The 10 Most Tempting Software Startup Categories

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The 10 Most Tempting Software Startup Categories


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?

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Mon, Mar 01, 2010


So true, Dharmesh! Great article. We've been in the business of helping start-ups and entrepreneurs build successful web companies for a while too and see these categories as very accurate.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 12:32 PM by Joseph Jacks

Very interesting observations here. I think the root of most of these is that they are all not very capital intensive. All of them can be written fairly simply by a competent programmer and do not require large amounts of research, PhD level computational systems, or technological investment. First-time entrepreneurs generally find capital to be very difficult to come by. They have no track record of success to woo venture funding and usually sub-optimal personal finances to invest in their own companies. This is further exacerbated by the fact that first-time entrepreneurs are often doing their work 'on the side' while they hold down a pays-the-bills job. Whatever they do should be either cheap to build and/or personally useful to them even in the case that the company as such is not successful.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 1:17 PM by Chris

Darmesh. Awesome post and great seeing you at #OMS10. Go Sloan! 
All these applications you describe represent the typical refrain: "they have a very low barrier to entry" and I would assume that such a feature makes these startups highly attractive for first-time entrepreneurs. 
That's why when I wrote my iphone app I was a true believe and thought I had a company on my hands until my credit-cards ran out. 
One thing I've learned is that seasoned entrepreneurs tend to enter industries where they have deep experience and understand the issue surrounding customer pain. That capability I think one has to get from actual industry experience, working in the business for some period of time. However, when there's no time to wait for experience, why not just start a new social gaming platform? 
Taariq Lewis

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 1:24 PM by Taariq Lewis

What about SEO evaluation, in-bound marketing, etc.? 

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 1:30 PM by john

We had the content management system idea in 2002 and look at us now! :) 

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 1:31 PM by Michael Assad

Good message in this blog. If you see it here, then it's done and tired. 
Also, commenting on "Chris" and not capital intensive, very true. A thought for all entrepreneurs - if it's easy to do and it already exists, your odds of success are near zero. Unless you can come up with something that's never been done before, money will always win the battle for market share. 

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 1:48 PM by Donald Patti

Great article! I have found myself pondering a few of those.  
I think online advertising networks are a big one too. I can't remember how many people have talked about making something that works like Google ads, but just a bit different.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 1:57 PM by Chris Pritchard

These are excellent start-up ideas for those who are really looking for something to do with excess time and knowledge. I have started using my experience with blogging and building my blog to help friends who are away from family and loved-ones to build their own blogs. I am far from an expert either, but I am getting along. 
Great blog. Great ideas!

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 2:01 PM by Gary Good

Nice Post Darmesh - so true about time tracking and project management. I've hired so many developers who tell me..."I'm working on something big, it's this sweet time tracking app on rails. It's going to be huge." Haha - no it's not. 
It's hard to beat Harvestapp and RescueTime for time management and Basecamp, PivotalTracker and Jira for project management, yet they keep trying... 
I'd add one more. Listing websites. Whether it's real estate, the next craigslist or some niche site, it seems like up to a few years ago that was the place to start. Well, that's what I did until I realized I was just trying to build a better mousetrap - rookie mistake.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 2:06 PM by Sean Murphy

Nice list. 
I have tried #1, #2, and now on #4 hopefully i can find my niche sooner than later.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 2:13 PM by Joseph

Great post Dharmesh! And I'll add another category- it's a health information tracker aimed at consumers. Whether it's disease specific or a better version of Google Health / MS Healthvault- the solution is less about tech than most entrepreneurs think.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 2:15 PM by ace bhattacharjya

Thanks for this piece. I guess every software start up finds it has been sincerely tempted by all these... its funny but true... thanks fo sharing.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 2:19 PM by mauco

Great piece, I've love to add ours to the list... it combines a few from the list together. Sign up and use it for free at

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 2:26 PM by Mike B

My anecdotal experience is these are typical grad student projects. They are good for determining competence, but aren't really hot startup prospects. I'd like professors to really teach markets befor technology for project selection. There is the risk that entrepreneural students drop-out like Michael Dell, Ellison, Gates, Zuckerberg, etc., before completing their degrees (and projects)!

