Disruption and My Next Startup… You Help Decide

**Dear people from Draper Fisher Jurveston (DFJ) who frequently visit this post (multiple times a week and close to 50 times total according to my analytics)-  You should say hi via email.  Nope, not looking for funding or to “pitch” you.   I just enjoy talking to smart people who want to change the world, which you guys and gals definitely like to do.**

What needs serious disrupting and can change the world?  This is my favorite conversation to have with fellow entrepreneurs / VCs / startup enthusiasts. After leaving Publictivity in January, I’ve spent a ton of time thinking about this topic in regards to what I’m passionate about and really want to start.  At some point you can’t do any more thinking, and you need to dive in head first.  I’m at that point, so I wrote everything down/synthesized from tons of documents.  I figured I’d share the list + notes with the world like I often do with my close friends to get feedback and then start building something.  Some may think I’ve shared more than I should in the post, but I don’t think so.  Ideas only get you so far, and getting true feedback is a lot more valuable to me than the rare off chance of someone “stealing” 1 of 12 ideas that I may or may not ever pursue.

Yes, I am looking for co-founders, but moreso people who are smart, passionate, and serious about one or more of the ideas here, along with having a skill that makes sense.  ie- Idea #1 would require someone who likes video games and understands the gaming market, whereas idea #3 really needs someone with a background in video. I don’t care if you’re technical in nature or business in nature, shoot me an email- [email protected] or call 772.801.1058 or Twitter if you want to chat.

There’s a poll at the end to Vote For A Concept

Concepts I find interesting and are in no specific order:

#1 -Mainstream Alternate Reality Gaming

Odds are you have no clue what alternate reality gaming is.  Here’s Wikipedia’s definition:

An alternate reality game (ARG), is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions.

Examples include the Batman Dark knight campaign with citizens for Gotham reaching over ten million participants and the Halo “I Love Bees Campaign”.  Most ARGs are done as private label games or for promotional purposes.  No one has created the “Electronic Arts of ARGs”.  Your users don’t need to know what an ARG is, they just need to be compelled to play the game and participate.  Odds are they will, and ARGs are a huge opportunity in my mind due to the following trends that would drive a mainstream commercial ARG franchise and game development company:

Virtual Goods- You can make money off of micro transactions like none other.  Want to upgrade a power or gain a new clue?  Pay .99 cents.  Want to fend off another team? Pay .99 for “Weapon X”.

iPhone and Mobile Gaming- Mobile gaming by itself is a huge platform, but this would take it to a whole other level by combining it with the real world.  Your iPhone would be a companion app.  It would allow you to communicate with your team, purchase upgrades, keep track of the game, etc.

“Physical Game Interaction” ala the Wii–  The Wii changed things, and I’m assuming Project Natal by microsoft will do the same.  People want more than just holding a controller.  They want physical interaction.  ARGs take that to a whole other level by making you actually participate with the real world, not JUST a screen.  Throw in augmented reality for good measure and things get REALLY interesting.

Social Gaming–  Zynga is making a bundle.  People love playing games with their friends and forming bonds via MMOs like World of Warcraft.  You would bring that aspect in.  It would be more like Spymaster, as facebook and twitter would help spread the game and involve your friends.  ARGs are all about solving clues and tapping into your social networks would be a huge resource.

Games Are Movie Like Narratives- Super Mario brothers was just a game.  jump and grind it out, then save the princess.  There was zero depth to it.  Fast forward 20 years and Halo 3 is able to top all movies with 24 hour sales.  People want to attach themselves to video game characters and enjoy a story with it.  ARGs are the embodiment of story telling and narratives.  Not only do you increase engagement, you build a brand around your ARG.

CrashCorp is pretty stealth right now, but I suspect they’re up to something along these lines. They or a company like them may be this generation’s Nintendo or Electronic Arts.

Vote For This Concept

#2- A World Where Artists Don’t Need Record Labels

Amanda Palmer made $19,000 in 10 hours solely through Twitter.  The key here isn’t twitter, as it is just one tool, but it’s about directly engaging your fans and monetizing them without middle men (major labels). If you want to be the next U2, sure, you probably need a record label.  If you love music and want to make a living off of it, technology can allow you to do that through direct engagement with your fan base.  Trent Reznor says it best here:

If you don’t know anything about new media or how people communicate these days, none of this will work. The role of an independent musician these days requires a mastery of first hand use of these tools. If you don’t get it – find someone who does to do this for you.

Artists know how to make music, but not how to do technology for the most part.  Even if they do, odds are they don’t have the time or the level of expertise that you do.  Bundle that expertise together and help artists directly engage their fans (on their site, through social media, direct sales, viral videos,etc.).  The next equivalent of a “Record Label”, won’t look like Warner Music, but more like a technology company.  It will allow artists to double their cut and make their living without signing their souls away.

Even though I often disagree with the industry and the way Record Labels often work, it’s just as powerful to apply the same tactics to them.  Look at Soulja Boy, he has 1.3 million followers on Twitter alone.  Throw in email lists, facebook, saynow, ustream, and everything else.  Think about that, without radio or MTV, he could instantly engage millions of people who want to hear from him.  Through that engagement he could monetize the fan base and also analyze it- where they came from, who they are, etc.  This all seems like “well yeah duh material” if you’re a geek.  To the average Joe and music artists, it’s like Voodoo.

If I were to create a company that helped artists directly engage, analyze, and monetize their fan base I’d make it a combination of a hands on consultancy and a technology company that makes web apps to empower artists.  A good example of a company doing something similar to this is TopSpin Media.

