reality headset Oculus Rift isn’t yet available, but with gamers across the world waiting with baited breath for its release, the device will need games. The fact it raised $91m venture capital backing suggests it’ll be big. Software developers have the time to start preparing for the next wave of gaming.
Our natural resources and the environment are under threat. This won’t be news to anyone who has been conscious for the past decade, but the government is backing Britain’s science community to help get the world out of a hole. Increased investments in alternative energy and low carbon, the £3.8bn Green Investment Bank, and the Technology Strategy Board’s remit to source innovations make this a great opportunity.
Regional coworking office
London is full of them, although not necessarily saturated given the population of digital businesses spread around the capital. But it’s in the regions that the big opportunity lies. Like street catering, the tech clusters around the UK need shelter as well as food. Cowork offices potentially utilising the government’s Space for Growth initiative, which is making surplus space available to support small businesses, will grow fast in 2014.
Boutique care home
Whatever you decide to call them, the baby boomer generation won’t want to be confined to soulless care institutions. Having fought for civil rights, feminism and liberalisation, this generation will want a greater degree of independence, control, and personalisation as an antidote to existing retirement living options. Watch this space.
Words by Ian Wallis, editor of Startups.co.uk and Growing Business. To read the full report, visit Startups.co.uk.