When starting out many people feel that they need a unique online business idea. The fact of the matter is: you do not. In fact, truly unique online business ideas are more likely to fail. You’re better off (first time round) following a more standard route to market .

What is the advantage of unique online business ideas?

A common desire when starting a first business is to find the “next big thing”.

This is mainly media-led: the companies we tend to hear about are the big Silicon Valley unicorns who come from nowhere and IPO at $1bn+ in a couple of years.

Genuinely these companies tend to be doing something unique. Or at least they operate in a unique way.

However, the vast majority of global business is not like this. The vast majority is less flashy, less meteoric and less headline worthy.

But for the most part this is where online businesses, including yours, will operate.

And there is NOTHING wrong about this. You can generate more than enough to live an extremely comfortable lifestyle with one of these “less flashy” businesses! You can be, by most people’s standards, very wealthy and accomplished. You just might now make the front page of Wired magazine.

If you are OK with this (making millions quietly and living a great life) then we can chat. If you REALLY want the flashy IPO, the celebrity and the headline status then BBO is probably not for you. Best of luck though!

Unique online business ideas: a defence

All this said, there are a handful of solid instances when having a unique business is genuinely an advantage.

The first is what is called a “blue ocean strategy”.

Basically there are blue oceans and red oceans:

unique online business ideas

The red ocean is red because it’s full of the blood of competitors (in this case…fish…I guess?) who have torn each other to shreds. Some markets are genuinely so competitive that new entrants are immediately eaten and incumbents spend all their time trying to kill each other.

A blue ocean on the other hand is one without competitors or, at least, with enough space for competitors to coexist peacefully. These areas allow for much more growth because you aren’t always watching your back or having to preemptively murder your foes!

Should you find a blue ocean?

In the everyday reality of online business it is VERY hard to find anything new under the sun.

Most ideas have been tried already, somewhere, by someone. You may just not have found evidence that “your” idea was tested.

If you can’t find any evidence then guess what? The idea probably did not work.

It’s hubris to think that our ideas are better than the other hundreds of millions of online entrepreneurs out there. Chances are – real talk – they are not.

Competition risk vs. market risk

And so what if someone has started “your” idea? That does not mean you cannot.

In fact if you find someone in the market who is working on something similar to “your” idea this is a GOOD thing.

This is hard for people to swallow but very important.

If someone has a business that is similar that means that a market exists.

They have customers and are making money. There is a market for the problem that their products and services solve.

Because a market exists it means that you can serve the market.

This is far better than if no market existed for your product/service. A lot of blue oceans are blue because, well, there’s no market to compete over!

When starting an online business I much prefer competition risk to market risk. Competition risk I can do something about – I can outmanoeuvre or, preferably, collaborate with competitors in an existing marketplace.

If the market does not exist (ie. there are no customers for the products and services I want to offer) then the road ahead is much harder. Creating a market from scratch requires serious monty for marketing.

Think about the Apple iPod which mainly hail as a truly new and revolutionary idea. This was not the case at all – Creative Labs and Microsoft had been putting out MP3 players for years before the iPod came along and ate their lunch. Apple waited for competitors to test out and prove the market and then moved in to take control. They could deal with competitive risk and did not want to deal with market risk.

Advice for your first business

If this is your first online business here’s some basic advice: treat this as a learning process.

Starting and running and online business is a skill. You’ll get better at it. But don’t expect (or require!) your first online business to be the next $1bn unicorn. It’s too much pressure.

Instead reduce the number of variables and start with something relatively simple and achievable. This is how we learn any other skill but for some reason people don’t apply the same level of sensibleness to starting a business! Instead they jump straight into the deep end and (unfortunately) drown!

Ideally follow something relatively tried and tested. I’ve talked elsewhere about the best online business courses to start with. Following a process can help remove uncertainty. You are already dealing with the uncertainty of your idea, the market, the global economy etc. so at least remove the uncertainty of how to set up an online business.

Allow your uniqueness to come from how you approach the business. I’ve talked at length about what online business to start in other articles. Your personal spin, geographic location, experiences and personality will be what make your business idea unique. You don’t need for the business model itself to be unique! There’s no need to (at least with your first business!) entirely reinvent the wheel.


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