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 2:30 PM by John T Maloney

Actually, I think the reason some of these ideas lure entrepreneurs is that some of these ares are not yet completely solved and the problem is easy to understand. 
For example, we run site - which is in category 10. 
The problem we are trying to solve is that there are all these photos attachments and links to shared albums in Gmail mailboxes - how to get them out? So that is reason we build Showzey. 
Is it low entry? Actually not: building scalable quazi-federated database and integrating it with stream processing is quite interesting and very challenging project.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 2:31 PM by Selim Dizdar

My fits into No.3. Check it out!

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 2:48 PM by guy at hockeybias dot com

Great list. It seems the general consensus is that these options are inexpensive and I agree. We're using 5 of them to make SuperNack and operating on a college-student budget, which you can imagine, is probably less than what's in your pocket right now.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 2:58 PM by SuperNack

I've never written a line of code in my life. But here are two I wish you folks would create: 
1. A way to merge ubiquitous but incompatible data bases, in my case FileMaker Pro, Entourage (or some other Mac email system), Constant Contact, and online or website sign-ups. We often have to enter the same data three or four times.  
2. A way to integrate emails into the same file hierarchy as other docs. I can do this with iPhoto, just by sliding the photo's icon onto the desktop and into a folder. I'd love to be able to do the same thing with emails.  

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 3:12 PM by Mike Van Horn

@Mike - love your second idea. THAT'S what Google Wave should have been about!

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 3:30 PM by Steve Cook

Also you can see that none of them had any disrupting and real new innovation in a long time. 

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 3:35 PM by Philippe

Not only does these ideas keep luring startups but also they give a sense of "Hey this will be the next trendsetting application online" kind of disease. 
Other simple ideas that click is making a team of bloggers and trying to be the next tech crunch, or just using your agile skills and getting the next SEO softwre ready ;)

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 3:38 PM by Chanda

I think mine - <a href=">Concept Feedback - falls under #5 (and maybe #2). Not really sure why I chose that path, but interacting with a community for website reviews seemed like a fun thing to do :) 
It would be interesting to see, out of those categories, which are the most successful/profitable (and who they are)!

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 3:39 PM by Andrew Follett

HAHAAHHA. I mean :*( 
Actually, I think there are a few things on your list that are not done very well. One of the things that are done quite poorly is company communication. Wikis and real-time chat do help close the gap but I think the intranet still has some ways to go.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 3:52 PM by Sohail

(#3 + #5)/(economic news niche) = <a> 
We tend to scratch our own itches as developers. I really wanted a Hacker News for economic and financial news. I figured if I could pull in 10k - 20k regular users, that's pretty easily monetizable.  
I also really want to work on news recommendations done right. I haven't really seen anybody do it very well yet. We'll see how it goes.  

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 3:56 PM by Jonathan

Excellent list. Sometimes the Next Big Thing looks an awful lot like the previous Next Big Thing(s). Maybe that's why we keep trying?

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 4:12 PM by MK (Casey) van Bronkhorst

I'd add #11 "Web front-end to iptables / ipnat / Apache / random other FOSS" -- there's lots of linux people out there saying "hey, I know this software and can make it easy for everybody else to use".

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 4:21 PM by Colin Percival

I think the dating website is not necessarily a personal itch, but rather an obvious huge market.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 4:34 PM by Thor

you forgot Porn!

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 4:59 PM by Geoff

Mike Van Horn 
Item 1 seemslike a problem looking for an ETL package. Check out open source packages like Talend.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 5:00 PM by Huevo Daveo

Entrepreneurs are very good at identifying problems/gaps - but rarely ask whether they are the right person to solve the problem? 
If my favorite web-based program lacks a feature that I want - should I invest the time, money and effort into building a version of that program and "innovate" - or should I send an email to the product folks to build/consider the feature to the queue?

