11 promising opportunities for startups that want to make a big impact

Partnering with another prominent company is a great way to fast-track your growth and can lead to opportunities you couldn’t achieve on your own. From creating content for high-tech wearables to disrupting otherwise “boring” businesses — laundry, anyone? — opportunities for strategic partnerships abound, if you know where to look.

For advice on the most promising sectors and industries, I posed the following question to a group of entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC):

As strategic partnerships between high-profile technology companies take center stage, where do you see an area of opportunity for smart startups?

1. Data alignment with mobile content

Joshua LeeData partnering and pairing data with compelling content that loads quickly on mobile devices is a great area of opportunity. Each small business needs to command their own data. Then they can find a strategic partner who makes use of that data for relevant follow-up offers. AT&T AdWorks allows targeting specific DirecTV households. This is wide open for small businesses to profit from. Also, partner with companies that serve the same group of people. Promote each other’s offers at an agreed-upon affiliate commission to grow each company. – Joshua LeeStandOut Authority

2. Bioenergy

Kevin XuThe next area of opportunity for smart startups is in the bioenergy economy. People could stop by fueling stations to pump gas for their vehicles while having a cup of elixir or potion that contains a biological boost of energy and strength without side effects. – Kevin XuMebo International

3. Content and wearable tech

Mark KrassnerThe smartest startups find creative ways to be the bold red wine that goes with that juicy medium rare steak. I think the best opportunity to do this is in the wearables industry, specifically in the arena of mental health. Companies that create great content for exercise and mental health pair perfectly with wearable tech. Feedback on the effectiveness of a guided meditation by a Muse headset or the intensity of a recommended workout on a Fitbit are just a few of the ways wearables and content combine to create an enhanced experience. – Mark KrassnerExpectful

4. Content marketing

Drew HendricksSmart startups that provide tools for content marketing have a tremendous opportunity to attract much larger media companies. These larger media companies are looking at things like Google’s new policy about rejecting any older content; they have observed the struggles of ensuring that they have updated their content strategies and are aligned with the best practices for search marketing and social media marketing. This makes for great content marketing opportunities. – Drew HendricksButtercup

5. Healthcare services, robotics and AI

Cody McLainIt’s a bit of a no-brainer really, because data was recently released that revealed that healthcare is one of the service industries that just keeps on growing (even through the services industry as a whole has slowed). A smart business that can either come in on the back-end by providing software to healthcare practitioners, or quite literally help doctors through robotics and performing even more complex operations, could win big. I see more AI being used in healthcare in the future as algorithms become more sophisticated. – Cody McLainSupportNinja

6. Other startups

Peter BonacStrategic partnerships occur when companies see the value that each side brings to the table. Between established companies, the risk/reward ratio is easy to calculate, but an established company can view a partnership with a startup as too risky because of the unknown. Startups should look to other startups or small businesses, as they will be more likely to see the value in a partnership. As we were growing at Mobiado, we made a partnership with a one-man operation from Switzerland called Angular Momentum. With minimal risk from either side, we were able to work on a successful joint project. – Peter BonacBonac Innovation Corp.

7. Smart counterterrorism technologies

Anthony PezzottiAlong with the September 11th attacks in New York City, the recent terrorist acts in Paris and San Bernardino in 2015 will correspondingly persuade startups to provide smart solutions for counterterrorism activities in 2016. Governments, airports, financial institutions and more will look to support smart technology that can safeguard them from such terrorist acts. The urgency for governments to protect their citizens is at an all-time high, so smart counterterrorism technologies should see big opportunity throughout 2016. – Anthony PezzottiKnowzo.com

8. Mobile monetization

Carter ThomasMany of these large companies fail to see the monetization opportunities that mobile offers. Being able to have your customers (or leads) pay with the touch of a button, as opposed to filling out a form online, can have a dramatic impact on overall conversion rates. You can collect all the same marketing information and deliver a unique shopping experience. – Carter ThomasBluecloud Solutions

9. Boring but necessary markets

Joel ButterlyCoin-operated laundry machines. Socks. Funeral planning. What do these have in common? They are all boring, unsexy topics. While everyone has their eyes turned toward the most cutting-edge tech companies (and soon-to-be conglomerates), nobody is focusing on the tremendous value to be unlocked in old, unsexy places. Starting a company is an investment, and the largest investment in your portfolio. Don’t follow the crowd. If nobody is thinking about it, chances are you’ve landed in the right spot. – Joel ButterlyInGenius Prep

10. Nonprofits

Jennifer MellonStartup founders often think of “doing good” and CSR as something to focus on at later stages of growth. However, at Trustify our strategic partnerships with nonprofit organizations have helped us grow as a company. Giving of our time, talent and treasure to causes aligned with our mission to give our private investigation clients peace of mind is just good business. – Jennifer MellonTrustify

11. Fitness and gaming

Justin CookeAs tech continues to integrate into our everyday lives, there are increasing opportunities to “gamify” fitness. Making fitness fun through gamification provides enormous benefits to the public while producing new monetization methods in competitive industries. A good example of this is OmniTread partnering with companies like Oculus Rift. Users can play video games in virtual reality while running on a treadmill to move their character in the game. – Justin CookeEmpire Flippers

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