CS3 Professional Issues Term 2 - Business Ideas

[Updated 1/3/01]

Costs table

If it helps, remember I never said the ideas had to be unique or original, simply that you think you might make some money out of them. If someone else has done it successfully somewhere else can you get a business together doing it here, or better, or cheaper before they grab the market?

For any market, you need to ask:

For instance: If you have a business selling widgets with .. then you will need a market of at least ( 20k + 60k + 10k + 10k ) / ( 50 - 30 ) = 5,000 widgets per annum to break even. That's about 5,000 / 200 = 25 widgets per day. Can two assembly workers reasonably turn out 25 widgets per day between them? If not your idea won't work. Can you sell this many?

I'll put up some guide figures for you asap at the end of this note with reasonable costs for wages, rental of space etc - if what you need isn't there, ask and Ill make an educated guess.

Narrowcast information services

Is there a market for content delivered (how?) to small or local audiences - sports enthusiasts, students in this University, clubbers etc.? Take a subject area dear to your heart, figure out the market using the ideas in the slides and lecture. Students are a notoriously difficult market to reach and if you can crack this on there are real opportunities here. Employers and vendors of various products (which?) are interested in reaching you especially if you'll remain a customer afterwards. Of course if it's an easy option everyone will be doing it so how are you going to compete? You need to be cheaper than or different from everyone else.

Close to home

If a family member or friend is available, quiz them about what products or services would make their job easier. If you're serious about setting up your own business this could well be the best way of getting started

Mobile phone developments

Assume the mobile phone in 2-3 years time will have a WAP-enabled 640*480 2" screen and will know exactly where it is geographically (GPS or cellular positioning). Your car will probably have seatback screens that will present the same kind of interface. What services will be needed for such devices?

Travellers' info service

Could you sell a service with an authentication system for hitch-hikers and drivers to reduce the risks for all of hitch-hiking? Could you do the same for tourists - a range of information services so you could arrive in a foreign town and immediately know via your WAP phone the basics for eating, sleeping, getting a casual job and meeting people.

Festival Fringe performer information service

Same basic idea but aimed at Fringe performers [Where can I get a gorilla suit NOW?] and/or audiences

Smart advertising panel

An LCD or LED panel for use in a bus that certainly knows where the bus is and may know a few things about the mobile phones in the bus, i.e. you. Could this work? "Next stop: new snowboard shop ..."

Mental prosthesis

We have wheelchairs for people who have physical mobility problems. Is there a market for aids to increase the independence of Alzheimer's sufferers where the main early problem is progressive memory loss?

Text-to-Web bureau

Is there a market for a service taking text in any form (mail attachment or hard copy) and returning a Web page - no graphic design, simply transferred to HTML. In some foreign countries the professional salary is roughly £1/hour. Would such a bureau work better with local cheap labour or by using foreign time?

Virtual Estate agent

Could you put together a business putting together virtual tours of buildings for estate agents? - a quick walk round of a house with a digital camera mounted on a Web page. You could try this for the domestic house market or do the same for large office blocks, aimed at foreign buyers. What part would you play in the business? presumably you don't want to spend your life tramping around with a digital camera. Would such a business grow?

MP3 record label

What industry structure is likely to emerge as MP3 takes off? What is going to happen to the role of the DJ, the record label, promoters etc.? Are there niches for a kind of MP3-Yahoo (or MP3-Radio 1)? Pay-per-download services? Presumably these are on the way so you need to be quick.

Smart parking meters

Could you sell the city (or NCP) a smarter car parking system? Your car has a barcoded disk on the windscreen; You ask for a parking space in an area and the system reserves one for you then your in-car navigation system leads you to it; you are billed at the end of the month. You could reserve your space via your phone or by stopping at a booth.

Fridge-front displays

We are apparently all going to have these soon. What services will be needed on them?

Object locator

Could you sell a domestic object locator based on the kind of technology that stores use to prevent theft of goods? Little silver tags on all your stuff and a kind of torch that beeps when it can 'see' them. How much would you pay for such a thing?.