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 5:04 PM by SS

I had to laugh when I read this blog article from you. As entrepreneurs, we typically tend to be "gadget people" and online tools are no exception. At some point or another, I've looked into or used at least the vast majority of the above-mentioned applications and still do. I can't help but wonder if all of these tools are actually helping or hindering my organizational abilities or merely creating more work for me.  
As the owner of a healthcare executive search firm in California, my line of work is different from other entrepreneurial endeavors. Day-to-day management of even the most mundane tasks are irksome and it's been on more than one occasion that I've wished for a personal assistant. Interesting that you mentioned ORM systems because in healthcare, especially in large acute-care hospitals, they call that EMR (electronic medical records) systems. In stead of keeping track of your DVD collection, they keep records on your medical records, prescriptions, allergies, etc.  
I think the trick here is realize when enough is enough and it's time to just put pen to paper. I still find myself carrying around a black leather-bound mini-notebook in my back pocket for organizing. I'm not sure how many start-up folks at the executive level still do this but I bet if you search long enough you'll find people who agree with me...that sometimes, old school is the way to go. Just my two cents.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 5:29 PM by Sung Kim

Despite you said it's a curious thing, most people understood you meant:”It's going to fail, don’t even try.” 
By the fall of the dot-com bubble, nobody expected things to flourish again and new ideas, or new solutions to old problems, can achieve such a big success. Google, iPod, iPhone, YouTube, Facebook are just a few examples. If people are not satisfied with products/services out there, let them try to come up with a better solution. However, I really like the idea of mashups and integrating bits and pieces of online services to build something new. Yet, if someone can come up with a new better solution for an existing problem, he/she will be my hero.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 5:58 PM by Hazem Mahsoub

Great article. Interested in hearing if you can recommend any off the shelf/or company managed online platforms for managing a clients customer community forum?

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 7:44 PM by James

Hey Dharmesh, 
Good post, right on about developers and the same thing happens to business people who don't happen to be developers, what they end up hiring developers to build are: 
A new CRM system 
A new lead generation and management system 
A new marketing management system 
A new email marketing system 
A new business intelligence charting tool 
A social CRM tool - newest entrant 
The truth is there is generally dissatisfaction across so many aspects of business and each group (developers, sales people, operations people) that there is a never ending stream of fix-it software being developed. 
Some can become good businesses but few if any become game changers. You have to really find solutions where things are still being done with spreadsheets in order to solve big problems and there aren't to many of those spaces left. 
We looked around and found a niche in the strategic planning space, where there is still lots of spreadsheets or use of desktop software and have gone after that market - time will tell as we work to grow the business. 
Ed Loessi

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 8:01 PM by Ed Loessi

I think a lot of these areas are really nascent, have lots of room for innovation and high potential adoption. ie - everyone reads the news. 
What a lot of entrepreneurs underestimate though, I think, is that building a successful site in one of these categories is as much about community building as it is about the product itself. You can build a "reddit clone" in a few lines of code.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 8:30 PM by Amanda Peyton

Hi - Great comments. Especially good are mashups and stuff "still being done in spreadsheets." IMHO these areas below are ripe for fast moving startups -- 
Collective intelligence 
Complexity Science  
Pattern Recognition 
Prediction markets 
Enterprise mashups 
On the last one here is the entrepreneurial and investment and vendor and user community -- 
Also, content, collaboration, community are done to death. There are tons of roadkill. 
The future top startups are about context, complexity, markets and networks. 

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 8:34 PM by John T Maloney

Good one Dharmesh - 6 years ago everyone was doing photo organizers. I hear many of these from the bootstrapping startups I consult with. 
And yet....  
Long response short, I think there's a fundamental shift going on in 2010 that will yet again change the rules of the startup road.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 9:19 PM by Bob Walsh

Good post! Could be more useful for upcoming software startups :) #5 social rating and reviews are getting more and more local now. Agree with #7 match-making attempts :) #1 is too common and too popular to forget...

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 9:42 PM by Mandar Shinde

I think you forgot online store and shopping cart products. There are so many of them around, if not too many. Open source AND commercial. 
I myself was bitten by the desire to do it right a few years ago (at least initially for small print shops). After a few years coding and trying to build a business in my spare time (with virtually no money), I ultimately decided to give up, and now I've been reflecting on my mistakes. Wrote some about it here
It seems to me the amount of resources required to be successful with a product in the most popular software categories (ie. to be heard and steal customers from big players) is HUGE, and keeps going up.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 11:22 PM by Alan W Szlosek Jr

How about the ultra saturated app landscape of Facebook, iPhone and other large scale dev platforms... There are a ton of cookie cutter apps coming out with the intention of building lists and monetizing through ads.  
Creativity along with some good ol fashion execution always wins on those platforms.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 11:27 PM by Brenton Gieser

