Friday beers and hangover helpers: startups target the microniche

Forget your Snapchats or Airbnbs, it seems that the latest batch of buzzworthy startups are focusing on what has been coined “the microniche”.

Let’s take two fair dinkum Australian examples of startups who have a crystal clear offering to a very specific audience. Perth’s Hangover Helpers, founded by James Hookway, will turn up at your place the night after the big party, clean up the mess, and even bring breakfast. What’s more “we generally want to know how good the party is,” Hookway told StartupDaily in a recent interview.

Brisbane’s FridayBeers are on the other side of that demand equation – delivering a six pack of boutique beers to your desk every Friday afternoon, just in time for the weekend.

These local startups join a global movement of ventures aimed at satisfying consumers’ daily cravings – be it for fresh Asian food, a pedicure on the go, or a monthly consignment of beard maintenance products.

It’s a trend that fits well with the emergence of Generation Y, as dubbed by Time magazine as the “me me me” generation, into the salaried workforce.  But, as a New York Times column by tech journalist Farhad Manjoo noted earlier this year, “The tech industry used to think big”. In the place of tech ideas that aimed to change the world for the better, we are now faced with startups aiming to help urban dwellers in rich western countries avoid a ten minute trip to the off licence.

There seems to be two schools of thoughts when it comes to this phenomenon.

The first points out that it is the rich who subsidise the development of breakthrough technology. Without the early adopters who have access to cash (and are willing to pay a premium), true innovation won’t be developed for consumption by the masses. Today’s Tesla supercars or limos-on-demand can develop into tomorrow’s cheap electric cars and point-to-point transportation for those who can’t afford taxis

The second view is perhaps less generous. It points out that, when it comes to those who launch and fund successful startups certain demographics are over-represented. A small example of can be seen in the reaction to major startup eco-system event SydStart’s first round of nine speakers, all of whom were male. With venture capital deciding the fate of so many early stage ventures, at best we are seeing ‘group-think’ where specific types of founders and certain types of ideas are backed. At worst, when it comes to tech innovation, we see the disenfranchisement of massive portions of society who don’t have the access or the means to create and develop startups.

Regardless of which school of thought you subscribe to, one thing is clear: more disruption is coming, and new startups are being founded every day. With lean and agile methodology becoming widespread, finding and validating your business is top of mind for many entrepreneurs – and that often means creating niche products that can quickly gain traction with paying customers.

What will separate the winners from the losers in the exploration of the microniche is the ability to deliver a stand out customer experience, from the user experience (UX) of the platform to the face-to-face service. If your Hangover Helper really does care about your party and can convince you of this fact, it opens up a multitude of additional services from party planning to home cleaning product sales. If your Friday beers are to your taste, why not consider ordering a weekly snack pack?

Yes, microniche startups may start off by selling convenience, but the long-game is understanding and fulfilling your every need and desire. If they are successful, it is very possible that next wave of startup unicorns (those that reach a $1b valuation) will have their origin in the solving of a very niche problem.

In the meantime, I’m ordering my Friday craft beer delivery, and planning an easy clean-up for my next house party.


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