Even though there are still quite a lot of question marks when it comes to the idea I want to talk about, I thought it would be fun to record myself talking about it. In particular, because I want to present this idea to a bunch of guys next week. So, this is kind of a practice or a little exercise for me, but maybe someone will find it interesting – the idea itself and how I’m looking at it right now.
As you can see, what I want to talk about is “Opportunities in the Opportunities-as-a-Service Market”. It’s really something I am passionate about myself and I’m seeing a lot of energy in this field and in the market – lots of people are excited about it and cool things are happening right now. I’m certainly not the only one who noticed this, but I think I made a mistake that most of the newcomers in this market make, and I hope that I can fix it. This is what I’m hoping to achieve.
First, let’s talk about what I mean by opportunities-as-a-service and I copied this nice graph from a beautiful report by Marie Dolle.
She writes a Substack newsletter called “In Bed with Social”, and it’s fantastic. She has one of them dedicated to market analysis or trend spotting services whatever you want to call it. I personally like to call it opportunities-as-a-service and this allows me to include a bunch of other newsletters that are not listed here but importantly, there are already lots of players in the field, as you can see. On the one hand, all these established players or big companies – Mintel, Gartner, Stylus – these are old, established companies making millions of dollars each. Then on the other hand, as entrepreneurship gets a little bit democratized right now, you no longer have to live in Silicon Valley and you don’t need a big network to make things happen. We are seeing the rise of lots of trend or opportunities-as-a-service businesses that are not targeting huge companies.
Like for example, Gartner and Stylus are charging thousands of dollars per year. Of course, this means that their only customers are huge companies, corrupt on gamble. At this level, it's only billion dollar companies who can afford these services. But now thanks to the rise of the independent entrepreneurship, whatever you want to call it, there are all these new services popping out.
Glimpse was one of the first ones and it’s also one of the most professional one. They are basically monitoring trend signals across social media and search engines, then they send a newsletter – these are trends we found this week or this month. They are quite affordable. I think they started at $29/month and so they really established this kind of price point.
Then there was Exploding Topics which does exactly the same. There’s Treendly which kind of does the same. Mike Rubini started it. He read the reviews and the customer comments for Glimpse and Exploding Topics. Then (he) noticed that lots of people would love a tool instead of a newsletter. So he’s not only sending out a newsletter with the trends he discovered, but also a tool that you can use to monitor trends yourself and he started at the same price point of $29 and recently raised it to $49.
Then there is Trend Hackers which I really don’t know enough about it. Then there’s of course, Trends.co by Sam Parr, which is also on the level of Glimpse – the most professional and also generating the most revenues. And then, there is also newcomers – Under the Radar by Rob Sullivan, Trends Everywhere, Trends.vc, New World Same Humans – and of course a lot of other.
The important distinction is I want to talk a bit more, at a later point, is that Trends.vc and New World Same Humans focus more on qualitative trends whereas the tools on the right-hand side here are more focused on quantitative trendspotting. So they really look at data on the right-hand side whereas the left-hand side is more opinion-based. I would never say that the quantitative approach is better than the qualitative approach, rather both have advantages and disadvantages. So there’s a reason why Trends,vc and Trends.co are both huge. Clearly, there is a market for both and people find it valuable.
There are not just lots of players but also the major players make a lot of revenue.
So Exploding Topics published that they have more than 50,000 total subscribers and of course, not all of them are paying subscribers, but if you assume the usual conversion rates for newsletters paid to free subscribers, like 10% and the absolute upper end, but more realistically, let’s say 2% or maybe 1% even, then you’ll still have 500 paying subscribers. At $20/month, you’re generating a lot of revenue. It’s very clear that they are making a lot of revenue.
Then there’s Trends.co. They announced that they have more than 6,000 paying subscribers. So you can start to calculate - their standard rate is $29/month. I’m not sure what the current pricing is but they also have all these deals going on. So I think it’s safe to assume that on average, people pay around $20/month. So this means they clearly make more than a hundred thousand dollars per month in revenue. There's Trends.vc by Dru Riley which has more than a thousand paying subscribers and the last number, I heard, that he was making was more than $30,000 in revenue.
Also, Softwareideas by Kevin Conti. He has his whole baremetrics dashboard public. When I just checked, he had 619 paying subscribers at $19/month in average. So you can have a look, he’s making $10,000 in revenue alone.
So also pretty impressive and a newcomer is The Generalist by Mario Gabrielli and he published that he has more than 20,000 total subscribers. He just introduced a pay tier so I have no idea on how much money he’s currently making, but again assuming the usual conversion rate, it seems right and safe to assume that he will make a lot of money very soon.
