I'm sure you've already seen the 'sea of companies and start-ups' that have launched new products and systems to support the iPod phenomenon. From home speaker systems to innovative carrying cases, a lot of agile companies are riding the iPod wave in their own way.
But few companies have addressed these opportunities in as innovative a way as Riptopia (www.riptopia.com). The concept is simple... and very cool (at least to me as an overworked and time-stressed aging baby boomer). Riptopia recognized an unmet need in the market, as MP3's become the dominant format: it's time consuming and cumbersome to 'rip' all of your CD's into MP3 format. Riptopia's mission is to free you from this drudgery through their ripping service.
You can buy the service as a stand-alone service -- Order it, they send you a mailer and you send them your CD collection for ripping and receive it back on CD in MP3 format. Or better yet, purchase an iPod package as a bundle with an iPod preloaded with your favorite CD's. It costs about $1 per CD, but that's a price I'm willing to pay. I've already added a black Nano preloaded with 50 of my CD's to my wish list for Christmas.
Okay, so that's why I love this idea as a consumer... here's why I love this idea as a student of innovation. In our business, we are continually coaching our clients and venture teams on the need to 'innovate the experience', not just the product. Here's a case of innovating the experience for an already innovative product. Riptopia understood that as cool as iPods are, that the experience itself still leaves something to be desired in getting to the end game.
Apple has certainly taken that same approach in their entire iPod business model, from the retail experience to the iTunes shopping experience. Each step providing an emotional tug (the coolness factor) and a strong focus on ease of use. But yet, there are pieces of the experience that left gaps for others to fill.
Riptopia doesn't have an infinitely long business model here, but they've carved out an attractive niche that solves real pain. Look at your category and customer experience and ask yourself... Where are the non-obvious places to 'innovate the experience' and provide new value to consumers?