Entrepreneurs look to the past for inspiration, but look to the future as a canvas. Future business ideas are the portrait that entrepreneurs paint in their mind and set out to create. It was Peter Drucker who said:
The best way to predict the future is to create it. – Peter Drucker
Looking to the future sounds silly to some. I get it:
Predicting the future. I might as well use a magic eight ball. Do you want to know how to predict the future?
Looking to the future isn’t a magical ability, although it does require some intuition. Rather, looking to the future can be as simple as tracing a line from where things have been and out to where things may go.
Did you know the cell phone was predicted in 1926?
Would you believe that in 1926 Karl Arnold drew a cartoon of a man walking in the street among many other people while talking on a mobile phone (cite)?
Did you know smartphone voice commands were predicted in 1931?
In 1931, Erich Kastner wrote a book titled “The 35th of May” in which he wrote this:
A gentleman who rode along the sidewalk in front of them, suddenly stepped off the conveyor belt, pulled a phone from his coat pocket, spoke a number into it and shouted: “Gertrude, listen, I’ll be an hour late for lunch because I want to go to the laboratory. Goodbye, sweetheart!” Then he put his pocket phone away again, stepped back on the conveyor belt, started reading a book…
Among all of these examples, you can see a plethora of predictions from shows such as Star Trek which have come true.
What does it mean for you?
It is proof that what is fantasy today, you can turn into reality tomorrow, or next year. I’m going to provide some ideas that might seem silly today, but will probably be very profitable businesses in the future. Here are my future business ideas. Many of these will require quite a bit of capital or space, so check these out if you’re looking for small scale business ideas or low investment business ideas.
Business Ideas in Space
Our eyes are still firmly planted on the universe. With more and more private companies getting in space travel such as:
- Virgin Galactic
- and Orbital Sciences Corp
It won’t be long before space tourism is a thriving industry. The nice thing about it, space tourists have money. The first recreational cruise ships are a good example to look at. Cruise ships were a luxury reserved only for the wealthy and well-connected.
Does this mean you’ll need a space ship to participate? Absolutely not. Businesses thrive on cruise ships, without owning one. You could build businesses around space travel without space ships. Examples will include:
- Travel agencies to organize the itinerary
- Insurance, just in case something happens
- Parking and shuttle services to and from the launch site
- Be a flight companion. People will want to travel to space, but may also need someone experienced to help them through this naturally scary experience. Much like jumping with an experienced skydiver.
- Safety inspector.
There are tons of peripheral services that will eventually pop up. You just need to find the intersection between your interests and the industry.
Mining in Space
Think this sounds crazy? Two companies are already working on it:
- Deep Space Industries
- Planetary Resources
Obviously, business in outer space will be expensive. That doesn’t mean you can’t put yourself somewhere else in the supply chain. The ore needs to be mined and processed just like any other material. Additionally, the materials need to be distributed and sold. These are all services that your business could offer.
Who wouldn’t want a gold coin made from gold mined from an asteroid? What woman wouldn’t love a diamond necklace made of diamonds rained from the atmosphere of Saturn. Of course, that may not be possible within our lifetime, but other businesses based on space will be (and who knows, maybe this article will still be around when Saturn Diamond necklaces are possible).
Prospecting for Asteroids is expected to begin in the next decade or two. Deep Space Industries plans to be mining asteroids by within the next decade. Just like ordinary mining operations today, you don’t have to own a mine to be part of the value chain. Set your business up so that the big guns do the really expensive part, then you can pick it up from there.
Your business could transport the ore to the refinery, your business could be the refinery, or it could be the manufacturer that uses the materials from the refinery, your business could be the distributor for the manufactured pieces, or your business could simply be the end point: the retail outlet specializing in products made from materials from outer space.
Manufacturing and Energy Business Ideas
So maybe outer space is just not your thing, or maybe it’s just too costly. The future of business is not just in outer space. There are new methods of manufacturing being invented everyday, and maybe that is where you belong.
3D printing has been around since the mid 1980s but is really just starting to get a lot more attention. This is in part because the technology is advancing as well as getting more affordable. Here’s a video for those unfamiliar with 3D printing:
This has so much potential it is staggering. Imagination and skill are your only limitations. You can manufacture anything from ornaments and knick-knacks to more utilitarian things like tools. This allows an interesting connection between the digital world and the physical world as can be seen with things such as algorithmic jewelry, which is jewelry designed by mathematical algorithms. What about jewelry inspired by your own personal nervous system?
Of course, the danger to this business is that the technology may become so affordable that a 3D printer will be a common household appliance, but we aren’t there yet. Even then, your business could be to sell designs and CAD templates which people can purchase so they can print things for themselves at home.
Photo-voltaic cells have made huge efficiency progress in recent years, but there is still much progress to be made. In addition to more efficient solar cells, we need better storage options for the energy generated. Solar powered electric companies are another idea gaining popularity. So much so, that traditional power companies have fought for state amendments to prevent their entrance into their markets!