While of course this is all cool and well, and lots of people have noticed this, as a result, it seems like every other person has started a newsletter, a product, a service in the field – and there are so many of them.
Everyday Startup, Product Ideas, my newsletter, Saas Enthusiasts, Micro Saas Idea, Validated Ideas, Basic Problem, and really dozens of others.
And I talked to Keevin O'Rourke who also runs Brainstorm newsletter which is also in this market. He told me that he was interested in acquiring a few of these smaller newsletters in order to grow. He was a little bit shocked to find out that most of them only had like a few hundreds, maybe 500 subscribers at most, and lots of them gave up after less than 10 posts.
While you clearly can earn a lot of money in this field and you can become very successful, it’s not that easy, right? There are many who would never manage to get to that level and clearly I call myself one of them. I’m writing my newsletter for three months now and I don’t have any kind of monetization so $0 in revenue and growth has been okay but not spectacularly well. I have 600 subscribers and 16 newsletter posts so far. If you look around and compare it with other newsletter, they are exactly at the same level. The problem, as usual, is that it’s very easy to give up if you have $0 revenue and just a few hundred subscribers... who cares. Even if you try to introduce a pay tier at this level, you won’t make a lot of money, right?
So if you have a look here, Saas Enthusiast, Micro Saas Idea try to monetize but they publish the numbers, and it’s very little money. The guy who writes Saas Enthusiast, already wants to get out. He listed his newsletter for sale on a newsletter marketplace. He has already given up which is of course understandable.
What I thought about is that there are all these little players and everyone is fighting for themselves. It’s really tough, you have to write stuff on a regular basis, and it’s very tough to come up with multiple or even just one great idea, analysis each week. And on top of that, you have to do the marketing and this is where most people absolutely fail. Most newsletters have no solid distribution strategy. This is why they stagnate at just a few hundred subscribers.
My basic idea was this: what if a few of us smaller players join forces, team up, and create a bundle?
So there are many ways to go about it. Regardless of any details, I think this is a huge opportunity. Of course, there is always a chance of failure but it would incredibly increase the success chances for each one the smaller players who gets involved. Most importantly, I think what we could produce would be so much more signal and less noise. As an example, let’s say we have three newsletters. And then instead of sending out a single newsletter, we create just one. But this one newsletter, each addition contains just the best stuff from each of the newsletters. So of course it would be much better.
For example, I’m writing a newsletter called Product Ideas and I now include three ideas per newsletters issue. And of course, not each one of them is amazing. But if you now imagine that there are three of these kinds of newsletters and each one of us puts in just the best idea, then we get a newsletter with three amazing analyses – amazing content.
This is one thing I’m very excited about. But of course there are also benefits like sharing resources, when I’m collecting data, other people can use it for their own analysis and create better content. This way, not everyone has to reinvent the wheel for themselves and create some kind of backend data pipeline. And also if we team up, accountability is another huge benefit.
It’s very easy to give up if you’re fighting alone. But if we work together, instead of working against each other, which that could really help. This of course not the right term because we’re a smaller player and not fighting against each other. We are fighting for the same limited minutes of attention, right? There are only 24 hours in a day and newsletter fatigue is a real thing. By teaming up, we could help to provide more value, less noise, and avoid this problem because someone will probably not subscribe to the 10 smaller newsletters in the field. And it’s just not about money, but also about attention. You can’t read 10 newsletters.
Something I’m also very excited about is that we could combine marketing efforts and here it’s really where joining forces could yield outsized returns. Once we get the thing started, it would create a little bit of buzz. Just the story, right? We, small players, teaming up and trying to professionalize what we are offering. And that alone, would of course would help with the marketing but also each one of us, whatever he’s doing in terms of marketing is now marketing that helps everyone.
But this is just one plus one equals two. So our marketing efforts add up but in addition to this, once you leave this beginner level – a few hundred subscriber, barely scraping by level – I think the perception of people would change and people would start talking about it, taking it more seriously. This is why I think when it comes to marketing, one plus one is no longer just two, but maybe even three, five, whatever. And it could really improve how we are perceived.
And we could really kickstart something where people start talking about it the same way they talk about Trends.co or Trends.vc. I also already scratched the topic that is higher perceived value when it comes to pricing and getting customers.
