Early Stage Concepts You Can’t Miss

Job boards that earn 90% margins and sex toys positioned as wellness products

Hey folks, 

Do you know what makes me weak at the knees? Niche marketplaces.

They can be amazingly efficient businesses that require little overheard and have huge moats that can last for decades. I get hot and bothered just thinking about ’em.

For years, I’ve been fascinated by Grailed, a men’s luxury clothing site. Last week I bought $1k worth of clothes on Grailed for $200. I emailed these guys in 2015 when they just launched on Reddit asking to invest. They didn’t reply, I didn’t follow up––and they recently raised $15m. Smh.

Our hope is to highlight more companies like Grailed before they get huge. So this week, we’re introducing a new regular feature called Signals, where we’ll alert you to early-stage concepts, businesses, and apps so you won’t miss out on the latest opportunities.

Also new this week:

  1. Sex toys: Women have taken over this once male-dominated industry and shifted its perception from vice to wellness.
  2. Job boards: Bootstrappers are creating niche job sites with 90% margins. Learn how to create yours.
  3. Sahil Lavingia: The Gumroad founder talks to us about failure, building an audience, and why he believes remote work software is a transformative industry.
The top links in last week’s email were our upcoming small business database and our report on beauty tech. 

OK, let’s get to it.

– Sam

PS: Did you know…I read every single feedback email and look at the results from those smiley faces below? So please hit one and give us your feedback.
01  Signals
Quick snapshots from across the internet of potential trends before they happen.

High-protein cereals are making a comeback. The average monthly search numbers for “keto cereal” total 8k and are up nearly 100% from early this year and multiples higher than summer 2017.


Node makes sustainable modular homes. The company is growing in popularity because its prefab homes are made with non-toxic materials and have energy-efficient systems. Backlinks to their website have skyrocketed this summer.


L-theanine is a compound found naturally in certain teas. It’s a relaxant and supposed to help people fight anxiety and stress. Searches for L-theanine total about 65k monthly and have steadily increased over the last several years.



02  The Future is Female Pleasure

The sex toy revolution is here––led by companies with names like Crave and Unbound.

Industry revenue totaled $20B worldwide in 2015 and is expected to grow 8% annually. The market for vibrators alone is about $6.5B with 13% annual growth.

Female customers account for much of the uptick, stimulated by the wider acceptance of sex toys and the rise of more accessible online options in lieu of seedy sex shops.

The opportunity: Start a brand that emphasizes wellness and employs new smart features, from Bluetooth and remote control to data-gathering technology that can track people’s sexual responses.

Despite loads of competition, brand recognition is low, meaning newcomers who create stigma-free, D2C products can build a following.

Read more here

03  The Year of the Job Board

We wrote about the potential growth of niche job sites a few weeks ago. It’s even bigger than we thought.

Dozens of independent job sites have been launched this year alone on Product Hunt. And other platforms that already attract a large and targeted user base, like Dribbble, Behance, and AngelList, are tacking on job boards.

Independent bootstrappers are reaping margins of up to 90% (compared to net margins in the advertising sector in the single digits).

We created a spreadsheet that analyzes 27 job boards, ranging from niche to unicorn size, along with metrics showing what it takes to make this model a winner.

Read more here

04 News You Should Know

Improved adtech for podcasts (TechCrunch): About 32% of Americans listen to podcasts monthly. But there is no ad marketplace on Apple Podcasts, and the ads that encourage listeners to get discounts through special codes are often forgotten by listeners on the move. Adtech is needed to match the IP addresses of purchasers with listeners, so podcasts can get credit for customers they’re bringing to different advertisers. 

Move your startup to Europe (Forbes): The hottest place for startups these days is 5k miles from Silicon Valley. A record $19B was invested in tech during the first half of this year, a sum driven by investments of $100m or more.   Museum money (Bloomberg): Traditional museums are losing funding because younger generations are more likely to donate to causes rather than the arts. So they’re looking for new ways to be relevant and dabbling in the startup world. Companies have been successful partnering with museums to launch accelerators and co-working spaces. Museums, which still have old money backing, are also looking to invest in startups relevant to the arts. The right idea for an experium––a museum for experiences––could also take off. The Museum of Ice Cream was just valued at $200m.


05  America, land of the chicken

Here’s a surefire way to make millions: Create a new chicken sandwich.

You’ll likely never match Popeye’s or Chick-Fil-A or the buzz they generated last week. But things are great for chicken these days: Tyson’s stock has almost doubled this year, and the massive Filipino chain Jollibee’s sales were up 14% as it turned its focus to the US market. Even Golden Chick, the restaurant you forgot existed, expects a record number of new openings this year.

The US fast food chicken market is valued at $34B and has been growing at 8% annually.

The opportunity: Entrepreneurs could start fast-casual local chicken restaurants on the coasts and in the Midwest. 

The best fast food chicken originates in the South, where it remains most prevalent. The Midwest and the coasts are lacking. New York, for instance, has ~20 Chick-fil-As. Much-smaller Alabama has ~75.

But chicken cravings aren’t limited to the South. Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, and New Jersey are among the top 10 states with the most search interest for “chicken restaurant.” 

One standout: In Philadelphia, Federal Donuts is a wildly successful local chain. It pairs donuts with fried chicken and chicken sandwiches and has expanded in the last few years from one restaurant to 7, including a location at a Whole Foods.    


06  Gumroad founder and viral Medium sensation Sahil Lavingia riffs on the future of work, failure, and how to build an audience 

Sahil Lavingia knows what it’s like to work for a unicorn. Pinterest hired him to build its iPhone app when he was 19, and he ended up with stock options valued around $40m.  

But he also knows how to fail. And perhaps more importantly, Lavingia openly discusses his setbacks. His Medium post from earlier this year about his struggles and disappointments at his company Gumroad went viral. 

We recently caught up with Lavingia to talk about building startups and audiences and what he believes will be the defining technologies of the future. Here is some of the advice and predictions he shared:  

  • Zoom and other remote work video software products are an underserved market and the next frontier of innovation.

  • There’s a $100B idea for a VR chat application.

  • To write a story that gets over 100k claps on Medium, don’t use formulas. Instead, capture the cultural zeitgeist with your own personal narrative.

Read more here

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