Vote For This Concept

#3- Home Shopping Network 2.0

Online video is hard to monetize, but this one is different.  Create awesome content, that isn’t just “yet another video product review“.  ie- instead of reviewing the iPhone talk about the 10 best smart phones to get your Dad for father’s day.  If you can’t afford the product go to bestbuy, buy them, and return them once youre done.  Get creative.  Content is king here.  You wouldn’t need to livestream at first, as video content will just do.  Some basic rough calculations:

Video gets 50,000 views over 5 months.  1% of viewers buys the product.  In this case a $299 smart phone.  Amazon gives you 5% as a referral fee through their affiliate program.    On that one video you would make $7,475 aka a $149.50 CPM.  The amount of views you get can be a lot higher or a lot lower. It depends on the content, how popular you get,etc.  Eventually, companies will be approaching YOU.   Gary Vee feels the same way, so I’ll shut up and let you watch his video as it explains it very well:

This is pure hustle and pure passion with a lot of creativity thrown in.  If you have never been called crazy, eccentric, or passionate, this isn’t for you.  Maybe another way to look at this is:“Where is the Revision 3 of Shopping?”

Vote For This Concept

#4- The Textbook Publishing Industry

The textbook industry is literally called a broken market when it comes to economic theory.  Books cost too much for students, professors hate the content, and authors don’t see any money from re-sales.  A new age textbook company should have the following characteristics:

  1. 100% digital with the option to print and modify it as you like.
  2. Available online and all other formats known to man with zero DRM (iphone, kindle, PDF, other ereaders, mobile web format)
  3. A living document that is corrected frequently and also has continuous updates that interject current events.
  4. Enriched by video.  It’s undoubtedly helps people learn better, especially with hands on subjects like computer science.
  5. Content that doesn’t suck.  Kids won’t learn with using the “Widgets example” 100x over.  Make it simple and make it up to date with current events.
  6. Make it  social.  Why can’t I interact with student x from Stanford while I’m at UNC?  Why can’t I see the questions asked by all students with the book on Problem Set #8 ? Make textbooks Facebook Connect enabled.
  7. Make it a platform.  Let teachers remix the content and fit their lesson plans.  Even let people develop apps upon the content and subject manner.  Learning ruby on rails?  Someone should be able to plug in a simple app that helps you learn code. Exactly like this.

The elevator pitch is this:  Do to educational publishing what new media has and is doing to traditional media.

To update a traditional textbook you usually need to do the following:

  1. Isolate all the minor changes and go through tons of committees to publish them.
  2. Wait till enough are there to print a new edition.
  3. Spend tens of thousands of dollars to print this new edition.
  4. Spend more money marketing it to colleges and piss off those who just bought the previous edition
  5. Waste more money creating silly value adds like CD-Roms, so you can justify a new edition.
  6. Be irrelevant by the time it gets printed.

Cost: Lots of money Time: Lots Value: None.

To update a textbook of the future:

  1. Open WordPress/Custom built CMS to manage the content
  2. Make correction and its updated immediately.

Cost: None Time: under 5 minutes Value: Incremental and immediate.

You need to choose wisely where to start here.  Don’t go after k-12 markets and bureaucracy.  Start with home schooling or start with niche subjects.  Build up properties one by one and eventually you may be able to take on the major publishers in large markets.  California is open to change, and I assume that most other states will be, especially if you build a great track record + can show how it can reduce costs for them.  Here’s a great primer on why the textbook industry is a pain in the ass and needs disrupting.

Vote For This Concept

#5- Online Local News

The print form of a newspaper is dying, but journalism surely isn’t.

The local newspaper has two jobs:

  1. Connect the community with local news and content that is of importance.
  2. Connect local businesses with the local community.

There are two ways to approach this:

Create the content yourself like a real newspaper. This is more capital intensive, but it can give you a chance to shine when it comes to content and having something unique. Mix it in with social interaction and bringing community together.  You can syndicate some content from local blogs.  You can’t compete with a local print newspaper when it comes to printing dead trees, but why would you want to? Instead get a leg up and go after where they are weaker, and are transitioning to: online. Example- My hometown local paper the bergen record has 170k subscribers for the print version. Their online version is at northjersey.com and has approximately 300k unique visitors a month.  Their site is terrible, the content is stale, and you could easily attack them on this front.  Let them bleed money due to their dead tree revenues, languish with a poor online strategy, and dominate them by focusing solely on the online portion.  The problem is scaling this business to a national level.  You would eventually need a lot of capital and there’s no guarantee success in Market A will translate to Market B.  This is not a business to go after for the easy hearted or those looking for a “quick flip”.  On the flipside, you could build the next great media company.  Two great examples of companies doing this well:

Patch.com (just acquired by AOL) and pegasusnews.com .

2- Create an aggregator.  People are already putting local news online.  Take that content, aggregate it, and make it highly searchable.  Everyblock and outside.in do this.  Ironically, everyblock was acquired as I write this post.  I think both of these companies are awesome, but the model isn’t defensible to me – you rely upon other people’s content.  I can’t see people abandoning their local paper for an aggregator, but I can see them abandoning their local paper for the same thing, but online and more interactive.

I agree with Mike Orren.  The key to success here isn’t just the content and technology, but the sales aspect of it all.  You need to connect with local businesses and you need to show them value.  If you don’t have that proposition down and a sales team that can highlight that, you’re doomed.  This business will not run off Adsense.

