Do you remember the Cuil search engine? No? You are not alone. On 28 July 2008, a search engine was launched called Cuil that was going to beat Google at the search game.

It didn’t, and many people questioned the logic of someone trying to take on a giant in market space they “owned.” It makes far more sense to find a spot in the market that no one else has filled and then offer a product or service to fill that market. One of the best examples of this rule is eBay.

On the U.S. Labor Day weekend in September 1995, eBay was born. Pierre Omidyar, a computer programmer, wrote the code for an auction Web site that he ran from his home computer. Originally called AuctionWeb and hosted on the same server as Pierre’s page about the Ebola virus, the site began with the listing of a broken laser pointer. Pierre intended the listing to be a test of his code more than a serious auction, so he was shocked when the item sold for $14.83. Pierre quickly realised there was a hole in the market when he contacted the winning bidder to explain that the pointer was broken. “I’m a collector of broken laser pointers,” was the reply.

AuctionWeb soon took over Pierre’s entire domain,, short for Echo Bay, which was the name of his consulting firm at the time. Users of eBay now trade more than $1,900 worth of goods on the site every second.

You also need products and services that people actually want. I have seen R&D staff develop technically brilliant concepts…that will never sell. Do you remember Eyetop wearable DVD players, GPS equipped lingerie, iSmell (allowing your computer to experience smells on the Internet), Microsoft Bob, umbrellas with photovoltaic cells to power lights under the umbrella, and businesses based on the niche of massaging premature babies? These were all real products and services that were never going to make it.

So find a hole in the market that no one else has filled, and then fill it! For a period of time, you will have a monopoly and be able to set your own business parameters. Sure is better than trying to beat Google!

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