Good ideas come in two flavours: original and improvement.

Original ideas are those that bring to the world something that was never conceived before: they are rare and difficult to come up with, but almost always have a lasting impact.

Improvements take an idea from another field, and apply it to a novel one: they often imply seeing a pattern that is not formulated yet, and generalizing it.

Sometimes the distinctions between those categories is blurry though.

Here, I would like to describe a trend that is happening in the software world, but also in the physical one: something as a service.

1. Everything as a service

In the software world, automation and separation of concern are two of the pillars of innovation.

The idea is a simple one: take anything that each and every one has to do themselves, and transform it into a product that does it via some HTTP APIs.

  • you need to package and run your functions written in a given language yourself? Make an API where you send your function, and it is run for you: Function As A Service.

  • you need machines to run your software on? Make an API that provides machines on the fly: Product As A Service.

  • you need a database to store your data? Make an API that install, setup and configure a database on a machine: Database As A Service.

  • etc.

This is Everything as a service, in the software world, but it does apply to the physical world as well.

2. Anything as a service

In every day’s life, things are not labelled with a nice “as a service”, so the pattern is a bit harder to see, yet present nonetheless.

Take food delivery: not so long ago, you could only order food on delivery from restaurants that provided this service. Now, some companies provide deliveries for a list of restaurants: that’s food delivery as a service.

Despite not being new—companies have been providing services for centuries—turning things that are owned to provided as a service is one pattern for generating start-up ideas.

For example, nowadays some supermarket provide groceries delivery. Yet it remains hard to mix and match many supermarkets. There is no clear company providing groceries as a service.

It might seem boring, but the hard ones to turn into a service might be a breakthrough waiting to happen.

If you think about anything you do that is not as a service, might it be possible to provide it as a service?

Some good and bad thoughts, although some might not be cost-effective:

  • laundry (like a weekly laundry picked up & returned the next week.)

  • grocery (as previously explained)

  • bringing pets to the vet (picked up, and brought to the vet for vaccination? or uber-vet: call any vet to your home?)

  • choosing and buying new clothes (given a style, prepare a set of clothes for me to go test-fit & buy, avoiding choosing, queuing & going through multiple shops?)

  • friendship? (get person as a friend for a given period of time?)

  • boyfriend/girlfriend (extension of the previous one. Note that both actually exist in Japan for example.)

  • cook? (get a cook to your home that cook with what is available at your place? might be better to have food delivery)

  • administrative papers? (someone handles them all, like when you move to a new country, etc. Usually exist for taxes, rarely for all of them)

  • gifts? (find, buy and deliver gifts for someone for their birthday)

  • news? (filtering and sum-up of trust worthy sources from all over the web, on weekly/monthly basis)

  • lawyer? (automatic law-related advice’s, quotes, lawyers ranking, etc.)

  • etc.

Keep in mind that good ideas are bad ones if they provoke too much harm in return (like to our environment), and if they are economically nonviable.