What would a Scripps Media for today’s generation look like??

Vote For This Concept

#6 – “App Store” / Marketplace For SaaS (Software as a Service) Apps

**When I refer to SaaS here, I’m mostly referring to paid business/productivity apps such as Basecamp, Balsamiq, or Dropbox**

I remember the days of boxed software growing up as a kid.  I loved getting Computer software catalogs in the mail or visiting places like CompUSA, Egghead software,etc.  It was fun to see the new pieces of software that would come on to the market.  They were like a toy store for me.

Fastforward 15 years or so, and now everything is starting to be delivered on-demand.  As a former founder of a SaaS startup, one of the biggest questions I had was “How the hell do we get sales out the gate?”  It wasn’t like boxed software where people would be browsing a catalog or going to a small and/or large store to browse through.  It was more like having one location and having to bring everyone there.  Imagine if you were a boxed software retailer and you had to drive everyone to your physical locations all by yourself back in the 80s/early 90s? Also imagine if the only way to get iPhone apps was through browsing each software owners website instead of the App Store (no, you didn’t even have an independent directory)?  That’s exactly what it’s like for most SaaS apps.  Sure 37 Signals doesn’t have a problem, but odds are you won’t be 37 signals, nor do you need to be.

Also as a company looking to buy into SaaS apps, you really have no one place to go.  Sure you can google around for some reviews, but that’s annoying.  You definitely don’t have a complete list and database of all your choices either.  There are some awesome apps that are launched every day, that most companies will never ever see.  So where is the unified directory and “App Store” for SaaS applications?

  • Billing and tracking sales is a huge aspect of this.  You wouldn’t want to handle billing for every SaaS software, or require it for acceptance.  Most would never go for that.  You would probably have to negotiate individual deals with SaaS startups.
  • Some of the bigger companies like Freshbooks and 37Signals have affiliate programs.  Just embed affiliate links into the store and directory.
  • You would make money in a few ways: Referral fees as described above, premium listings in the directory, advertising, and also potentially job listings for integrators/consultants on the bigger platforms (Think SalesForce consultants).
  • You would also be creating a brand by becoming the defacto source for all things SaaS.  If a new app launches, you’ll have it there first, with a review, screenshots, thoughts,etc.  You could also do tips/tricks for software (I know I have a ton for Dropbox).

Vote For This Concept

#7- Online Auctions aka “How To Sell Your Stuff”

This is a really tough area and I’m probably going to be vague here. It’s moreso a “this needs to be done for the good of humanity” problem, than a “I’d start something in this area”. This might be a problem for a startup, or might be a problem to solve for a larger established company. Regardless…  eBay sucks.  It’s a steaming pile of shit and PayPal is even worse.  eBay has endlessly pissed their sellers off and it’s a hassle to sell something there.  I want to post something online and have it reach relevant buyers.  People attack Google as a startup all the time, yet few go after eBay.  I want it to be Youtube one click easy.  Here are a bunch of random thoughts.  Like I said, this is a problem that there’s no one way that could specifically work:

  1. Don’t make it an auction site.  It worked 10 years ago, but most people just want to buy things.  The auction aspect is annoying.
  2. Create a great customer experience.  eBay lived by the sword of community and is going to die by it.  They’ve pissed their sellers and buyers off to no end.
  3. Maybe it will start out as a niche site.  Etsy is for hand made goods, but it could become a whole lot more over time.  The same way Zappos could have become the next Amazon, had they not been acquired.  Shoes were just the starting point.
  4. Does it have to live on one domain?  I see job boards on techcrunch and that’s a good place to post jobs.  If engadget had a gadget marketplace, I’d find that to be a good place to sell my iPhone.  The same thing if Autoblog had a marketplace.  This is probably just a feature, not a solution to the issue.
  5. It has to be social.  iList is doing a great job with this.  They have things done in a clever manner and its easy to use.
  6. How do you avoid the chicken and egg problem?  This is where niche is probably really key to the solution at first.  Even with all the money in the world, you won’t take down ebay with this strategy.  This isn’t a “throw a ton of money at it” solution.
  7. “What Would Zappos Do?”  Zappos tends to just get things done right.  I wonder how Zappos would have built an offshoot eBay competitor.
  8. Wild card: The key is having content. Create an app that lets people catalog their stuff and share it with the world.  eventually they will want to get rid of some of that stuff.  you can also put up wanted adds and anyone with the item will be notified of a chance to sell it.

Vote For This Concept

#8- Marketplace For Luxury and Rare Items

The Robb Report/Dupont Registry are huge businesses by connecting affluent buyers to the luxury market.  In 2002 the Robb Report was acquired for 150 million dollars.  If you love nice things or just want to day dream you constantly browse luxist, nice real estate sites, rare collectors items (ie- life size iron man statue) or ebay motors ferrari/lamborghini.    Well, there are people that browse, and then there are people with a ton fo money that they come to buy on those sites.  The problem is they are primarily print businesses, and we know what that means – an eventual death and room for disruption.  (they do have online listings, but that furthers my point that they are doing it wrong).  Why not create a marketplace online for affluent people that mirrors the robb report/dupont registry?

