Need business ideas? Watch out for unbundlings

Society moves in waves. It always starts with lots of separate things. Then they get bundled. After a while, more and more people start to realize that the bundled solution is too bloated and not specific enough for their needs. This is when an unbundling happens.

Unbundlings always represent a multitude of business opportunities. Below I’ll list several examples of unbundlings that have happened in the past, some that are happening right now, and a few speculations on what might be unbundled next.

While going through the following examples, ask yourself: What aspect hasn’t been unbundled yet? What could be unbundled in a better way?

The Unix Unbundling

  • grep → Google,
  • rsync → Dropbox,
  • man → Stack Overflow,
  • cron → IFTTT
  • finger → Social Media

(Source: https://twitter.com/cdixon/status/505118160811728896)

The Craigslist Unbundling

(Source: https://thegongshow.tumblr.com/post/345941486/the-spawn-of-craigslist-like-most-vcs-that-focus)

(Source: https://latecheckout.substack.com/p/the-guide-to-unbundling-reddit)

The Spreadsheet Unbundling

(Source: https://foundationinc.co/lab/the-saas-opportunity-of-unbundling-excel/)

The Unbundling of Hippie Culture

  • psychedelics → weed startups
  • communes → coliving
  • hippie trail → digital nomads
  • hippie food → organic food, veganism
  • spirituality → mindfulness apps
  • free love → Tinder

(Also take note how Hippie culture bundled lots of different things that existed previously within certain subcultures.)

The Unbundling of Reddit

  • r/startups → IndieHackers
  • r/medicine → Doximity
  • r/Beauty -> Supergreat
  • r/funny → 9gag
  • r/sports → StadiumLive
  • r/Streamers → Pipeline.gg
  • r/insert city → Nextdoor
  • r/books → Goodreads
  • r/digitalnomad → Nomadlist
  • r/fitness → Fitocracy
  • r/design → Designer News
  • r/GrowthHacking → GrowthHackers.com

(Source: https://latecheckout.substack.com/p/the-guide-to-unbundling-reddit and https://blog.alexshye.com/2013/08/15/the-unbundling-of-craigslist-and-reddit/)

The Unbundling of Universities

  • Community → PhysicsForums, Discord Servers,
  • Content → Udemy, Masterclass
  • Credentials → Coursera, edX
  • Network → Twitter, Clubhouse, LinkedIn
  • Support → StackExchange
  • Access to Books → Scribd, Libgen
  • Learning Spaces → https://www.focusmate.com/
  • Accountability → ???

The Unbundling of Wordpress

  • Publishing → Medium, Ghost
  • Ecommerce Plugins → Shopify
  • Buddypress → Tribe.so
  • Membership Plugins → Mighty Networks, Ghost
  • Contact Form Plugins → Typeform
  • Comments → Disqus

The Unbundling of Webhosting

  • Database → Cloud Firestore, FaunaDB
  • Authentication → Auth0
  • Content Delivery → Cloudflare, Netlify
  • Version Control → Github, Gitlab, Bitbucket
  • Email → Mailchimp, ConvertKit

What’s Next?

Now that we have some understanding of how unbundlings look like in practice, it’s time to ask: what’s the next big thing that will get unbundled?

A few suggestions:

  • Twitter? (Especially its DM function, e.g., along the lines of what Earn.com tried. But also the “News-Feed” aspect, the “Life-Updates” aspect, the RSS-Feed aspect, etc.)
  • Ebay? Amazon? (See Etsy, Shopify)
  • Offices? (See Slack, Zoom, Focusmate, WIP.chat)

I’d love to hear on Twitter what unbundlings you’ve observed in the past and which you predict for the future!

Written on July 23, 2020
P.S. I'm now on Twitter too if you'd like to follow my adventures. Alternatively you can enter your email address below and I will send you occasionally a short email whenever I publish something new.