21 Innovative Startup Ideas | 2022's Hottest Industries
Fundraising — 15 min read
Becoming a startup founder is an attainable goal for anyone. If you have a great idea that solves a real problem and the desire to work hard to turn that idea into a company, you have everything you need to begin building a startup.
But first, let’s take a step back. Thinking of the perfect startup idea is easier said than done, and you might feel you don’t have any that are worth pursuing. You’re not concerned with how to actually launch a startup yet, because you’re still stuck on the ground with what feels like no direction. It’s a frustrating problem, but luckily, it’s easy to solve.
There are many more viable ideas for a startup than you might realize. Whether you want to develop a novel idea the likes of which the world has never seen or carve out a slice of an existing market, a little brainstorming and an open mind might yield better results than you expect. To help you get started, we’ve curated this list of 21 startup ideas for inspiration.
Difference Between a Startup and a Small Business
First of all, startups and small businesses might sound similar, but they’re very different.
A small business usually operates in a local or regional market with the intention of building a customer base and generating revenue. Small business owners desire a sustainable business model, not necessarily one that will grow quickly.
A startup, on the other hand, sets its sights on influencing an entire industry or disrupting a large, well-established market with an innovative idea. Startup founders aren’t just looking for a business model that generates steady revenue — they’re looking for one that can achieve explosive growth in a short period of time.
In this article, we’ll be focusing on ideas for startups, not small businesses. Don’t let the terminology intimidate you, though. There’s nothing scary about startups, and you’re far from the first person to travel this road. In fact, founding a startup is a much more common endeavor than you might realize.
How Many Startups Are There in the World?
The term “startup” might evoke imposing images of tech wizards and business gurus working feverishly in Silicon Valley, but there isn’t any special qualification required to found a startup.
Anyone with an idea and the drive to see it succeed can build a startup (but carrying it to the finish line will take more than a little hard work). According to data from Crunchbase, 4,488 new startups were launched in 2021 alone. Global startup statistics like this prove there’s no reason you can’t add your startup to this year’s number.
Startup Industry Trends
To help you find your inspiration, let’s look at what’s on the horizon in the startup industry:
Venture funding is on the rise — Worldwide, VCs invested a combined total of $643 billion in startups during 2021. While you can expect this number to dip a little over the next few years, venture investments will continue to play a large part in startup funding.
Unsurprisingly, tech startups were some of the most successful in 2021, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Here are a few of the most promising corners of the technology startup space to watch this year:
- Cryptocurrency is a hot market right now, with more than $21 billion in venture funding channeled into the crypto sector in 2021. That number looks likely to keep going up for a while as this relatively young and volatile market continues to evolve.
- Cybersecurity is another sector that did exceptionally well last year, also pulling in around $21 billion in funding from VCs. As technology continues to develop, there will always be a need for ever-improving cybersecurity measures.
- Fintech is one of the fastest growing startup sectors right now. Of the total $643 billion in venture funding invested in startups last year, $131 billion went toward fintech startups (including the $21 billion invested in crypto startups).
With more funding than ever being funnelled into startups and so many exciting industries ripe for innovation, you’d be right to assume there’s a mountain of new startup ideas testing the waters right now. However, many of these ideas won’t survive long — and it can be tough to know a winner when you have one.
What Makes a “Good Startup Idea?”
Your idea is far from the only factor that affects your startup’s odds of success. In fact, some experts in the startup space would argue that your leadership ability is more important than the quality of your idea. However, there’s no denying that a good idea has a better chance of going the distance than a bad idea does.
The internet is crawling with amusing stories of bad Reddit startup ideas, like an internet insurance company that will start providing service just as soon as they raise enough money to launch a satellite into space, or a business that preserves the tattoos of the deceased by making lamps out of their skin.
But, more importantly, how do you know a “good” startup idea when you see it?
- Your startup idea should solve a real problem. One of the most common reasons startups fail is that there’s no market for the idea.
- Your idea should either solve a problem that hasn’t yet been solved or approach an old problem from a unique angle. Your idea needs to be innovative and easily distinguishable from the competition.
Differentiating your idea is sometimes harder than coming up with an idea that’s good in the first place. You might assume devising a completely original idea is the best way to separate yourself from the pack. But in reality, there are pros and cons to old and new ideas alike.
Should I Pick a Startup Idea That Hasn’t Been Done Before?
Treading a well traveled path and blazing a new trail are both viable options for startup founders. If you choose an idea that’s never been done before, you’ll have the advantage of being totally unique and possibly ahead of the curve, but there won’t be any market validation (proof that people want what you're selling). This will make it harder to sway investors.
On the other hand, if you offer up a new take on an old idea, the hard work of convincing investors that a market exists has mostly already been done for you. However, you’ll obviously have a lot more competition for customers as well.
One of the best ways to approach this question is called blue ocean strategy. Blue ocean strategy focuses on finding cost-effective ways to break open new, uncontested markets. The term “blue oceans'' refers to markets that don’t exist yet, as opposed to “red oceans,” which are markets that do exist and house active competition. This strategy represents the exciting potential of future markets that could be but haven’t yet been created.
