Exploiting the "Market Gap": YouSendIt.com Gets $14 Million

Last Updated Jul 16, 2008 3:56 PM EDT

YouSendIt logoYouSendIt.com just picked up $14 million in a third round of funding. If you don't know the company, the premise is simple: People go there to send big files, whether using the free service or buying a subscription. I've used the freebie version a number of times when I was struck trying to get a large graphic image to a client. Stuck how? When email would choke on the size of the attachment or the recipient's firewall was fussy and when FTP wasn't a reasonable option.

What strikes me is how incredibly inept and incomplete our collective technical infrastructure can be. There are holes a fleet of trucks can run through that provide ample market gaps for any company that wants a business opportunity. The trick is to identify something fundamental that simply isn't going to get an easy fix or workaround, but something that people need. YouSendIt.com hits the sweet spot here. So, I think, does Jott.com: you talk into a phone you register with the service, and it turns your speech into text and emails it to someone on your contact list. (I even tried some Gilbert & Sullivan patter lyrics with remarkably good accuracy, given the material.) It's a perfect fit when you want to get a text message to someone -- maybe as a way of more easily tracking and filing it -- but hitting a keyboard would be inconvenient or impossible.

I think there are a few characteristics of these market gap solutions:

  • There's a problem that people need solved when it happens.
  • The problem doesn't occur often enough to make them spend a lot of time considering it, or to catch the attention of many would-be solvers.
  • The solution is clean and clever, exactly covering the need in a way that users either couldn't duplicate or wouldn't have considered.
  • The solution is also simple; there is no need for users to adapt their lives, or every other tool they have, to the solution.
  • Cost for the solution is negligible compared to the price of the problem.
  • There is the potential to create a free version, so people can try it.
So what little irritant today could be the springboard for something big?
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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.