Child locator

A trainer insole that reports the whereabouts of your kids to the fridgefront unit (q.v.) and sounds an alarm when they stray out of range. You need never lose your kids' trainer insoles ever again ..


Are there other product areas that lend themselves to the 'amazon.com' online store approach? Everyone's getting into this because they think there's money to be made. Perhaps they're right.

JIT mini-stores

Can just-in-time delivery make small businesses more efficient? Businesses that are currently static because of the need to keep large stocks could become mobile, rendezvous-ing with delivery services while on the move. Shops could become smaller if they could rely on just-in-time stock delivery.

very small-scale e-commerce

Is there an opening for a company offering an on-line presence to very small businesses (corner shops, newsagents etc.) - what would their particular needs be? They would not be able to afford anything expensive and might not be able to cope with a huge increase in custom (though some would). Would the kind of people that are their main customers actually read on-line souurces? (and if not could you offer outlets where they would?, e.g. the checkout-back advertising display (q.v.))

New advertising opportunities

Where do people hang around with time on their hands? Bus stops, post offices, supermarket checkouts, on trains and buses. Are there opportunities here for advertising, with or without using any technology?

Curling tutor

Could you sell a device that tracked curling stones either a) based on video from the roof or b) based on velocity/position locators glued to the stones that would allow instant analysis of a curling game? Assume you could manufacture it for £30,000 a system.

Sports goods performance analysis

Are there any high-tech opportunities for measurement and assessment of sports goods? It would need to be a new sport that hasn't attracted the major companies or they will be doing it already in-house.

Snow/Skateboard surface design

The half-pipe is a very simple device for doing snowboard or skateboard jumps. The semi-circular cross-section might not be the best. Using advanced modelling techniques you might come up with a better one - if so could you sell it? (something similar was done for frisbees..)

Computer games company services

Currently games companies do most things in-house from artwork to writing code but do contract out things like motion capture. Are there any other opportunities for services serving the games development industry?

pay-per-view newspaper

Could you sell an ad-on service to a newspaper whereby a paper is printed on the spot to your own specification (recorded on a smart-card), presumably at a vending machine. Would such a thing be in the newspaper's interest or would it compete with the main paper? and what is in it for a) them b) their advertisers and c) you? Presumably it has to be cheaper than the normal paper or have more extensive content.

Mobile phone based purchasing

In Finland there are vending machines with a phone number on the side - dial it, dial an extra digit for your choice of Coke or whatever and it is delivered into your hand; your bill turns up with your phone bill at the end of the month. Are there any other opportunities for this kind of approach? and what would be needed to set up such a scheme?

Some Costs

Item Guide cost (£) per ..
Rental: modern industrial unit, 220 m^2 £ 11250 per annum
Rental: serviced office space (i.e. phones, cleaning, receptionist etc. provided) £ 185 per square metre per annum
Rental: unserviced office space £ 110 per square metre per annum
Rates: office space 25% of rental cost per annum
Rental: shop in George St. £ 1200 square metre per annum
Rental: shop in Gorgie Road £ 110 square metre per annum
Cost: Restaurant in Bruntsfield, Tollcross, Lothian Road, South Bridge: restaurant rental is worked out per m^2 of customer area, not on the total area including the kitchens etc.) + rates. £ 300 square metre customer area per annum
Salary: Experienced electronics Technician £ 25000 per annum
Wage: Casual manual £ 4.20 per hour
Salary: Secretary £ 12000 per annum
Salary: You £ 20000 per annum
Salary: recent graduate Whizz-kid £ 20000-25000 per annum, less if you offer a buy-in
People Overheads at least 40% over salary - pension/insurance, stationery, wear & tear, expenses etc.
Capital Overheads 10% p.a. interest rate plus depreciation  
Time: Lawyer £ 1000 per day
Time: Market Analyst £ 700 per day
Time: Technical specialist £ 500 per day
fully serviced 128KB/s line to Internet (incl. local hardware) £ 4000 per annum
fully serviced 2MBit/sec line to Internet (incl. local hardware) £ 40000 per annum
PC £ 800+ lifetime: 1-2 years