Low Cost Business Ideas With High Profit
At the most fundamental level, the holy grail of startup ideas is any idea that costs very little and nets a very high profit. This is your profit margin — the difference between your revenue and your costs. We can also define it as the percentage by which the amount of money your startup makes exceeds the amount of money your startup spends. Hardly any startup is profitable from day one, but you should try to develop a startup idea that can maintain a stable profit margin sooner rather than later.
Being in a “Hot” Industry
One of the biggest predictors of a startup’s success is the condition of the industry it exists within. You should prioritize startup ideas that exist in “hot” industries. An industry is hot if there’s currently a lot of interest from buyers (and consequently, investors) for that type of product or service.
We’ve come up with a list of the hottest startup industries right now. We believe these types of startups currently have the highest chances of success based on factors like market conditions and investor sentiment:
- General tech
- Artificial intelligence
- Blockchain tech
- Cyber security
Some of these industries are emerging markets with enormous opportunity for growth, like artificial intelligence, fintech, and blockchain technology. Others are well-established, high-demand industries with potential for further innovation, like healthcare or cyber security.
In the next section, we’re going to walk you through these industries and present three startup ideas for each one. But first, if you already have an idea in the works, consider validating it by booking a call with one of our mentors. Otherwise, follow along as we dive in:
Innovative Tech Startup Ideas
Most startup ideas are tech-related. Broadly, technology is a hot industry (and one that fluctuates quickly), which means there’s ample opportunity for innovation. For this reason, we’ll be focusing on technology startups throughout this whole list. Let's start with a few general ideas for tech-related startups and then move into some more specific fields.
Solar / Environmental Tech
There are all kinds of ways to build a startup around environmental consciousness. For example, solar power is still not a technology that’s particularly affordable or practical for the average consumer, even though the technology has existed for a while and it’s positive environmental impact has been proven. If you could find an innovative way to make solar power accessible for regular consumer use, you might be onto something exciting.
Wireless headphones aren’t new, but they aren’t yet ubiquitous, either. For a while, they’ve been viewed as a luxury, not the standard. Now, however, more and more devices are forgoing a headphone jack altogether, which means more and more people are making the switch to wireless listening out of necessity. This could be the perfect time to claim your own stake in the wireless headphone space.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Similar to wireless headphones, VR devices aren’t new, but they also aren’t very common. So far, VR technology has mostly been applied to entertainment like video games and films. It’s also sometimes used for educational or training purposes. This is an industry to keep an eye on, as there will likely be a growing market for all different kinds of VR experiences in years to come as the technology develops further and consumer appetite increases.
Software / SaaS Startup Ideas
Software (especially software as a service, or SaaS) is one of the hottest startup spaces. There are countless problems that businesses need solved, and most of them are turning to software for solutions. Identifying an underserved need in the B2B (business to business) software market would be a promising starting point.
There’s currently a bigger market than ever for educational software. With remote education on the rise thanks to Covid-19 and new technologies being steadily implemented into learning environments in general, educators are on the lookout for better learning software. You could also apply these same ideas to the workplace, which faces a similar need for remote training tools.
Custom Software Development
There will always be some companies that prefer personalized proprietary software solutions to off-the-shelf SaaS. If you have a team with the right know-how, you could find success designing custom enterprise software for other businesses. There’s currently a lot of competition in this space, but there’s also a huge demand.
Mobile Travel App
Now that most areas are easing off of COVID-19 precautions, there’s been a resurgence of interest in travel that’s likely to continue building momentum. With issues of health and sanitation currently at the forefront of public discourse around tourism, now could be the perfect time to introduce a new tool that helps people navigate travel in a post-COVID world.
AI Startup Ideas
Artificial Intelligence is one of today’s most exciting corners of technological experimentation. It’s already in use for a vast range of purposes, and there’s certainly room for even more exploration and innovation in this field.
Chatbots are one of the most well-known applications of artificial intelligence. They’re designed to interact with humans just like another person. Companies regularly use them to filter customer service requests or automate parts of the sales funnel. However, chatbot technology has a ways to go, and many customers still feel uncomfortable interacting with a bot instead of a human. There’s a growing market for better chatbots that can provide a convincingly human experience.
AI can play a role at home, too. Intelligent devices can be used to manage or improve just about every part of the house, from remote lighting or temperature control to safer security systems. Many homes are already equipped with smart devices, but a founder who finds a way to make AI even more widely accessible to homeowners could have a very successful company on their hands.
AI in Education
There are countless possible uses for AI in educational settings. Intelligent curriculum could offer highly personalized learning paths for individual students. AI could also be used to create better accessibility tools for impaired learners. Even teachers and administrators can leverage artificial intelligence to help them review and improve course material. Tools like these will be in high demand as the role of AI in schools continues to grow.
Fintech Startup Ideas
Fintech (financial technology) uses technology to improve financial services. Fintech is one of the most popular startup industries right now because of the rise of ecommerce, mobile banking, and cloud computing. Digital methods of managing finances and processing transactions are becoming the norm, and now is a great time to jump into this industry while it’s hot.