  • How do you charge? listing or % of sales? Per lead? If so, use twilio and build in phone tracking.
  • You’d have to give away some listings at first.  That’s fine, get people wet.
  • Youre going to have two types of readers- people who actually buy and people who browse in amazement.  The people who browse in amazement will share your link like whoa.
  • Have more than “cars and houses”.  Have items that are rare and fill the craziest desires of the rich.  Rare sporting items?  Rare experiences and tickets?  Think about the wildest thing you wanted as a kid. It should be available to purchase.
  • Build a brand via events and videoblogging.  Make sure to get a beautiful and classy host.  A friend in Miami made 500k in 2004 by throwing parties for rich people.  Throw the same type of parties, but make them for people who have bought through the site.  This could create an interesting word of mouth effect.
  • No one is going to do a transaction over the site for a 5 million dollar house or 250,000 Ferrari.  Your job is to connect the buyer and seller.
  • Let dealers sell and individual owners sell as well.
  • Solve the chicken and egg problem, by starting out in one geography at first.  I’d pick Miami.
  • SEO will be important as well highly localized PPC campaigns.  Think buy ferrari miami, NOT buy ferrari.

Vote For This Concept

#9- Local Government 2.0 and Political Campaigns

I don’t care who you voted for. The 2008 election and the Obama campaign changed the way political battles are fought and won.  What was once a “nice to have” way about campaigning is now a “must have”.  Who is going to create tools mixed with a consultancy to let any candidate run their own “Obama 2008” campaign on a smaller scale? The same way a musician can now directly engage their fan base through technology is the same way politicians should be using technology to engage their supporter base. There are hundreds upon hundreds of smaller races every year, so the market is certainly large enough.

Local Government is semi-related to political campaigns.  They both lie in the same sector and focus on doing the same thing, just at different stages- letting constituents interact with the government and politicians in a more transparent manner.  How can we help local governments become more transparent with their decision making process and communicate better with their constituents?  Why isn’t every townhall live on uStream?  Why isn’t there a “GetSatisfaction for Local government?”.

Vote For This Concept

#10- “Woot For Dating”

Dating is a many to many experience.  “Many people” search through “many people” of the opposite or same sex.  What if you made dating more like Woot.com ie- one awesome girl a day/every week who is not only beautiful,but intriguing.  People pay a dollar or small microtransaction amount, fill out a basic application, and she reviews everyone over the course of a few day period.  You can also send virtual flowers and other virtual gifts to try to woo her.  You start out with one city and expand from there.  Other idea is to pay for the date as well from the fees and record it for the site.  The one major question I have is: how do you consistently drive traffic that converts and is profitable?

Vote For This Concept

#11- Wildcard: Ramamia – Twitter For Families

This is already a side project, with an okay amount of usage with no promotion at all ie- we put it out there, sent to personal friends and went from there. .  (5,000 users, 3,000 families, 25k photos,etc.).  That’s not a whole lot of usage, but the users we have are passionate and we’re doing something right.  If we can get 5,000, we can get 50,000 and so on.  We’re making the service paid and going the smugmug route, which works well (300k paying users at a minimum of 40 dollars per year and no outside funding).  I fully believe in the project, have had funding offers since we launched in public beta in January, but not sure if its something I’d want to take to the next level.  Add in photo printing and virtual gifts for good measure to the revenue stream.

Vote For This Concept

#12 – AMEX Black Card Level Concierge “For The Rest of Us” (Mainstream Virtual Assistants)

If you know anyone who has an AMEX Black Card, you understand that their concierge will be able to handle anything for you.  Simple tasks such as booking flights or more complex tasks such as finding a rare item are done without question.  The problem is, the AMEX black card is for those spending 250k MINIMUM a year on the card.  Odds are most of us will never own one.  Oh, they also outsource all their work to a 3rd party company (I need to locate the exact company’s name again, as I’ve lost that bookmark).

Another recent trend is the use of virtual assistants to handle basic tasks for busy individuals and families.  Most people who employ virtual assistants use them quite often, and at least $400 a month for them.  Odds are most of us don’t need that much done for us, but wouldn’t mind a concierge to handle things for us.

What I’m proposing is a simple service that’s affordable for most lower to upper middle class citizens who are busy either as professionals or parents, and need the simple things in life taken care for them by a virtual concierge.  Pricing would be somewhere around 24.99.  Things taken care of would include:

  • Booking tickets for sporting events, concerts, movies, and more
  • Making travel arrangements including your airfare, rental car, hotel
  • Purchasing items for you ie- forgot to buy flowers, buy this gift and ship it
  • Directions– if youre lost, they will help guide you to where you need to go
  • Setting up wake up calls
  • Searching for whatever you need ie- on the road and need to find out what time the restaurant closes
  • Emergency assistance (not 911 worthy) – you need to find a doctor fast while on vacation in a town you don’t know
  • Shipping/Courier–  You need a courier to deliver something you just bought today.

I surveyed 100 random people regarding the idea.  57 said yes they would pay for it and use it, while 43 said no they wouldn’t.  The survey includes reasons why they would and wouldn’t pay for it anywhere from 19.99 to 29.99, along with other services that could be useful. View the survey results here. Some other random notes:

  • Providing value and service is the key. Yes, we’re in a recession, but people need to get over this belief that people aren’t spending money.  They are, just less of it, and focusing on what provides value.  If you’re insanely busy, $24.99 is not a lot to pay for value.
  • You would make money two ways: subscription fees and affiliate fees.  ie- book tickets for someone? you’d get a referral fee for booking through a certain airline.  Same thing with purchases,etc.
  • Corporate accounts would be very big money.
  • For inspiration check out Rearden Commerce.
  • The technology aspect is a very big part of this.  Users should have an account protected by SSL, iphone app to make requests,etc.  Also creating tools for your concierges/agents to make them more efficient is valuable.
  • Do you provide unlimited amount of service at the 24.99 level?  Do you have different levels including an unlimited plan?
  • This could be connected to Idea 8- A Marketplace For Luxury and Rare Items.

