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Happy Holidays: Craigslist is Giving Away $100MM Startups

(image credit:  craigslist.org)

I realized last night that Craigslist is the most powerful startup business generator that I’ve seen to date.  Please comment below if you’ve seen better (I am curious).  Here’s why:

#1 People tell you what they need on Craigslist.

Before building a product, that is what you need to know – what is it that my customer needs/is willing to pay me for?  If you are looking for a customer need to satisfy, you can see the frequency and magnitude of the need as well as the geographic distribution on Craigslist.  If you are worried about sampling error, don’t, it’s the 11th most visited website in the US.  Run with that.

#2 Craigslist is a list of services that are in demand that you can do better.

If it is a category on Craigslist or topic on Craigslist, that means there is demand for the service.  One of the key functions of the internet is to allocate excess inventory.  If that is too much jargon for you, think about that Google allocates advertisements better, Kayak allocates airline seats better, Daily Deal sites allocate excess retail inventory better, etc…Craigslist does this too.  It brokers exchanges between people who have too much of something and people who need that something.

Conveniently for the startup community, Craigslist does it kind of poorly and is content not improving and competing with you.  Just add better design, marketing and customer service and you can beat Craigslist at its own game once it has discovered a customer need for you.  This reinforces the idea that your startup isn’t about coming up with the next thing to solve the world’s problems that no one has ever thought of before – it is about doing it better.  Because honestly, whatever you are working on, Craigslist has probably been doing it for the last 10 years.  A few examples for your consideration:

Housing:  Doing airbnb.com before it was hot and probably before those guys were even born.

Community Section:  Doing meetup.com, relayrides.com, tutorspree.com for years.

Discussion Forums:  Doing twitter.com et al…for years.

For sale:  OK, eBay.com has been there for a while.  I’ll give you that one.

Jobs:  Careerbuilder.com, monster.com, indeed.com are all old hat.

Personals Section:  Doing facebook.commatch.comeharmony.comOKcupid.com, etc…for years.

…so what matters is how you do it!  Fortunately, Craigslist is willing to do it kind of mediocrely for you first.  Just remember to say thank you.

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. Tom #

    This is totally true. I don’t remember exactly how I got here – started out scouring craigslist for ideas for startups under the guise of checking out freelance work, just as this article suggests. Oh yeah, the automatic jumpstart article. I tried that on my 1998 toyota camry, and it didn’t work the way it has in all of my previous manual transmission cars. I’ll retry w/ the 2nd gear advice, see if that makes a difference.

    January 17, 2013

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