5 Startups That Aren’t Worth The Trouble

With the lemonade stand analogy firmly ingrained in many entrepreneurial spirits, it can be easy to think that any startup business can thrive in today’s competitive marketplace with “just the right” business plan, or “just enough” funding. With today’s advances in technology, the reality is that many conventional startup ideas are simply disappearing from view as online retail stores and services offer efficient distribution of some of the world’s most basic products.

Think of how quickly the rise of Netflix has almost removed demand for video store rentals, or the rise of travel sites such as Travelocity and Expedia have almost eliminated travel agent services. While travel agents can offer “specialized” service and customized packages that a computer might not be able to tackle, the shift in consumer’s perspectives on how to get what they want, when they want it, has led to the downfall of many traditional businesses that were once the basis of many entrepreneurs and startup dreams.

Here are just five startups that are no longer the in-demand business or shop that they once were:

  1. The neighborhood bookstore: While antique shops and collectible books are still entities in themselves, a trip to the local bookstore, even if it’s a corporate chain such as Borders or Barnes & Noble, is slowly becoming less of a “need” when customers can browse and explore almost every title online. Online bookstores are also starting to focus on hard-to-find titles and offering services where they can deliver used books from area bookstores. The need for another store in town rarely exists.
  2. Photo development stores: With digital cameras, high-quality home printing, and digital photo sharing becoming a cultural norm, taking that roll of film to the neighborhood photo store just isn’t a part of life. Companies such as Kodak and Fuji are devising new ways to keep their customers with online services and touchscreen stations in stores where customers can upload and create their own CD albums.
  3. The neighborhood pharmacy: With the growth of big-box chains taking over the pharmacy department, consumers are finding one-stop shopping much more convenient when they have a prescription to fill. Online services also help promote prescription refills, reordering, and even finding information on drugs and related health topics.

  4. Video rental stores: DVDs and downloadable movies have quickly become the way of life for many, and a trip to the store simply isn’t convenient anymore. Netflix and Blockbuster offer additional options of getting the movies we want, when we want them.

  5. The CD or music store. While it’s still fun to spend time at the listening station at the local CD store or music shop, finding mp3 clips online or paying for downloads is much more convenient and efficient. The growth in iPod owners and shareable music puts traditional music stores at a significant disadvantage.

What are some other industries or services that are being replaced by online equivalents?



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5 Responses to 5 Startups That Aren’t Worth The Trouble

  1. lawrence September 29, 2007 at 3:12 pm #

    video game store rentals, those will be outdone by online game rental sites…

    greeting card stores…

    local tutoring services…

    realtor services…

    all of those will be gone relatively quickly, since it’ll be performed online – eventually

  2. David Askaripour September 29, 2007 at 6:18 pm #

    stock firms, i’d say. due to the aggressive advances in purchasing stocks online and the various mergers going on between wall st. and online banking companies, the need to have a physical broker is quickly becoming obsolete.

  3. Tiara September 29, 2007 at 11:57 pm #

    I would prefer a neighbourhood bookstore, actually – particularly one that is geared towards a specific focus (such as Bluestockings in NY which specializes in activism and civil action). It’s VERY intimidating to go through tons of books online when you don’t even know where to start or which books are reliable. Many online megabookstores are also unreliable when it comes to small or indie presses. Shipping is a major factor, and so is pricing. You will also not get personalized service online, and besides, bookstores nowadays are more than just places to buy books – they have also become spaces to meet, learn, interact, engage with your community.

    The same goes for a lot of the items mentioned in your list and in the comments. People still want personalized attention and you only get it through smalltime brick-and-mortar shops. Want an indie record or a discontinued movie? Hit a small shop, not a big hypermarket store. Want a recommendation? Ask your shop owner. Netflix or Amazon won’t help you.

    As for tutoring – ha! Obviously you have never been in places that put super high importance in high grades. It’s not something I’m particularly fond of, but there is a LOT of pressure to do well in school and online tutoring right now is now very good. You don’t get personal help, you don’t get attention, even the sources aren’t so great. Personal human tutoring helps better with learning anyhow.

    Just because there’s a version online doesn’t mean the startup component will go away. Indeed, as more people look for ways to relate to community and for ways to support their local business, startups like those will become even MORE important.

  4. David Askaripour September 30, 2007 at 10:15 am #

    Tiara, you are right. There is a small bookstore here in NYC that I absolutely love! They are specialized and would much rather go there to find certain books I need, than Borders. It’s actually my favorite bookstore. Bookstores can service as long as they are niche and offer a vertical selection of books.

  5. Anthony October 2, 2007 at 1:38 pm #

    At the end of the day, I think the point you’re really trying to make is that somebody starting up an already-outdated business can’t survive. And really, that’s quite obvious. After all, why would somebody start a film development store? A modern entrepreneur, if interested in that area, could start up a digital development store with specialized services – custom framing, larger prints, etc. – and could still survive in harmony with the Kodak stand at CVS.

    Brick & mortar isn’t dead, and neither is convention. Just because movies can be mailed & downloaded, photos can be printed, and many drugs can be bought under one franchised roof doesn’t mean that convention has gone south; it just means that mediums have changed and new startups need to take that into account, whether that means starting a digital printing store or a pharmacy that specializes in niche drugs with zero lead time.

    So I think the point, then, becomes – so long as an entrepreneur is starting up something which is not already outdated, there is most likely a business plan that is “just right” and indeed feasible. The key is to adapt – copies of 1980 blueprints don’t usually hold up in 2007, but when adapted, they can get you much further than a brand new idea.

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