New Tech is Sexy, But Existing Tech is Underutilized

Published on July 6th, 2022

Entire industries are often multiple years (or even decades) behind the tech adoption curve. They don’t need new tech because they are not even using all the tools they have available. This Tweet by Nick Huber summarizes it beautifully:

I have very little interest in disruptive prop-tech.

90% of real estate owners still do business like it’s 1980. They are wealthy and quite lazy.

Standard management software and tools that have been available for years are revolutionary to those businesses.

But don’t take his word for it. Let’s walk through an example using an unsexy business: landscaping.

In the Oklahoma City area, landscaping is a massive business. Big-ticket jobs in the suburbs range from $5,000 to $50,000. Still, it’s the recurring revenue opportunities that are the hidden gems to be optimized.

Half an HOA will spend $30-$50 a week for lawn mowing alone, which typically takes about 10 minutes of work for a team of 2-3 individuals. Given this, an entrepreneurial individual could go out independently and pull 6-figure salaries if they optimize their tech stack.

Yet most teams don’t do this. They have no calendaring or appointment software. They rely solely on communication through SMS. They have no referral system or automated invoicing. They have no reminder system. They have no survey system to collect testimonials and make them visible in a Google Maps search. All lost opportunity! Altogether these could result in an additional 20-50% revenue through more customers and properties serviced.

Shark Tank fans might be thinking… Holy shit! If I made a lawn care platform, I could get thousands of paying customers.

This is true, but it could also be a trap.

Many of these tools exist today but as individual features across various products. Anyone with experience could reasonably connect them together in less than 1-2 days. Sure, it might be nice to have them all bundled together and explicitly optimized for the lawn care niche. However, it’s unlikely that people in this niche will go from low-tech to a full-blown tecdh platform in one leap. In my opinion, it’s critical to start small and verify.

Side note: before you mock landscapers for being "low tech," consider this. I've worked at 5 startups over the past 13 years, and I can assure you most are not leveraging all the products already at their disposal. Many get caught in ruts and never question why they are still doing X manually or why they are still using clunky software Y. There are industry standard solutions being ignored, but everyone is too busy to even notice.

The point is, the real opportunity out there is tech enablement with existing solutions. Write a short ebook or a tutorial on how to set this all up in a day. Contact every local lawn care company and see if you can get them to test this out and realize the gains. Get enough happy users wanting more, and that’s when you might consider building something new. You’ll also have a better sense of what specific features make it a killer app versus which features do nothing for their bottom line.

So many people want to build the next big thing. However, there is so much opportunity to help people connect the dots with existing tech.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CXO of Atomic Form. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.