Vote For This Concept

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Reader interactions

59 Replies to “Disruption and My Next Startup… You Help Decide”

  1. If you can replace record labels, you can replace & democratize any kind of marketing/advertising. What you're building is platform for marketing anything, and anyone. Your online local news, online auctions, dating, and home shopping ideas ALL share this central concept.


  2. I see a lot of similarities between record labels and politics. Do you build the platform and then help service individual niches and make a larger company around this? Thanks for the comment.


  3. #4 is an idea long past due. I could imagine an art history textbook rendered as a museum or an archaeology textbook showing 3D rendering of the site (as it is now and as envisioned in the past). More importantly, these new textbooks can cross disciplines – using the examples above, a textbook in Byzantine mosaics could easily weave in Byzantine history of that timeframe with 3D renderings of the buildings in which the mosaics were found.

    The big question is: Who's going to write these textbooks? It it going to be a community effort (a la Wikipedia) with all of its strengths and weaknesses? An authoritative group (e.g., college professors – and how would they get paid)?


  4. Think about it this way: Who is your favorite and most intelligent teacher/professor of all time? Find people like them and let them write it. Share revenues on subscriptions and ad revenues,etc. Get passionate people to write the content.

    Wikipedia model would be bad news. That's why wikibooks is just yuck.


  5. Online Local News, with Online Auctions being a close 2nd. 510-306-7305 if you want some help.


  6. I like the woot-for-dating idea, merely because it is audacious and sure to be a spectacle.


  7. As for local government, check out Podvoters.org … some ideas I had for a new way to do a political party.


  8. I once had the personal assistant idea (#12) and thought a bit about it:
    If you are in an english speaking country you might be able to do it with a call center in india or some other place where wages are low and people speak english (most of the service are phone calls, so it doesn't matter where the assistants are located). But as far as I know there are already some companies doing it this way.
    My second thought was that maybe deaf people are a market to start with.
    They would write an email and the assistant would make the call for them and mail the result.
    I didn't research if that is a service that is needed/wanted by people with impaired hearing (is this the correct term?).


  9. Jason,

    You ROCK the MOFO HOUSE! Excellent thinking, creative, inspiring, and surely these are ideas that in due time will flourish, change, and grow. Hats off to you for sharing.

    …Your Character is Your Destiny…


  10. I vote for the marketplace “how to sell your stuff” concept – with a b2b focus. There is so much waste and inefficiency caused by poorly designed markets, especially industrial markets who have to deal with crummy gray markets. Parts brokers are the ticket scalpers of the supply chain.

    Excess ends up as landfill and companies lose vast amounts (ie hundreds of millions) on write-downs, while buyers are getting burned by counterfeit, bad prices, and poor service.

    e-Bay, Amazon and Overstock are getting into helping firms sell finished goods. Verical is focusing on electronic components. Lots of consumer markets, but there is huge opportunity for industrial markets.


    1. OBVAVirtualAssistant April 25, 2013 at 12:31 am

      I too vote for the marketplace “how to sell your stuff” concept. Inspite of knowing the facts that eBay and Paypal are not easy to deal with.


  11. I know someone who is in this market and they make a ton selling used industrial parts. The leads are worth a ton and people will pay you. I ALMOST added #13 to the list as- A New Way For Manufacturers To Connect With Buyers aka Disrupting Thomasnet .

    I've used alibaba in the past and that's just a mess. I'll also admit, I don't know much about the market though.

    Feel free to shoot me an email to discuss more- j[at]jasonlbaptiste.com


  12. Hey PK, thank you!! I can only take on one of these ideas (even though you could combine some of them), I hope other people go after some of the others. If you put good stuff out in the world, it will produce 3x the good stuff :-). Thanks again.



  13. everyone needs a virtual assistant. The key is for how much.


  14. I'd figure you could start out at 24.99 with basic service and have different tiers, I think that would be a good price point. That's just from the survey info and what I'd feel comfortable paying (as a busy, but also starving entrepreneur). I think it comes down to figuring out: how much time does a customer use on average? ie- do they really use one hour of concierge time, which costs you $13?



  15. All of these ideas are great; as is the idea of crowd sourcing what problems need new start up solutions. I'm working on a solution to #2 with a serial entrepreneur friend. As you mentioned, TopSpin is doing a great job with that solution in the music industry.

    Our model-in-progress is a system extending more to intellectual property by talent, artists or experts, in entertainment and other fields, who have a mid-level to high level following. The main idea is for them to have more control over their IP and careers by building direct and lasting relationships with their audience in a lifelong ecosystem.

    I learned about you from Brad Feld mentioning your blog and I'm glad to discover you and what you're up to. You're very tapped in to some big problems that startups can help to solve. It's inspiring.


  16. Voting mechanism above doesn't seem to work. But I like the idea of a SaaS “App Store”. I see a real need for this.


  17. Most of your ideas have the same theme. The web hypes some promise of a more efficient or cheaper way to do something, but it's just hard to find or do, so you act a middle man to facilitate that promise for the less tech-saavy majority.

    Category 1: #2,#4,#9,#11 – You're the middleman between lo-tech individuals and the social web.

    Musicians are good at music, but not at marketing and distribution on the web. They're getting screwed by record companies.