Dharmesh categories have been, are, and will always be popular because they cater to some of the essential (digital) needs of most humans: 
- Need to stay organized/productive 
- Need to be connected 
- Need to share 
- Need to find love 
- Need to be entertained 
- Need to be informed 
- Need to buy/sell 
- Need to Advertise 
Those are fundamental needs and therefore will always attract and find many people. 
It becomes harder to be innovative as we enter almost the second decade of the Internet. 
All these needs have been addressed time after time with a plethora of applications. Many of the past winners were overthrown by newer approaches, and the same will happen with the leader applications today. 
Now is easier than ever to build snappy, scalable applications. The entry barrier has been lowered considerably. 
This means that, unlike 10 years ago, now we have 10 times more companies and individuals tackling the same fundamental problems. 
This is good and bad news for consumers. 
Good because fierce competition and iteration drives innovation and better solutions. 
bad because there are way too many choices for each one of the fundamentals needs. 
For developers it is easier than ever to build a business with a laptop and a dedicated server, but harder than ever to stick out and be counted. 
My first product falls under #1. Only in the last year I have seen over 100 similar products with similar features being created. 
They all want to solve the same problem. I gather it is a very tough problem to solve globally. 
My take is that in the realm of project management the winner will be an open standard that defines a universal language for productivity. 
With this standard all productivity applications could talk to each other regardless of the UI. 
Basecamp, Clarizen, 5PM, @Task, Celoxis, etc.. they all have projects, tasks, issues, events, milestones, etc. yet they cannot talk to each other easily. 
We end up having to choose among hundreds of options, being hard to move data across them, with multiple accounts and passwords. 
Productivity/Collaboration is a huge market and is only going to get bigger as more and more people work remotely from home, across the globe. 
Asana is promising the solution of all productivity solutions. Heavily funded ($9 Mill from top VC's) they may get closer to crack this tough nut. 
In the mean time, let's keep iterating and building better versions of the same thing! 

posted on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 at 12:32 AM by Miguel Hernandez

Oh yeah... I am already falling in the idea #3 of your list (aggregation). 
The niche that I tried to bring in is that only few experts work on the aggregation and rest of the world can simply consume it.  
So not everyone needs to know what feeds are or what RSS/Atom really means. 
Of all the other reasons people mentioned here, one more that made me go for this venture is that, I could understand the domain and had technical capabilities to do it myself without having to hunt for money, place and people.  
But yes, this reason would also fall in the category of barrier to entry.

posted on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 at 2:14 AM by Shilpa

Not on your list 
I’ve been exploiting the Environmental Information Management Systems (simulations, statistics, linear programming) and Ethology of Ethologist (automated study of animal behaviour, computer vision, data analysis, etc.) niche for about 25 years mainly due to my educational background, experience in California and France and a lack of competitors (which also implies a lack of need) in these fields.  
I too have noted several things as I have also done a lot of custom software development for business applications.  
1st I don’t think any software development business is easy, its hard work, long hours, mega competition, maintenance costs, documentation, etc. etc. 
2nd If you’re doing some new or innovative software development (ie. not on your list) you have to first sell the concepts and ideas. Thus the main product is imagination and convincing the client to try and image. 
3rd Application diversity may get me more contracts and shortening the learning curve each time I do something new, that however does not necessary guarantee economical success. 
4th As I’m a contractor, I’m paid for my work but the client remains the owner of the data and the application which means I can’t resell the “same” software. But then again no one realy wants the “same” software anyway.  
5th My clients (mostly researcher institutions) end up being my biggest competitors as they can re-package our efforts and offer them to other (foreign) agencies whom they know through meetings, conferences, etc. Thus government institutions stack the decks as they use my taxes to pay for their charges and capture potential clients. 
Finally, I’ve found that my biggest advantages come from evolving technologies (ie. Internet,) flexibility and fast reaction times (early adoption of new ideas and methods) and to try and not take all this to seriously. 

posted on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 at 4:18 AM by Michael

I did read this very interesting blog, but in my entrepreneurial experience, sorry folks but Nobel for Michel Porter was very well gave to him. Low entries barriers, extreme competence and empty pocket, means very low gains, and a lot of pains. As someone told 1st we need to have a customer and a good hard worked idea only in PPT, if it doesn't exist you will lost a lot of time=money, except if it exist a "Philantropic friend"...