And there is this amazing analysis by Nathan Baschez – it's called Bundle Magic, and it’s now behind a paywall but it used to be freely available and you can still find it in the wayback machine. So the basic point is you typically just imagine there are this different kind of customers. Hippy Crystal, Bob Finance, Lucy Erlang, James Pixel, Mia Product. And also there are these five newsletters and each of these persons would assign a certain value to each newsletter, right? So Hippy Crystal would say, “Okay, "Don’t sell us" is amazing, I’m willing to pay $30. "Mispricing" is not interesting for me, but "The Wedge" is nice so I am going to pay $3, whatever”
And the same is true for each person and this way, you can see that the bundle has a value that the individual newsletter never could capture themselves.
One thing that’s clear is the higher the price, the less number of customers you have, right? That seems very obviously true. And if you would now assume that you have all these individual newsletter fighting for themselves, you can see that, let’s say they are charging $4, then they can maybe attract 200 paying subscribers.
“Yeah, this is the newsletter I’m loving so I would be prepared to pay the $30”. But most people probably wouldn’t be prepared to pay that much.
An interesting thing now is with this kind of bundle, you cannot only get more customers, but also at a higher price point and earn more money for each of the newsletters. This is the whole point of this analysis and I think it makes a lot of sense. But also there is this marketing aspect I talked about, because having a little newsletter with a hundred paying subscribers doesn’t create a lot of buzz but if you join forces and create this bundle, then you can certainly do something with maybe a thousand paying subscribers and it’s suddenly something professional – something that people will probably start talking about. So it would not just help in monetary terms, but also when it comes to marketing.
Now, the key question is what kind of content you're bundling and as I said there are also lots of details that needs to be figured out. For example, how does the bundling happen? Do we send out 5 individual newsletters and people can just sign up and opt out for all these individual newsletters? Or do we join forces completely and focus on publishing one or two posts each week – which just combines the best of our stuff?
This is something we certainly need to think about.
What I did here on this slide is just write down the different types of content that I would say exist in the space. So for example, Dru Riley writes about emerging industries, right? He writes about newsletters, selling digital assets, whatever. This is his thing and it’s working great.
Then Kevin, Softwareideas.io, writes about downmarket opportunities which you could mimic and maybe just take one or two of the most popular features and then offer something at a lower price point without VC funding. This is his thing. Also reading product reviews and noticing what people are complaining about – pain point analysis. It’s also something he’s doing.
Then The Generalist write "Request for startups" where he’s just asking people what kind of software or company they would you love to see? He is also analyzing companies. How do they make money? How is there flywheel working? And he's also analyzing public filings.
Then they are of course, these players who analyze search trends – Exploding Topics is one of them, Glimpse, Treendly, a lot of others.
And Trends.co, they don't have proprietary algorithms, they just leverage existing tools and then write nice stories around them.
They use Jungle Scout and I don’t know what they are using for search trends, but probably Exploding Topics or Glimpse. They also do a little bit of qualitative trend analysis.
They make predictions like: People are stuck at home as a result of COVID, so plant sales will probably go up something along these lines. Also, e-commerce trends. As I said, Jungle Scout is what they use and they also have idea round up from their community where people in their Facebook group would post stuff and they then send a community update, as they called it, where they highlight the best ideas. And there's also other stuff like "gaps in the market" - actually identifying them, maybe quantitatively. Also, I think Trends.co did one issue on expiring patents, but of course you could build a whole newsletter business around that angle possibly.
So the interesting thing is now that you can draw many variations here when it comes to what you bundle. So primarily, I think this exercise is useful to think about what we could offer and of course it depends on who’s joining. Who wants to get involved and what expertise do they bring to the table? It’s just very hypothetical.
Just imagine, that two, three, four, a few of us joined forces and we have an expert when it comes to quantitative trends, search trends, social trends, e-commerce trends – stuff that you can evaluate with an algorithm and then really find highlights on a regular basis. Than you have an expert focusing on downmarket opportunities, pain points. Then you have an expert in marketplace reports, gaps in the market, expiring patents, and maybe someone who is able to write about emerging industries or do this kind of idea round up.
Say just very hypothetically, just imagine if we could offer this kind of bundle with lots of signal, no noise. I think it seems very obvious that if you can pull this off, it will be successful, right?
Because to be honest, going back to the previous slide, I think that even within these niches that are carved out by these individual players right now, there's lots of room for improvement individually. And then if you combine that with a bundle offering where you’ll get this much, where you otherwise would have to pay Exploding Topic $20, $30 for Trends, $20 for Softwareideas, $30 for emerging industries there, right? And you can offer it for $30/month, then it would become a no-brainer. And if then, even the quality is better or at the same level. It really would become a no-brainer and this is a huge opportunity.
