Great App Ideas: The X-for-Y

Written by Reinder de Vries on September 22 2014 in App Business, App Marketing

Great App Ideas: The X-for-Y

A long while back I read this blog post by Jason Shen about Startup Pitch Archetypes. It’s a good read about how the pitches of startups (while applying for Y Combinator, a business accelerator program) can be roughly categorized in 11 pitch “archetypes”.

What stood out for me is the X-for-Y archetype (number 2 in Shen’s post). One of the things Jay Abraham talks about in his book Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got is the principle of applying successes from old business X to new business Y.

For instance, a friend of mine from Germany, is working on web-based management software (like “Enterprise Resource Management”, but then easier) for yoga studios. It’s an incredible viable, but easy, idea. Take a standard business vertical, like web-based management software (for handling invoices, rooms, trainers, customers etc.). Apply it to a specific niche: yoga studios. He’s an adept yogi himself so he knows what’s up.

During the course, I ask students to think of a major competency they have. Like psychology, being a dentist, having a brick and mortar business. Anything major they studied, have a degree in, or are semi-professional at because of a long-term hobby. This major competency will drive them towards their main value proposition, what are they good at besides being a beginner App Maker?

This is the “Y” from Shen’s archetype, it’s the business they’re going to apply something to. I’ll leave the “X” to the reader of this post. Think about what new and innovative way, from outside your business, you can apply inside your business?

Some examples:

  • An app for filling in assignments about mood, productivity, stress levels, made by an App Making psychologist, for clients.
  • A website for subletting your home, a “Hotel Management” for vacant property (AirBnB).
  • A One-Click Ordering app for pizza, storing customer data before the purchase, using local (200 meter radius) nearby shops.
  • As a teacher, an app to teach pupils how to multiply.

You see, it’s easy to come up with great ideas this way. And since you’re already inside the business of your major competency, you can test out your idea immediately. Make sure you do! Do your potential customers or business contacts want what you’re making?

Are there any X-for-Y ideas you can come up with?

Reinder de Vries

Reinder de Vries

Reinder de Vries is a professional iOS developer. He teaches app developers how to build their own apps at Since 2009 he has developed a few dozen apps for iOS, worked for global brands and lead development at several startups. When he’s not coding, he enjoys strong espresso and traveling.