posted on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 at 7:22 AM by Eduardo

I have a sense of humor, too, but... In my opinion... so what?? The point is... people are taking a risk. They're trying to innovate and come up with something they think is unique and different. I say kudos to them for trying!! 

posted on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 at 8:45 AM by David E

Every application you listed indicates the need for personalized settings (because each user has their own this is important to me list)in an application that will help users deal with "Information Overload". Everyone can relate to that! 
However I would say that writing an application that is required for a business to exist such as human to machine interfaces for manufacturing or required office applications like payroll or accounting would sell better. At the end of the day most users will use the software required to keep the business running. Then when they have a few minutes to sit and relax they wish there were better apps to handle the "Information Overload". 
Maybe we should limit the information overload instead of taking on a new project thinking we can write something better then the rest.  
Or...Maybe I should be working on my app instead of reading all these blogs ;)

posted on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 at 9:09 AM by Dan Rowe

Hi Dharmesh, 
I'm returning to this blog after a long interval due to some business dependencies. 
It's a nice title you got "The 10 Most Tempting Software Startup Categories" but how many of this is a "promising"? 
Being into Software IVV offerings industry there are some quick updates we have came across like 
1. Based on time, budget and delivery specified functionality 68% of projects never made it into production or were cancelled. 
2. When increasing the speed of delivery, controlling costs, and mitigating an ever-increasing set of risks, how can teams improve the value of products? 
3. Which best practices are needed to achieve optimum utilisation?  
4. How many S/W's can promise to deliver immediate applicable value to your organization. 
The list continues on.... 
So any industry railing on technology need an non-biased Independent Verification & Validation Offerings (like from Qutesys) making sure the product / application what they are developing are built properly and having the right business acumen as well. 
In Simple terms companies ranging from garage start-ups to Fortune 500 giants are depending on ICT platform mapped their business enablement have partnered with the Qutesys to get their enterprise, web, mobile, gaming and desktop applications independently verified, validated, tested and certified. 
The more interesting is technology enablement double interesting is testing same.....Why S/W testing was not involved in list? 
My 0.02$'s 
Also, kindly visit  
1. (for IVV business updates) 
2. (an entrepreneurs diary) 
or mail us to know more on your technology IVV service requirements at: "" 

posted on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 at 11:03 AM by Thomass Jacob

Thanks for the post. Saw it on linkedin but follow you on twitter, too. Anyway, I'm an entrepreneur but not a programer. I don't even have the desire to learn it. I need a programer for my website that utilizes what's already out there! As a non-profit, though - I need someone to work pro-bono. Yeah, right! Thanks for sharing! 
Lorin at Entrepreneur and Professional Moms Association 

posted on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 at 11:16 AM by Lorin Mask

See? I can't even put up a website link correct. I tried your allowed tags but, I obviously did it wrong. How embarrassing. lol

posted on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 at 11:18 AM by Lorin Mask

Little from 7, little from number 9. :)

posted on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 at 12:23 PM by Motor Texter

As always - great post. 
You are right - engineers always think they can do something better than whats already existing - and fail to get any business compared to existing ones - due to lack of marketing/sales experience. 
Actually we are building #3 & #5 with a Mobile version and stuff like that, gotta see how it will do well.

posted on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 at 12:32 PM by Dasharatham Bitla

I have an idea of Video Games which if implemented can bring a total structural change in Playing Games. 
It can give new revolution to Games.  
Best Regards 
Anil M 

posted on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 at 1:04 PM by Anil

Maybe these apps reflect our day to day activity and its more appealing to work in that area?  
While you wrote this appealing post you have not added your opinion? What do you think? Would you do a startup in these areas?

posted on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 at 11:59 PM by Gary Valan