Personal Finance Management App
Apps that assist with budgeting or keeping investments organized are popular startup ideas because there’s plenty of demand for them. Managing personal finance is a challenge for many people, so there will always be a need for tools to make it easier. If you can develop a novel app for helping people manage their finances, you’ll have a well-established market waiting for you.
In the past, the average person had to participate in the stock market through a broker who would place investments on clients’ behalf. While this method is still used, it’s much more common now to use a robo-advisor. A robo-advisor is a platform that uses AI to help people place and manage investments without using a human broker. Platforms like these have made it much easier for the average person to invest, leading to even greater demand for high-quality robo-advisors.
Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular model for financing just about anything. There are countless projects, causes, and even companies that have been funded using a site like Kickstarter or GoFundMe. This industry is expected to continue growing rapidly, yet only a handful of companies have made names for themselves as major competitors.
Blockchain Startup Ideas
Whether you love the idea of cryptocurrency or you’re getting sick of hearing about it, blockchain technology is currently the cutting edge of tech innovation. There’s still much more exploration to be done on the crypto front, as well as potential for blockchain applications that extend beyond the world of cryptocurrency.
Crypto Exchange Platform
A crypto exchange platform is like a digital brokerage platform that lets users buy, sell, and exchange cryptocurrencies. These exchanges serve as the backbone of the crypto economy, so there’s plenty of demand for this service. There’s also no shortage of new cryptocurrencies looking for homes. However, it’s also a relatively crowded space where you can expect to find tough competition from well-established platforms.
Crypto Payment Gateway
Even though cryptocurrency has skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years, there are still relatively few places where you can pay for something with cryptocurrency as easily as you could with cash or a debit card. There are apps called payment gateways that enable retailers to accept crypto payments and easily convert them into fiat currency, but they have not yet been widely adopted. A startup that manages to normalize retail crypto payments by developing a more convenient payment gateway could be a huge success.
Decentralized Cloud Storage
Despite its association with cryptocurrency, blockchain technology can serve other purposes, too. Decentralized cloud storage is a more secure digital storage method based on blockchain technology that disperses fragments of data across multiple systems instead of storing it all in one place. Now is a great time to get involved with this new tech that’s set to disrupt the data storage industry.
Healthcare Startup Ideas
Healthcare is a crucial field of work that demands constant innovation. On the frontlines of this innovation are the tech startups developing tools for more effective and efficient medical care. There are many more applications for emerging technologies in healthcare waiting to be realized.
One of the biggest challenges in healthcare is security. Healthcare providers are entrusted with sensitive patient information that must be stored, accessed, and transferred between providers and specialists. There’s considerable potential for biometric technology to eliminate the risk of data theft and fraud in the healthcare industry.
Digital recordkeeping is an incredibly important part of modern healthcare. Healthcare providers rely on an extensive network of digital patient information to provide effective care, which requires electronic health record software. This is a competitive market, but there’s always room for further innovation. One particularly promising area of exploration is the use of AI in electronic health record management.
Medical facilities like hospitals and research laboratories produce a lot of waste that’s difficult or unsafe to dispose of by conventional means, which has led some companies to develop incredible new technologies for recycling or sterilizing hazardous medical waste. However, many smaller healthcare facilities are in need of more accessible and affordable medical waste disposal tools.
Cyber Security Startup Ideas
Digital security is a perpetual challenge for consumers and corporations alike. As long as digital technology is around, there will always be a need for increasingly sophisticated tools to protect users’ digital data.
Consumer Cyber Security
Consumer cyber security tools like antivirus software or VPNs (virtual private networks) are an essential part of basic internet safety for the average consumer. However, there are also some less-explored corners of personal cyber-security, like using machine learning to improve spam detection tools — an important service for vulnerable individuals who would otherwise fall prey to internet scams.
Enterprise Cyber Security
New technologies like biometrics, artificial intelligence, and decentralized data storage are continually reshaping the way corporations approach cyber security. The recent dramatic rise in remote work at many businesses has further upended the corporate internet security landscape. This sets the perfect stage for a startup to leverage innovative technology to create a better cyber security solution for remote workforces.
Most large scale, organized cyber attacks use AI “bots” to hack networks, send spam, or perform any number of other nefarious tasks. Bot accounts have also become frustratingly commonplace on social media, where they spread misinformation, artificially inflate follower counts, and generally annoy people. As such, demand is high for technology that can quickly and accurately identify bot behavior.
It’s tough to find that perfect startup idea to match your drive for innovation. However, once you get the ideas flowing, you’ll probably find it much easier to land on an idea or two that sounds worthwhile. It’s best to keep your eye on the industries that are hot right now, including the ones we mentioned here in our list.
If you need help brainstorming further, or if you’ve thought of the perfect idea and want feedback from an expert, check out our roster of available mentors. Whether you feel totally stuck or ready to launch into the next step, you can make the process easier by booking a call with an experienced founder or other industry professional.