For the most part, entrepreneurs create companies based on identifying and solving a problem without considering a specific location. But what if, based on lifestyle and other goals you first started with a location and then worked to try to find a problem worth solving. Granted, most startup companies today usually have a technology focus and could be run from anywhere. However, it is possible to start with a location, especially if you love to live there. So, how do you find a problem in a specific location?
You thoroughly examine its ecosystem. Let me explain. Every location, small town or big city/county has an ecosystem. And most ecosystems have similar components. The variables are the makeup of the population, the weather, the infrastructure and the local trends. While this approach may initially create a lifestyle startup, who knows. Patagonia started with a specific focus on climbing gear (could have been started in a mountain town) and has expanded its product line and marketplace over the years.
Here are eight ecosystem components that probably exist in almost every place with some variations. Understand and examine them in correlation to where you live or want to live and see if you can find a problem worth solving.
Education. No matter where you are, you can examine the education component of a local ecosystem and see if people are tolerating problems. The problems may be a local situation but often can be extended to other places as well. What does the education system need? What resources are they lacking? Do they need a local certification program for a developed workforce? How will remote learning create or solve problems? Keep researching the education component until you find problems worth solving.
Transportation. Bird scooter thought they were solving a major transportation problem, but for a variety of reasons, they have failed. Was there a real problem? Not sure. But take the time to study transportation by any and all means in your location and see if there are underserved customers or if there is a problem worth solving. Does not just have to be customer transportation, could be last mile delivery which seems to be exploding with meal delivery and Amazon next day package delivery.
Food. While seemingly ubiquitous, food, however you define, is can be different by region or city location. Local populations have preferences and are impacted by trends. In 1997 for example, there was one brewery in San Diego. Today, according to the San Diego Brewers Guild, there are more than 150 independent breweries in San Diego. Could Stone Brewing (sold recently to Sapporo) have grown so rapidly if they had not been embraced locally by craft beer drinkers in San Diego?
Water. Who would ever have though that in 2023, the water aisle in a local supermarket would be worth $46 billion in USA sales. And that’s just water in bottles. Now, with increased scarcity, you have lots of potential problems and opportunities surrounding water. Grey water systems in the house, drip irrigation, crop maximization and so on. Water and its problems and solutions are not going away any time soon.
Housing. With the cost of housing rising, more and more people are becoming renters. Study your local market and see what the opportunities might be. Rent collection software, home sharing, ADU dwelling construction, prefabricated homes, 3D printed homes…what does your local marketplace need?
Population. Every regional location has population statistics. Number of people, sex, income, children, etc. But examine the numbers and the data. Lots of Baby boomers who need extra services as they age? How many Gen Z and Millennials do you have and what are they doing? Are people having families or are they living like singles? What are the population trends, people moving in or people moving out?
Health. This not only encompasses the healthcare systems in your area but also the health and wellness of the local population. What are the health trends? What is the population age ranges? How are people currently living, how do they want to live? Are there healthy food choices or wellness clinics for quick care?
Hospitality/Tourism. Some towns and cities, especially if they are popular, are also tourist destinations. For example, you might want to live in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Nearby is Grand Teton National Park, close to Yellowstone and outdoor activities ranging from running, hiking, fly fishing, etc. The current population of Jackson Hole is 11,015 people. The annual number of visitors is 2.6 million. What do they need or better yet, want?