Thanks for your blog message; it certainly sparks the conversation! Not sure how many posts you got as a reaction; a lot. I read most of them, many containing strong points already mentioned. Allow me to chip in. 
Some have already pointed out that your 10 ideas touch fundamental needs, which are not met fully right now - in the eyes of the entrepreneur that is.  
It's true that building software just to fill the simplest of needs in these areas might not be too hard. But this miss-interprets the 'barriers to entry' completely; I'm sorry but Michael Porter needs some revision I think. 
The barriers of entry are not capital (as building software indeed is relatively cheap compared with 10 years ago) - it's getting attention. That is, getting attention from your prospective customers. This however is very, very difficult nowadays with the myriad of tools for sale. 
The basic problem I see is that many (especially 1st time) software entrepreneurs create a tool, because they can and think somebody will actually buy it (because hey, it solves a problem). Key to success is not creating a software tool, but a proposition to a clearly defined audience of potential buyers that are willing to pay for your wonderful tool. I.e. they your prospects need to see it will solve a problem FOR THEM PERSONALLY(i.e. stay in business, not get fired, be eligible for the next step of their careers).  
So first step to success is: stop making tools, but start solving problems; if you do people will actually pay you for it... This sounds compellingly easy but believe me; it isn't. 
Now creating the right proposition and actually get it sold is extremely difficult, especially if your product is a real innovation. Real, real hard work to convince prospective customers to actually buy something that has not proven itself (failure could mean your career is in jeapourdy, so the hesitance is completely understandable). 
I'm an entrepreneur working on idea #5, the social voting. It's my sixth start-up; and we are already working on it for 2 years. Not on the software side, but especially on the proposition and business model side. Through very hard work we are now on the brink of success. 
The first year was spent on talking to prospective customers and business partners; what part of the proposition they liked, and where it lagged. This proved invaluable as it enabled us to build a product completely to their needs; i.e. solving a business problem. Then we spent a couple of months on refining the business model and pre-selling the product to investors and clients. Only then we started to build. 
Let nobody tell you that the entry barriers in software tools are low, because they are not. The fruits of success are sweet though; and the journey is very very rewarding (i.e. fun and inspirational). 
Good luck with all of your own endeavours! 
Cheers, Dick

posted on Wednesday, March 03, 2010 at 6:32 AM by Dick Rempt

You left out: 
A plug in for Twitter/Facebook 
A better, free collaboration tool to compete with WebEx (are their 20 of them out there) 
A SaaS/Cloud version of nearly everything (my company, Vidtel) is a SaaS/Cloud company for video conferencing

posted on Thursday, March 04, 2010 at 11:17 PM by Scott Wharton

I find it amusing that the majority of the responses to this post voice their agreement with the topic, then go on to promote their own sites. When I go to look up these sites, they're harder to find than the sites that declare how valuable their domain names are. I will disagree with this list for three reasons. 1) All of them are in a crowded space. There are too many people doing it well. Some of them are still in high school. 2) Trying to build a business on web 2.0 concepts is 10% technical ability and 90% grabbing onto share. If you lack share, you can't get the momentum for more share. Worse, people can tell pretty quickly that you have little share and they leave. I took a look at a few of the sites being promoted in the comments and none of them look like they have share. 3) None of the items on the list are actually selling a physical product. They are information and information-based services. Information and services, whether it be software, images, data management, etc. is a very sensitive and perishable product. Trying to combine that with web 2.0 concepts is a recipe for suicide. Only a few will survive - the rest will be wasting their time. 
As a result, the title is all wrong. These are ten of the most hazardous startup categories.

posted on Friday, March 05, 2010 at 4:12 PM by Richard

Every entrepreneur has to start somewhere and this list provides a great starting place. They won't get rich trying to build these apps, but they'll probabably learn a lot. 
I'm interested in the NEXT list, when entrepreneurs start their next start-up...what are people developing that is unique and getting traction? Is there a good site too follow?

posted on Friday, March 05, 2010 at 6:25 PM by Michael Hennessy

What a great list! For sure I've been tempted by a few of them. I'm just glad I was able to turn some of the temptations into great ideas that became very successful!

posted on Friday, March 05, 2010 at 8:36 PM by Rob Ludlow

Nice one, put me down for #7 Dating and Matchmaking.

posted on Saturday, March 06, 2010 at 2:59 AM by Eliot Sykes

So true! Here's another: 
Developer tool. Because you're a developer, you're your own customer (or so you think). Anyway you have the pain and you have the tools to fix it. 
Of course that one worked out really well for me, but usually it's too expensive to get new people to check out the tool, and then they want it for free.