    Textbook writers are good at writing books, bad at marketing and distributing books. So they're getting screwed by book publishers.

    Politicians are good at… whatever the hell it is politicians do, but it's too hard to reach ever growing and ever apathetic voters. They're getting screwed by big money interests who pay for campaigns in exchange for favorable policies.

    And families – they just heard the web was good for keeping in touch with family members, but the major social networks are too big and complicated.

    In all of these examples, all you really need is a good knowledge of the social web. There's no reason the same agency couldn't do all of these things at once for clients (although the Ramamia case is certainly more many-to-many social networking than 1-many client work). You build a platform, framework, or list of services that satisfy all these different needs with the same set of tools and move from one client to the next, like a mix of advertising agency, publicist, agent, and salesperson. One day you're working to help push Kanye West's new CD, then next you're working with a professor launch an online textbook. Your business grows as you build a track record of successful client work. My vote is for all of the above at once.

    Catgory 2: #3, #5, #6, #7, #8, #12 – You're the middleman between lo-tech people and experts (in areas other than the social web).

    A low-tech shopper is interested in buying a product, lured online by the promise of deals, but there's information overload, so he turns to a subject matter expert to just tell him what the best product would be for him (reminds me of Kallow.com).

    A low-tech reader wants access to local news, lured by the promise of up-to-the-minute reporting and analysis (just like they get on national 24hr news), but local news sites suck. He turns to a local news expert (who does his own journalism or aggregates the good stuff into a higher quality experience).

    A… anyone really.. hears the web has “applications” that can do amazing things for him, like manage his business contacts and finances, play radio, track his to-do list, etc. But doing a simple search leads to information overload, so he turns to an expert on web applications to give him the low-down on what would be the best fit for him.

    Lo-tech people with stuff to sell (packrats with garage sales, small businesses, etc.) are lured to the web by the promise of higher prices and bidding wars for their products. But online sales/auction sites like eBay and Craigslist suck, so they turn to an expert in internet sales to help get rid of inventory in exchange for a cut or flat fee.

    The wealthy with eccentric tastes know the web is full of eccentric stuff, but it's just too hard to find. So they turn to a subject matter expert on things they never even knew they wanted.

    People are drawn to the web by promises of cheap tickets, cheap shopping, directions, or any of a number of other services, but they're too hard to find or use. So they turn to a subject matter expert on “getting things” (a concierge) to do all the work for them.

    Along with the social web expertise, all of these ideas require knowledge of some specialized area. It's easier to play yourself off as a “social media expert” these days than a “local news expert” or “expensive eccentricities expert”, so you'll have a much harder time learning skills, establishing authority, or even attracting people with pre-established authority to work for you (why should they?). Experts are hard to find (otherwise other people would have found them already and wouldn't need you). It's also hard to find people with charisma (like GaryVee) to make your authoritative site interesting. And sometimes you need an army of experts: one for every category of product someone would be interested in buying or selling; or one for every type of local news (sports, politics, business). All of this stuff is just too hard and expensive. I don't recommend any of it. Avoid the many-people-to-many-experts business.

    Instead, find a single expert and move him into category 1 above – make him a client, work for him (instead of the other way around) and market and distribute his expertise. If you build up enough experts on a particular topic, you can consolidate and take over some particular area. Until then, keep it simple.

    #10 A good stunt for shock value, but no staying power. The 1st woman up there is going to get a ton of responses with a signal-to-noise ratio of almost zero and a lot of rudeness. Dating sites need a disruption, but this is not it. Maybe a good idea for dating auctions, like they do for charity.

    #1 Love it. Start with a particular game, make it succesful, then build gaming campaigns for big advertisers. It's like a new and exciting type of service that your Category 1 company could provide. Build a game around places where people already are. Concentrate people, don't disperse them. Turn a normal space into a gaming space. Launch with a big, secret, Cloverfield-style campaign at some big tech conference. Get some people running around with their iPhones attracting attention (laser tag, or something noisy). Get feedback afterwards, evolve, repeat, then offer your services to commercial spaces to get people to spend more time and money somewhere; or to advertisers to get people to engage with a product more.


  18. Grr, something messed up with the WordPress plugin. The SaaS App Store desperately needs to be done. It's a personal pain point/need I saw. Lots of interesting ways to execute on it too. Has anyone even attempted this yet?


  19. This was me. Not sure if Facebook Connect is showing you the same weird username that I'm seeing on this post.


  20. I guess FB connect doesn't work.


  21. Very interesting, but as teh list went down I found teh ideas becam more me tooish. The virtual conierge has been done a lot… not very disruptive unless I am missing something. The service I would use most woul dbe teh ARG…a way for my kids and me ot connect and finally get ehm out of teh house and put the social back in social media. No more virtual silos. The one i would inves tin would be #2. Thats the one I get, and althought here are osme big names in the music industry doing this, it has real commercial promise wheter you charge the user, teh artist as a service or just resell the connectivity osmehow. There is already an MP3 ASCAP to ac as rights clearing house, just cant remeber the name. As for #3 Gary has obviously not heard of QVC.com where you can search by item, see teh video of the most recent on air commercial and then buy by shopping cart. To me #7 was niche version of 3 and 8 was one proposed niche of 7. They are all teh same inpractice. I vote 3


  22. The more quality ones definitely ended up at the top. Virtual concierge is more about bringing virtual assistants the free time/convenience they afford busy professionals to the masses.

