Every Technology Enterprenuer goes this question sooner or later. We come with a grand idea, assuming we are making life easy for some constituency. When you start thinking about who could be your potential paying customer, the fun begins.
Pure consumer play sites are returning nowadays. I am glad the phase when enterprenuers were force-fitting a consumer idea to a corporate market for funding pitches are over :-))
Well, with Coola since the idea was about making information mobile between a web server/site to a Palm device it was very horizontal. I have written about my experience market validating with real customers to understand certain markets for certain type of datatypes.
I remember the days before that! We painted blue-sky scenarios of all possible market segments.
One interesting experience comes to mind. We thought! Hey, we could get coupons from web sites and allow users to take them in a palm instead of carrying coupons on paper and allow them to be scanned at the stores. That too, grocery stores seemed a natural as stop-and-shop etc were marketing for their cards to understand our purchase behaviour to give us appropriate coupons.
We actually downloaded a bar-code of a coupon on the palm using our software as a prototype and took it to the grocery store. Amist funny stares we got the lady at checkout to point the bar code reader at our palm screen (yeah really) and it read and gave us the discount.
Our dream was that one day we'll be able to collect bar codes from the stores and can send it to some web service to do comparison shopping for consumers, or track inventory or order parts for an enteprise. This was in end 1999, and even today this is open territory, waiting for an innovative company to execute, maybe it will take birth as local search.
Again, in the early stages, a company needs to focus, take one tiny step at a time and market validate what is the best place to start execution.
My subsequent attempts next week, to find coupon sites to partner with us or find favorable response from stores was not positive. All this was before our funding rounds. Our learning was that we needed an early adopter segment who would love technology innovations and grocery companies were not exactly in that category so we dropped it.