posted on Saturday, March 06, 2010 at 9:31 AM by Jason Cohen

Good list. Covers most stereotypical start-up ideas.  
As far as these old ideas go, I think generally the most potential lies in niches (IE: a social application for dog trainers). 
I also think people generally prefer familiar interfaces and logic. Innovation can't be ignored, but it's sometimes hard to convince people that something new is worth trying.

posted on Saturday, March 06, 2010 at 6:11 PM by Michel Carroll

Agree this is a good starting point for start-ups. Thanks for this post. Another useful top ten business tips for start-ups here.

posted on Sunday, March 07, 2010 at 2:10 PM by Lucy

I often think the category at the end of the day really isn't going to change anything - if the product is crap, then the reason it failed is because the product was crap. 
For example, I read time and again that the mobile/smart phone market is saturated and that {company X} should not bother trying to compete because "{company Y} already won the market".  
Now let's say "company X" is Windows Mobile and "company Y" is iPhone. Heads nod, "yes iPhone blew everyone out of the water. Why would you try to beat that?" 
Here's why: let's say "company Y" is Playstation and that "company X" is XBox. The complete opposite happened. XBox came to town, was a great product and now sits up there on the shelf, a major player in the console market. 
At the end of the day, make a great product and it will succeed. Startups don't fail because of the product category, they fail because their business, their product, their resources or any other number of fother actors FAILED.

posted on Monday, March 08, 2010 at 11:03 PM by misteraidan

There's a new space that gets a lot of attention recently.. Enterprise Collaboration :-)

posted on Tuesday, March 09, 2010 at 8:46 PM by leypascua

I read this post and I wonder if this because what exist do NOT work or because we are hard wired to modify what exists instead of creating from scratch. 
Aren't all these efforts a kind of training that eventually ( very rarely) will lead to a major aplication? 
I tend to view all theses similar aplication as the fertile ground where plants will grow. No fertil ground not a lot of new plant. 
So gogogogog copy, modify, die and feed the soil :)

posted on Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 5:15 AM by hellokhalil

The web does love Top 10 lists! Thanks for this article, it seems to strike all the right chords :)

posted on Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 9:00 AM by Joao Belo

ya it is true about time tracking and project management. 
<secure your computer world>

posted on Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 11:46 AM by software100s

How about securing a position in a unique company imputing 10 car tags monthly for pay? Also, there is room full an investment in a start-up company in health care. 
Dr. Worley 

posted on Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 4:24 PM by Dr, Worley

I have an idea of New Generation Video Games which if implemented can bring a total structural change in Playing Games.  
The idea on implementation will create new Generation games altogether different from the ones we are seeing today.  
I sincerely want to share the Multi-million dollar idea with the interested Game companies.  
CEOs of Game Software companies are welcome to be in touch.  
Best Regards  
Anil M  

posted on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 2:34 PM by Anil M

The problem with each of those categories is that they're so incredibly saturated with heavy competition by now.  
I've always believed that you don't necessarily have to be first to execute an idea, you just have to be best. But still, it seems like you'd have a battle on your hands as a startup trying to sell a product in any of these categories today.

posted on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 2:37 PM by Steve Wortham

Guilty! #1 #2 #4 #9 #10

posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 6:55 AM by Chui Tey

Nice post. But this is another example of "One Person's Trash is Another's Treasure". Being in marketing, I was tempted to immediately add inbound marketing management to this list, till I looked up the author's bio and found that he founded HubSpot :)

posted on Saturday, April 03, 2010 at 11:53 AM by Srini

Hey, I would like to hear about top 10 fields to be in, that is, other than social media. I have heard a lot about vertical market integration. Who needs it. Who should do it? How should it be done? Etc;  
I realize that you are a bay specific entrepreneur with social media focus, but your thoughts or a post would be great. I admire your blog. Thank You.

posted on Wednesday, April 07, 2010 at 1:38 AM by Kalyan

Have a look further down the software stack. Embedded systems, tools and components, are bigger than people know. Lots of money there. But entry requirements to hot markets there might be prohibitive for many startups. Embedded systems are ubiquitous and so there are many many fields one can get into. By doing tools, components, and end product you achieve absolute vertical integration. Think iPod.

posted on Friday, April 09, 2010 at 11:27 PM by Mpho

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