Why Your Startup Shouldn’t Chase a Specific Market

If your product works for everyone, then it will also work for a niche market

Joe Procopio


When an enterprising young entrepreneur introduces me to a new product or startup idea, one of the things that always makes me cringe a bit is when they describe their venture as: “It’s this, but for that.”

“This” is usually a loosely copycatted version of an existing successful product, reimagined to serve the distinct needs of “that,” which is usually a super-niche market segment. College students. Marketers. Athletes. Stay-at-home moms. Stay-at-home everybody.

And about a million more.

This is a mistake waiting to happen. And it’s actually not one of those train wreck mistakes that makes a lot of noise as it crashes its way towards failure. It’s more of an eerily quiet mistake that disappears quickly after failing to get traction with its intended audience.

Never choose your market first. Here’s why.

Facebook was built for college students

You might be familiar with the Hollywood lore of Facebook being built as an inside joke in Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room. What most people forget is that for some time afterward, Facebook access was limited to college students, going so far as to only allow access for folks with email addresses that ended in “.edu.”

Some 2,000 colleges and 25,000 high schools later, it dawned on Facebook that letting every student in the world share their feelings didn’t have a dime of revenue attached anywhere to it.

The student market is where I most often hear market-limited ideas for new products, and those ideas usually come from current students or recent graduates. College students know college students, and they know that there’s a forced uniformity of behavior that looks like customer behavior, and that behavior repeats itself over an average of four years. The potential to consolidate that into a market looks really promising.

But honestly I can’t think of a harder market to a) find traction in and b) generate revenue from.

So why does this mistake happen? Entrepreneurs basically add up how much…



Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com