    As we said over lunch, the ARGs are insanely cool. It's also a big business and something truly unique/innovative. It's high up on the list. I would most definitely use it.

    My only concern with #2 is whether it can scale. A lot of artists are broke and there's little money to be made there. You would have to work with middle level artists.

    Check out Revision3.com. It's all about content and creating the “Revision 3 of Online Shopping” would make a whole lot of money. QVC.com is purely a shopping portal with no video attached to it. You could very well mix many aspects of 3,8, and 7 together. #7 is really vague and an area I don't want to attack, but hoped to inspire some people to start thinking about it. Someone desperately needs to go after it.



  23. Was able to track down that it was you by taking the unique FB identifier and plugging it into Facebook. FBConnect is so iffy. Thanks for the feedback.

    On (#2,#4,#9,#11)- I had thought it might make sense to combine a LOT of these together. They fall under a “do it yourself” type of consultancy. I wonder if you'd be biting off too much at first. Maybe you go after one or two markets at first. I feel politics and music would be a good start.

    Category 2 (#3, #5, #6, #7, #8, #12) Ideas- The QVC 2.0 might happen, but the other ones are pretty low on the list.

    #10 is nice in theory, but you'd hit a lot of unforseen road blocks. You could probably start with this concept, but evolve it out to something. Lot of people on hacker news thought dating auctions like they do for charity would be a good middle ground.

    #1 is ridiculously fun along with having the most potential economically. Literally the sky is the limit, and even that's up for question. You would have to start in one city with the game (maybe even subsection). Miami is actually perfect for an ARG due to great all year round weather and just an interesting landscape. Would love to get more of your thoughts specifically on ARGs. We should connect more offline – [email protected]


  24. You're absolutely right that you'd be biting off way too much trying to go after all those markets with a single consultancy. The point I'm trying to make is that because there's so much overlap between the types of tasks required to market and distribute online, regardless of who you're working for, building up a generic skillset and toolset allows you to be flexible with your client-base. If it turns out that the musician and politician business isn't working out well enough, you can start going after writers, actors, pundits, or anyone with some expertise in need of monetization.

    A lot of companies start out wanting to do one thing, but end up settling into something else, because that's what the economy demands and they were able to leverage their current product in a new market. Who would have ever thought Amazon, which started as a bookstore, would be a leader in cloud computing? That kind of adaptability is really attractive. You never start over, you just change directions.

    Are you going to Refresh next week? We can connect there.


  25. uh, great post dude! i'm glad you linked to it from that TC article. nice job!


  26. Jason,
    I like a lot of the ideas but I would tend to go for the the concierge idea. There are plenty of people like me (professional, good income, and very busy) who would easily pay for affordable services like that. The nice thing is a concierge service is expandable into so many areas (scheduling meetings, transcribing voice mail, etc…)
    I would be willing to explore working on this with you. I've been working in software development for about 13 years and have been looking at stepping out and doing something on my own. Drop me a line and we can it discuss further.



  27. Very cool ideas! I like woot for dating. It is kinda like the model of the batchelor. I'm always amazed at how people compete for these things 🙂


  28. Are you envisioning something similar to https://apps.gov/ ? (this may be a better link https://apps.gov/cloud/advantage/main/start_pag… ) I don't know how effective it'll be considering it's targeted to the federal government. But it's a really good idea.


  29. Another thing that comes to mind is that you should allow the student to make notes/observations. Sometimes, professors do give some amazing tips online and the student could make a note and make it visible to the entire public, his classmates or his friends.


  30. thanks John. cool thing is the woot for dating can be combined with some other ideas listed. it's not change the world material, but one worth listing.


  31. It's one of those products that I would use every day. Virtual assistants/concierges exist, but the problem is simplicity. I also think you could merge this in with what crowdflower is doing.


  32. Thanks David! Like I said, I hate to be that guy posting something of my own in TC comments, but I found it relevant.


  33. Yes, very similar, but apps.gov does not have enough in-depth analysis. I love that apps.gov is happening though.


  34. Jason, thank you for providing this thoughtful, detailed, and well-organized list of new tech biz ideas. I think some of these could work more easily than others. I love the textbook and politics ideas. The journalism idea, as you mentioned, is harder — because high-quality investigative journalism is expensive and no one seems to want to pay for it (at least without imposing a results-skewing bias, that is).

    With regard to #11 (Twitter for Families), why stop at just families? It'd be great to have a private Twitter or Twitter-like service (maybe Dave Winer's http://rssCloud.org idea?) for any organization, either official or unofficial (study groups, companies, nonprofits, political activists, fellow travelers, and so on). It could be based on the Freemium revenue model. What do you think?


  35. Hey Mariva,

    Some are definitely harder than others. The textbook concept is probably the hardest to start going after at first. It's also a very long road, but if it's something you love, then there's nothing wrong with that.

    We actually built #11 already as a side project: Ramamia.com. We had thought about making it for more than families, but we think having a focus on families is a much smarter idea (for right now at least). The post I'm putting up later will give you some insight into that thought process.


  36. Thanks for your quick reply. I think you're right about the textbook idea; this may have to be taken on as a collaborative, academic, open source-type project.

    I just signed up for Ramamia. You know what would be cool? If my “family” page were Ramamia.com/mariva (or whatever my user name is).

    Good luck with everything, and keep posting interesting ideas.

    P.S. What do you think of this?
    (It's less than half an hour, but you may have to deal with freezing video, alas.)


