You can be on Entrepreneur’s cover!

Successful Business Ideas Don't Have to Be Completely Original Entrepreneurs dream of bringing to market the next big thing but you can do very well just by recognizing the next big thing and improving it.

By John Pilmer

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneurs pride themselves on being innovators. They fill in the gaps in daily living, bringing the public products and service before we realized we needed them. But a successful business can be built on the genius of someone else. Some of the most brilliant entrepreneurs in history have made their mark through spin-off technologies and products, from steel-making in the age of railroad construction (which earned Andrew Carnegie $480 million) to cloud creation software OpenStack, which was created to solve storage problems for NASA engineers.

Creating a prosperous business this way is so much more complex than simply glomming onto the most current fad and selling similar products. It's about building on something that has changed the way we live, and filling in the gaps to make an even better product or service.

Success combines a perfect blend of being on the forefront of technology and choosing the trends that are destined to stick. For example, early Facebook embracer Farmville made a killing as one of the most popular user games, back when such games were limited and the competition not so fierce. However, similar early adopters of Google+, which tried to come in after the market was already saturated with social networking apps, were not as prosperous. You stand to make a bigger profit on the cusp of something new, but you're also taking a big risk. If you latch onto a trend that doesn't stick, you'll go down with it.

Related: Developing a 'Cool' Product Is Only Half of a Successful Business

The trick is to find the gaps where technology doesn't already do well. You don't have to look very far to find current examples of this. Video streaming pioneer YouTube just turned 10 years old. At its outset, YouTube was a place for users to upload videos to share with their social network - a fairly simple concept. It didn't take long for users such as Michelle Phan to realize YouTube viewers craved niched serial videos and tutorials. The how-to videos on YouTube are some of the most popular and profitable. Some of the creators of these videos have turned their channels into full-time jobs, and even a path to fame.

Another profitable spin-off is Utah startup VidAngel. It piggybacked on the rising success of online video streaming services such as YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. While content streaming sites had provided the public with millions of television episodes, movie titles and rental options, none offered a tool for concerned parents to block profanity or graphic violence. VidAngel launched their own streaming service to give users options to filter content down to each individual curse word.

Related: 5 Ways to Salvage Promising Ideas That Aren't Working Out

The most profitable spin-off ideas and products are two steps away from the original. You must find a way to differentiate yourself by providing an entirely unique customer experience. As an entrepreneur, this concept is not news to you, but how to do it is always a challenge. It can be done through product innovation, exceptional service, patent protected technology, or carefully guided trade secrets. This is why copycat products are risky, and almost never lead to a solid business.

Long-term success of an entrepreneurial spin-off is determined by three factors: filling in the gaps of new technology, the timing of your launch, and the exceptional uniqueness of your brand. If you can build a company that plugs into an existing product or service and elevates the customer's experience in a unique and fulfilling way, you've likely struck gold. You may not become the "next big thing," per say – but you're hooking an established market with a tried-and-true idea, and that can have a hugely positive impact on your bottom line. The key is to get started and see where your own genius takes you.

Related: Why Old Ideas Are a Secret Weapon

John Pilmer

Entrepreneur Consultant, Owner and CEO of PilmerPR

John Pilmer, APR is an award-winning, accredited public relations and marketing communications advisor for emerging sector leaders. His firm, PilmerPR LLC facilitated the launch of 4 startups into the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Companies in America. He holds an undergraduate degree in Business Management and Marketing from Brigham Young University, as well as an MBA from the University of Utah.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Resumes & Interviewing

Build a Better Resume with This $35 Subscription

AI Resume Builder promises to help you apply to jobs twice as fast.

Side Hustle

He Took His Side Hustle Full-Time After Being Laid Off From Meta in 2023 — Now He Earns About $200,000 a Year: 'Sweet, Sweet Irony'

When Scott Goodfriend moved from Los Angeles to New York City, he became "obsessed" with the city's culinary offerings — and saw a business opportunity.


I Got Over 225,000 Views in Just 3 Months With Short-Form Video — Here's Why It's the New Era of Marketing

Thanks to our new short-form video content strategy, we've amassed over 225,000 video views in just three months. Learn how to increase brand awareness through short-form video content.

Business News

Samsung Makes 6 Day Workweeks Mandatory for Executives as the Company Enters 'Emergency Mode'

Samsung said its performance "fell short of expectations" last year. Now executives are required to work weekends.


6 Habits That Help Successful People Maximize Their Time

There aren't enough hours in the day, but these tips will make them feel slightly more productive.


You Won't Have a Strong Leadership Presence Until You Master These 5 Attributes

If you are a poor leader internally, you will be a poor leader externally.