The VC Wishlist: 10 startup ideas begging to be built

From Generative AI to Quantum Trading: James McClure, Partner at Antler in Australia, unpacks potential ventures for aspiring entrepreneurs.

James McClure

February 5, 2024
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I see hundreds of founders pitch each year across industries and idea spaces - Antler invests in around 25 businesses each year in Australia alone. These pitches include a lot of generative AI, SaaS and HR Tech innovations, but flipping it around - here are 10 opportunities I reckon are worth exploring in 2024.

1. How to monetise/ distribute content for Large Language Models (LLMs)

There’s amazing proprietary content in media companies, libraries, universities, and the like. How can they license and monetise this content to those building LLMs? There could be a great middleware opportunity to distribute and share in the earnings.

A key hurdle will be ensuring content security and compliance with copyright laws, but it will help provide content owners with vital revenue streams in an increasingly tight market and also feed LLM developers with rich and diverse data sources.

2. Modular construction of housing/ Robotics in building

Housing costs are a major societal challenge, particularly in a property-obsessed market like Australia. We see dozens of “helping get people on the housing ladder” ideas each year, but most are pretty vanilla and rely on existing supply. How about addressing supply-side costs first and looking at what can be built in a modular/ or production-line fashion?

There is plenty of pressure to build more social and affordable housing to assist those bearing the brunt of the housing crisis and decades-long waitlists, but little action has been taken. Using robotics in construction not only reduces human error and the various other risks associated with mass building projects, it would also increase output and bring down costs, making low-cost housing more readily available.

Photo by ThisisEngineering on Unsplash

3. B2B Due diligence/ ESG investigations for suppliers and contractors

There’s an ever-increasing need to understand supply chains and their quality - so what’s the Onfido (the AI-powered identity verification and customer onboarding platform) for B2B supply chains? There are plenty of great options in carbon footprint (Pathzero and Trace to name just two in Antler’s Australian portfolio), but not governance and societal checks.

This could include comprehensive checks on suppliers and contractors, focusing on governance, environmental impact, and social responsibility. Such a tool could provide businesses with the insights needed to make informed decisions, ensuring their supply chains reflect their values, ESG or UN SDG goals, and compliance and reporting requirements.

4. Sales enablement tool for setting sales quotas and associated KPIs

I spent days of my corporate life working out commissions and quota schemes and it was extremely painful. Had one been available, I would have definitely bought a simple SaaS product to solve this!

This tool should integrate seamlessly with existing CRM systems, providing real-time insights and analytics to drive sales performance.

5. Business loans secured by non-traditional criteria

Frictionless access to working capital is in high demand from businesses. We’ve seen innovation in lending from Pipe and others; are there other company assets that could be used for a loan, for example,  IP, equity, and customer data (safely stored, of course).

This approach could provide a lifeline for startups and SMEs that struggle to access traditional financing, enabling them to leverage their most valuable assets for growth.

6. Salary insights provided by API call

To get salary benchmark information, typically you have to buy massive reports and wade through the different options. I’d consider paying a small percentage of a new hire’s salary to see market benchmarks when I know I need it; especially if it was embedded in my Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

Access to real-time salary benchmarking data can be a game-changer for businesses looking to attract top talent. An API that integrates with ATSs to provide instant access to market salary benchmarks could streamline the hiring process and ensure competitive offers.

7. Pet wellness subscription platform

With a decrease in childbirth rates and an increase in pet ownership, disposable income spent on pets will increase, and the historic model of insurance and vets will look more archaic. I can see a case for a pet wellness subscription platform or even wearables.

(I don’t own a pet and never have, so I am far from a domain expert.)

With Aussie pet owners spending over AU$16 billion annually, there is plenty of room for lucrative innovations. Recent Australian success stories in this space include Pet Circle, Australia's largest pet e-commerce store, and Lyka, the meals-on-wheels service for dogs. Both overcame last year's VC funding drought, with Pet Circle even retaining its unicorn status, by raising over AU$100m collectively. Pet Circle raised AU$75m from US investor, Prysm Capital, and Lyka raised a AU$25m Series B extension from AfterWork Ventures, StepStone Group, Shearwater, and Point King Capital.

Photo by Mel Elías on Unsplash

8. LLMs on the edge/ cached LLMs

One of the key costs in artificial intelligence (AI) is the computing required to crunch LLMs. The power required to run LLMs presents a large financial barrier for many startups. Running data subsets or caching them locally on a device or closed network would dramatically reduce these costs.

Licensing out the technology to do this or providing it as a service to nascent AI companies would have a clear cost-saving. This could be particularly valuable for applications requiring low latency or operating in bandwidth-constrained environments.

9. Quantum high-frequency trading

Grover’s algorithm states that it is possible to find a match out of N records in 1/square root(N) checks rather than 1/N. If this can be applied to data pattern analysis for high-frequency trading then the increased speed to capture alpha could pay for the quantum computing costs.

A practical quantum computing application has the ability to redefine financial trading if it can operate reliably and at scale.

10. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) Next Generation

The REIT model has been around since the days of President Eisenhower without too much innovation. Could the REIT model be applied to creators, crypto tokens, or another emerging asset class?

This will require navigating regulatory challenges but the upside would be developing a novel model that provides much-needed transparency, liquidity, and attractive returns to investors.

If you’re building something like this, consider applying to Antler to grow this idea:

*Disclaimer: I’m sure many solutions already exist in Australia and beyond, I’m in no way guaranteeing a personal or professional interest in investing or even if these are VC-backable businesses. I just like these areas!

About the author

James McClure

James is a Partner at Antler Australia and co-leading the Australia operations. He is a seasoned C-level exec who brings over 15 years of tech operating experience across EMEA, APAC and the US.

Previously, he was the CCO for Adzuna, running its business across 16 global markets. Prior, he led the Enterprise business for SeatGeek and was GM for Airbnb UK and Northern Europe. James spent his initial tech career at Google in London, Sydney and Singapore; most notably launching local markets and YouTube across APAC.

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