  37. Anytime! Actually just updated my site in the past hour. Thoughts?

    Thanks for checking out Ramamia. Let us know your thoughts. We thought about making that the url, but we're more focused on privacy. Easier to keep things private without the custom URLs.

    Will check the video out soon.

    Talk soon!


  38. You updated Ramamia or your personal web site? (I'm not seeing any updates at Ramamia.)

    Also, I have a biz question I'll email to you directly.


  39. Wow, thanks! There's more in this space than I'd realized.


  40. Great set of ideas Jason.


  41. This stuff is great and I love the way you are doing it in this open manner. I am a 4 times successful entrepreneur in Los Angeles and am looking for a few “startup-y” people to join my just launched site http://www.ranker.com , so if anyone is reading this and in LA and has the startup bug please email me direct at clark at ranker.com.


  42. What about working with recording studios as opposed to artists? Then as the artist gets bigger, they can pay for additional services or more attention/efforts.

    They're always going to need a place to record their music (until they can afford their own private studio) but they won't always need a record label. I actually was thinking the other day about new ways to disrupt the mp3 industry, coincidentally.


  43. recording studios are a huge potentialsource of biz dev opportunity. I don't know enough about them to offer any further advice there though.


  44. Don't know much about some. Going to intro you to the masters behind social media and music http://www.bigmethod.com. Because I have learned about the music world through them I like that idea best. As for the concierge thing. http://www.asksunday.com rocks. I'll shoot you an invite. $30 bucks a month they handle it all. Not big on content plays because then you rely on ad revenue ie online newspaper..


  45. Oh and btw VERY SMART to be more interested in feedback than focused on someone stealing your idea. If only more could realize that is the only way to succeed. To find out what the people want before building it!


  46. wow, asksunday is pretty damn cool!! I'm going to look at giving it a try sometime in the next few weeks. Not sure which plan works the best.

    Content is a tricky game. I'm biased towards emailed niche content.


  47. Odds of someone stealing the EXACT idea you have, ACTUALLY executing it, and executing it like you would? 0%

    Odds of meeting great people and getting great feedback? ~100%


  48. This is already happening. Check out Thinkwell: http://www.thinkwell.com. Been doing it for 10+ years. Its a tough industry to crack.


  49. This is already happening. Check out Thinkwell: http://www.thinkwell.com. Been doing it for 10+ years. Its a tough industry to crack.


  50. Did you end up trying out asksunday? What did you think?


  51. With Respect to Math and Science Education: Here is a VERY disruptive little company (No, they are not interested in VC money, they already make all of their own capital very nicely):

    The concept: (over 20 years of R&D at UC Irvine, and ten years of commercial experience, with now over one million users per year): build a “knowledge Structure” out of a math course (say, Algebra one in Texas) by connecting all of the concepts and skills in the course and its pre-requisites by logical precednce realtionships (Knowing concept A means you must have knowledge of concepts b,c,d, etc..) Ask the student (no multiple guessing!) to answer a question on concept A. If the student knows it, infer knowledge of others.

    Then — DON”T teach people stuff they already know or are not yet ready to learn!

    Then keep assessing to determine what they know.

    Then — DON'T teach people things tyhey already know or are not ready to learn.

    Then reassess. etc…

    Repeat until student masters course, gives up, or runs out of time, whichever comes first.

    This is destroying the traditional math education classroom in the U.S.


    Check out “What is ALEKS” “Research Behind ALEKS and “The Assessment of Knowledge in Theory and Practice.

    Prepare to be blown away!


  52. Hi,

    I realize that my comment is about 1 year too late. But I found your blog today and just had to complement the great content here. Interestingly, I’ve been holed up for awhile, working on projects in the same realm as ideas #2, 4 – 9, and 11-12. (Yes, I should downsize.) Wondering how you’re coming along with these. I’ll check more recent posts for any updates. Best to you and thanks again.


  53. I stopped at #2 already because of it’s urgency for change. Artists are locked in and dependent on the Monopoly of slow and Old School run Licensing Agencies and DR Rights Registries. They manage the licenses of the IP and issue them for a fee. They keep 80% for “administration” and pay out 20% to the Artist. Most of the money goes to the Bureaucracy of non-creative Beancounters, rather than to supporting and rewarding the Artist. In Europe, GEMA has not changed it’s Policies since the 1950’s and is proud of that Heritage. An ultra slow moving tub, GEMA is riddled with Bureacracy and 15.000 Lawyers that chase Birthday Parties all over Europe for playing a Licensed Song. But GEMA is the only Monopoly an Artist can go to set up Payment for their works. Even if it’s only 10 -20% of the fee, they have no other Choice. GEMA is masquerading in Europe, as if they were a Government Institution, but is only a Bunch of Lawyers, setting themselves up with a gigantic, multi Billion $$ Cash Cow. To protect their status quo, they have successfully sued online Media such as Youtube and ISP’s to lock up the European Internet from delivering US Music or other Ditital Media, where they could not make some Money on. Essentially locking out the rest of the World and holding Europeans hostage, until they can figure out a way to cash in on content, they have no control over. A solution like #2 would revolutionize that, and give Artists an alternative to register their IP with that service, and get 80% more of their direct > Money, than any other Middleman / Agent based Service.


  54. Number 10 is good. How about expanding on that idea where people pick what sort of person they want to go an a date with and what they want to do on the date?


  55. Amazing article startup ! I love this post mostly because it adds tremendous value to virtual assistant and there are so many great resources and links here. Thank you for sharing! 🙂


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