How To Turn Trends Research Into a Hot Startup (+ 8 Real Examples)

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Ethan Brooks
Ethan Brooks

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This is a premium article that originally appeared on Trends.

How To Turn Trends Research Into a Hot Startup

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Earlier this month, Trends turned three. To celebrate another year older wiser, we're pulling back the curtain to give our blog readers an exclusive look at how Trends members are starting real, profitable businesses from ideas that we covered over the years.

Turning Trends Into Profits: One Circle

While studying at Drexel University, Sudhir Pandey toyed with several business ideas, including unbundling Reddit and pet pharmaceuticals. But it was a recent Trends piece on air conditioning that led him to a red-hot opportunity.

The Trend: Heat Pumps

A heat pump is a device that moves hot air into or out of buildings. They’re simple to build, can heat and cool your house, and are 200%-300% as efficient as modern AC units. Yet they’re practically unknown to Western consumers. 

Google search for air conditioning (1)

Demand for AC is surging as areas experience unprecedented heat waves.
(Source: Google Trends, 3-mo. rolling avg.)

Some estimates say the world will need 1.8B heat pumps by 2050 to help reach net-zero emissions goals; the industry’s expected to more than double to $140B in the next nine years.

Tantalizing, right?

In a few short months, Sudhir gave himself a crash course on the industry, designed two prototypes, and secured early funding for his new eco-tech company One Circle. Steal these three steps to capitalize on your own “heat pump” moment.

Turning the Trend Into a Business 

1. Become the expert

Our research will get you started. But to understand an industry well enough to design products, pitch investors, or hire help, you’ll need to go deeper. Fast.

Wikipedia is a gold mine hidden in plain sight. The trick? Begin at the end.

The bottom of every page has references and resource links, including archival access to hard-to-find PDFs. Open them. Read them. “Once you go to 20 or 25 Wikipedia pages on one subject,” Pandey said, “you know basically 2 or 3 levels deeper about the subject than the average person.”

Wikipedia Research

Source: Wikipedia

2. Get the right people around you

You can’t do everything by yourself, nor should you try. Most of your success as a founder will come down to your ability to get the right people onboard with your idea.

“Like Naval [Ravikant] says,” he told us. “It’s not about how hard you work, but like, what sector you work in and the people you work with.”

Sudhir convinced two engineer friends from school to help him prototype the new pump during their summer break. He also:

  • Got the two friends to loan him $6k for startup costs by offering to either pay them back, or let them convert their investment to equity later on.
  • Hired a freelance web developer to build his site so he could stay focused on product design.
  • Partnered with other firms, like YC-backed Enode, who will handle the back-end software for his smart heat pump, rather than him designing it from scratch.

Don’t have engineer friends? “There’s a bunch [of firms] that will send you a prototype in probably two to three weeks,” Pandey said. Some examples include Outdesign and Kickr.

Prototype Example for Heat Pump App (1)

Mockups for the heat pump’s app (Source: One Circle)

3. Sell the vision

Using Notion, Pandey wrote a one-page investor memo that highlights his go-to-market strategy, timeline, and possible failure points.

In addition to the $6k from friends, and $100k he’s gotten from family, he’s planning more investor outreach and several crowdfunding campaigns this summer to help validate demand and build a community around his idea.
You can follow his journey and prototyping process by checking out his open build page.

7 Other Trends That Sparked Real Business Ideas

1. The Trend: Yurts

subreddit growth for yurts (1) In January 2020, we wrote an article about increased attention for yurts, including being featured by brands as part of the rising “cozy” aesthetic and on season 2 of the hit Netflix series “You.”

The Business: Bubble Hotels

Nathan Resnick founded Bubble Hotels to encourage people to "get in touch with the outdoors without sacrificing the comforts of home." It became the most-funded hotel on Kickstarter ever, raising $250k in one day. It pre-booked $850k in stays before even opening its doors.

2. The Trend: Digital Privacy

In February 2020, we wrote an article highlighting companies prioritizing privacy and identifying gaps in the market.

The Business: Eden Data

Taylor Hersom started Eden Data, a cybersecurity advisory company geared toward startups. The company hit $80k+ in MRR only 10 months after launching, and is now doing $300k MRR with a team of 10.

3. The Trend: Puzzles

In March 2020, we wrote an article about the rise of puzzles. At the time, hashtags like #puzzleposts and #jigsawpuzzle were quickly picking up traction on Instagram and TikTok. 

The Business: Completing the Puzzle

Husband and wife team Brian Thomas and Alania Cater built the Netflix of puzzles after quarantine made everyone jigsaw-crazy. In the last year, they’ve doubled the size of their team from 5 to 10, and tripled the size of their warehouse.

4. The Trend: Mushrooms

mycology subreddit stats

Source: Subreddit Stats

In November 2020, we wrote an article about soaring mushroom sales and identified ways to capitalize on the trend, including functional mushrooms, ‘shroom experiences, and fungi fashion.

The Business: Psychedelic Tips

Austin Dixon launched the website Psychedelic Tips, and he’s also redoing the packaging on another ecommerce product with a mycelium box. “Lots of stuff going on in the mushroom space!” he said. We agree.

Speaking of spores, Jessie Hawkins took the leap into ecomm this year, starting Sweet Loot to sell foraging gear as part of our Trends Gives a Buck program.

5. The Trend: Sports Gambling

In January 2020, we wrote an article about how to capitalize on the fast-growing sports gambling industry.

The Business: Goat Club

Adam Lagan decided to launch Goat Club to help people track their bets and bankrolls. The app has 100 people on the wait list and is going live on the App Store soon.

6. The Trend: Posture-Perfecting Furniture

In November 2019, we wrote about an ergonomic office furniture company, Ergonofis, that was on pace to make $2.3M in revenue that year. 

The Business: Movement Breaks

Inspired by our research, Harrison Powell created Movement Breaks, a paid subscription that offers 3-minute daily mobility routines via text or email (and gets 8% conversion rates on ad clicks!).

7. The Trend: Forest Bathing 

Forest-bath-google-search-interestIn February 2021, we wrote an article about a hot trend from Japan: forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. The practice is about engaging slowly and deliberately with nature, using all of your senses.

The Business: Inoki Bathhouse

Helen Yn is celebrating a birthday too – it’s been one year since she and Victor Li launched Inoki Bathouse. So far they’ve grown to ~123k+ followers on TikTok, and secured a retail deal with Hong Kong’s leading luxury retailer.

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