So I don’t want to talk badly about players if I’m a lot less successful myself. That’s not the right thing to do. And they are clearly doing something right because they are earning a lot of money, having lots of happy customers.
But still, as I said, most of the players here have maybe become a little bit lazy with their success already, even though they are quite new. But the quality has dropped for some of them noticeably. And I think that alone is an opportunity, but combined with bundling, I think it becomes very promising.
Just to give an example of what I’m talking about: Exploding Topics, certainly a cool idea, but usually, at least each time I check, they are too late and they are not really able to predict trends. They are only able to observe them and that’s not really that useful. Because usually when they are talking about a trend, it’s already too late, it’s already at the top and shortly after they talked about it, interest goes down. So there's an opportunity if you can figure out how to spot trends earlier.
I think Dru’s quality is okay. It’s consistent. He’s doing his thing. He’s a cool guy, so I don’t want to and can’t say anything bad about it. I think the newsletter is great. It’s of course very pricey, but people seem to be willing to pay for it.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of Softwareideas, just my opinion. I don’t know exactly what the matter is but I tested Trends.co quite extensively because they are the biggest fish in the pond. So if I want to talk about it, I should know what’s going on there. And I think here it’s most notably that the quality has dropped since the start because in the beginning, Sam Parr was really involved himself.
He was writing stuff and not just writing the issues but also deciding what gets written about. And then once he got the whole thing off the ground, he started to hire a bunch of people and he’s no longer involved in every issue on a day-to-day basis. And it shows in my opinion because I’ve seen lots of people complain about that the quality has dropped a little bit. So the trends they are talking about are mostly obvious stuff. But at the same time they are also not really going very deep and they only published like one newsletter a week with original content and the other newsletters they are sending out, it’s just these community highlights with varying quality.
And I know quite a few people who are paying members and I think everyone I’ve talked to told me that they're no longer reading the newsletter regularly. And the main reason is that, of course, the quality issues. I think if you’re paying 30 bucks and you’re getting just one newsletter a week and you’re not even reading it... obviously, the quality is not high enough and they only stick around because of the community aspect.
And as I said, I was a member, tested it, and I wasn’t entirely convinced of the community either because it’s like with most paid communities. Of course, people are in there to get something out. So there’s lots of self-promotion going on. Occasionally, someone does something cool but can the trends community really take credit for that, I’m not sure.
And most of the time, the really cool stuff that gets shared is available outside of the community too. Because why would a member do something incredible / valuable, just for the community and not like for the outside world?
What’s the benefit he’s getting out of it, right? At least from my limited experience and as I said, they are clearly doing something right, there is quite a big opportunity to offer and do something better. Given that a lot of us smaller players in the field are not seeing the kind of growth they should be seeing, given the quality of their work, I think joining forces and seeing where it leads us is a huge opportunity and I would love to give it a try.
And that's the last slide, because very presentation needs a flywheel. On a more serious note, I think this summarizes nicely the opportunity as I see it, because if we join forces, we can charge more money and get more customers. Or start charging money at all because some of us, like my newsletter, are completely free at the moment. And we can then, on the one hand, reinvest the money to improve what we offer and this will help us to grow and lead to more money.
We can invest in the product and it will motivate us to improve the product even further. And this way, we can get this kind of flywheel going and then maybe, slowly but steadily, get a little bit of the market share and offer something that’s valuable on a regular basis so that paying the money for the newsletter is a no-brainer and it does not become just about the community, which is where most of the other examples I talked about are headed, right?
As I said, many people only stick around because of the community, which of course is cool, but it also shows that on the content side, there’s an opportunity. So as you probably noticed, I’m still trying to make up my mind and I created the presentation, all the slides, just for myself to think things through and there are clearly a few gaps.
Most importantly, who’s joining? And depending on that, we need to decide what we are offering and then also how we are offering it, right? Do we send five newsletters a week or do we create just one incredible high-value newsletter?
Currently, I’m leaning towards one newsletter with incredible value because newsletter fatigue is real. But maybe it would also make sense to overwhelm people because the perceived value is higher if you’re sending out a bunch of separate newsletters where people can opt in and opt out if they are overwhelmed. I’m not sure.
As I said, this is something we need to think about. But first, I need to clarify: who is in and what do we want to offer? And how are we going to offer it? So that’s really it and that’s how I’m currently thinking about the opportunity in the opportunities-as-a-service market.
If you have any thoughts, suggest, please reach out to me. I’d love to talk about it.Sign up below to receive short updates on my progress.