4 Entrepreneurs Who Refreshed Stale Industries and Made Millions
How a single good idea can revive a dying business model.
Remember when we thought the taxi industry was dying? Then Uber swooped in and changed the way people found rides, making the overall process easier, more tech-friendly and often cheaper than the traditional alternative. Airbnb quickly followed Uber’s footsteps and transformed hospitality. But, while those are the examples we know best, several industries have experienced a revival over the past few years. Here are four stories of entrepreneurs who have used the internet to disrupt stale industries and make millions.
Despite how much the digital world has changed the way we look at marketing, direct mail campaigns are still wildly effective -- according to United Mail, 34 percent more people act immediately on direct mail than they do email. Joy Gendusa decided to start Postcard Mania after becoming frustrated with traditional postcard printers.
This clever paper-to-internet marketing strategy has allowed businesses of all sizes to acquire countless new customers and achieve significant growth. Today, PostcardMania employs over 200 full-time staff and counts approximately $50 million in annual revenue.
Mental health services
We’re not just starting to end the stigma that seeking mental health help is shameful or a sign of weakness; we’re also able beginning to find that help online. Alon Matas struggled to find confidential and effective counseling three years ago when he faced a significant life change. When he spoke with others in his situation, he found that too many people were having difficulty finding help that was affordable, accessible, and discreet.
As a result, Matas started BetterHelp: an online counseling center that would allow people to receive mental health help on their computer, tablet, or smartphone. Potential clients sign up with their email, fill out a questionnaire regarding mental health history, objectives, and preferences, and then get matched with a counselor within 24 hours. From there, clients can message back and forth with their counselor or arrange live video sessions.
BetterHelp has helped over thousands of people find mental health help since its launch.
Related: 11 Habits of Truly Happy People
Just a few years ago, the best way to find a tutor (or advertise your services) was to use your school’s bulletin board or post to Craigslist. Now, you can learn from or instruct others in a simple and secure online environment.
Ari Stiegler, creator of Lyft’s Campus Ambassador program, started TutorMe in 2014 to help connect students with tutors nationwide. The site covers basic tutoring services -- algebra, writing, chemistry and so on -- as well as test prep for the ACT and GRE. Students pay for hourly services on a monthly or as-you-go basis. TutorMe is one of the leading online tutoring platforms and helps thousands of people find or provide tutoring services every month.
Selling a home is universally known as one of the most tedious and exhausting experiences someone can endure. Real estate veterans Brian Bair and Jerry Coleman, who bought and sold houses together for six years, launched OfferPad in 2015 to help alleviate the stress that comes with the selling process. Now, homeowners can punch in their address and a bit of key information (like square footage and the year the house was built) and receive a purchase offer within a few hours.
Once the homeowner accepts the offer, OfferPad sends over a home inspector to check out the property. The homeowner then picks a flexible closing date and signs the purchase contract.
Those who have used OfferPad say the overall process is faster, simpler, and less stressful than traditional home selling. As of January 2017, OfferPad was valued at $110 million.
Sometimes an industry just needs a modern touch to become uber-profitable again. These four highly successful businesses prove that the internet can help make almost any startup concept into one that appeals to today’s consumers.
Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.