Solar energy is going to be big business, but equally, if not bigger will be devices that are founded upon amazing efficiency. You might be used to the highly sophisticated, energy rich civilization, but the reality that the rest of the world lives in is very different. Did you know that over 3,000,000,000 (that’s 3 billion) people still use open fires as their primary source of cooking and house heat? Over 4 million people die each year due to indoor pollution from fires like those.
This is a business opportunity as much as it is a chance to improve the lives of nearly half the world population. One company that is already doing that is GoSun stoves. They produce a highly efficient solar cooker. Their solar oven is used in the developing world as well as by backpackers alike.
Social entrepreneurship is about creating a profit while solving a huge social issue.
Technology Business Ideas
I believe that the emphasis on computer hardware is going to lessen and we’ll see a switch in emphasis to software instead. The future of software will be in resource preservation: using the existing infrastructure we already have more efficiently rather than trying to build more infrastructure.
Faster processors require more electricity, but if we can minimize the amount of data they need to process, or do it more efficiently, then a faster processor is not as necessary. If we can make websites handle data more efficiently (such as technologies like AJAX) then the need for internet infrastructure diminishes.
There will always be more room for intelligent, efficient software design, and we’re only just beginning to scratch the surface. The great thing about software design is that all of the tools needed are essentially free and openly available. It’s the education that is expensive and time consuming. This is also a perfect small town business idea as it doesn’t matter where your customers live. You will enjoy the beauty of a small town without sacrificing your income.
In case you didn’t notice, the trend in technology is towards highly integrated, simple communication. Many of the biggest names in internet today are communication companies. Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit- these are all companies with one main purpose: communication. They do it in their own ways, but communication is what they do.
Your business can serve one of two functions: incorporating more forms of communication more tightly in a clever or convenient way, or disrupt that communication. After all, some people don’t like the way communication is going. Your business can be built around the idea of protecting and insulating your customers from this perceived intrusion.
Remote work will continue to grow as an industry and that means technology needs to be in place to faciliate this trend. There are already sites such as 99Designs and Fiverr that let anyone outsource jobs for just about anything, and this will continue to grow.
In the future, I imagine that most people will work remotely. Providing the technology to make remote work possible will be a huge industry as well as supplying the staffing businesses will need remotely. Contract work will be big business.
Security isn’t going away. More-and-more, it is further engrained in everything we do. Do you remember the rash of hacks that happened to LinkedIn, Adobe, Target or the other innumerable companies that were victimized? As the cost of these attacks escalates, so does the profit for those who stand in the way.
When Target reported that up to 110 million customers were potentially compromised, what do you think they did? They beefed up security. They spent boat loads of money on security as well as paid a boat load of money to Experian to give free credit monitoring for a year to those who were compromised.
Health Business Ideas
As health continues to come to the forefront of peoples’ minds, they will naturally seek healthier foods and supplements. With updated nutrition labels people may be more conscientious of what they are putting in their bodies. This offers a huge market opportunity to capitalize on the billions spent each year on nutrition.
In lock-step with nutrition is the fitness industry. New and innovative products are constantly coming out. Especially with today’s phones, fitness apps are a booming industry as well as the devices that sync up with them such as the Fitbit, Jawbone and the Nike FuelBand. Many people are calling this a fad, but I believe that as we become a more data obsessed society, things like this will only continue to grow in popularity, especially as they become more convenient to use.
Fitness programs have been around forever. As more and more people get in on the health bandwagon, it only becomes more profitable. The nice part is that the core products are info products. This means you’re selling ideas and information rather than manufacturing expensive exercise equipment. Be ready to see more programs like Insanity & P90X. Sure, many will flop, but many will also succeed.
I believe that in the future, live streamed training will be the standard. Pair that up with in-home cameras and you have the potential for remote personal training. The instructor will be able to pull up your camera and correct/encourage you in real time.
Medical will only continue to grow as an industry. There’s more people alive now than ever in history, and those people need medical assistance. You can build tons of businesses off of the medical industry without having to be a doctor:
- Ambulance transport service
- Medical supply
- Medical technology development
- In-home care
- And medical transport for the elderly are just a few examples.
Looking to the future
It might seem difficult at first, but most anyone can see what the future holds for business. Unforeseen developments obviously happen, but most discovery happens slowly over time.
Cell phones didn’t just appear out of nowhere. First there was face to face communication, then written communication, then telegraphed information, then radio communication, then cord phone communication, then satellite phone communication, then finally smart phones as we know them today (I skipped some steps for brevity).
If you want to know where business is going, then find what you want to do, look at where it is, predict where it is going and fill in the blanks. I believe Wayne Gretzky said it best when he said:
A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.
When choosing your business, don’t just be a good player, be a great player.