I’ve been writing 10 ideas a day for over 100 days now. I’m sharing some of my best to you as a gift.
Before we get into them, there’s some stuff you should know. Even if you identify a great idea, it might not be painful enough. That’s what happened with my last venture.
The idea focused on helping servers in restaurants develop socially-built resumes. Customers built server resumes with direct and specific feedback. Servers could be recognized for the work they did with their managers.
I tried to sell to restaurant owners and managers. They cared about it, but there were a few problems. It wasn't a big enough pain point for them. I couldn't quantify how much money it made for owners.
The biggest problem was that I stopped. I got depressed, ran out of money, and fell into bad habits again.
If I had continued talking to prospective customers, asked them questions, and then been open to adjusting the business to what they needed, we'd be having a different conversation.
It’s a tough road.
That’s where you can learn from my failure.
Just knowing you'll have to change your idea dozens of times is helpful. With these ideas, test them out on nights and weekends while keeping your day job. Even if nothing comes out of it, you’ll have fun and learn a lot about yourself. You'll stretch your skills and be in a better position for having tried. Better than watching the news.
No worries if it sounds like a weak way to start a business. Nextdoor started this way. They spent a full year talking with neighborhood leaders and sketching solutions. Before they arrived at their current model. They're still adjusting and improving as they grow.
Btw, they've raised around $90 million to date…
No matter what industry you're in, it would benefit from someone making things better. Medicine especially. Improvement comes from thousands of people pushing to make a change.
1. CAMERA RENTAL BUSINESS (CAMMY)
Rentals are huge. You're reducing waste by fighting the planned obsolescence many companies rely on. Amateur photography is on the rise, if sales of DSLR cameras are any indicator. Photographers go after new equipment rather than improving their skill. A trusted camera rental brand could give more people access to the highest-end product, allowing them to focus instead on improving their skill.
Test this by finding people with a camera, then asking what price they'd be willing to rent their camera out for. Even better, put up an ad on craigslist offering a camera rental for a day. Test out different amounts and cameras. If someone responds, tell them you're out of stock (which is true) and you'll get back to them when you've got more stock. That way you're not wasting time trying to find a camera to rent first. You're testing demand without spending more time or money than you need to.
Try this with other vertices. Car rentals and boat rentals are getting pretty big. I’m sure you can find other things to rent out that people need. This would take a good amount of interviews and tests to find the sweet spot. Definitely doable.
2. BUILD YOUR OWN LAPTOP (MY LAPPY)
The idea of building your own phone popped up with Project Ara by Motorola (owned by Google). There’s huge amounts of waste with perfectly good machines. Broken phones often have a single part that needs to be fixed. Upgrading phones now means we toss the whole thing. Project Ara seeks to solve the waste problem, giving people a phone they keep. Why not have the same for the laptop?
Imagine a laptop that you can replace the parts of. An upgraded screen. A better camera. More disk space. With replaceable parts, people can build a laptop depending on what they need.
Before you worry about whether it’s possible, focus on whether people want it or not. Chat with your friends who have laptops. Focus on your friends who are tech-savvy. Do they want this? Flush out the idea. Make some drawings of prototypes. Ask Best Buy if they’d carry it. Write a blog post about it and tell a story. Get people who can build to buy into the idea. Make some pre-sales. Run a Kickstarter campaign. You don’t need everyone to buy into the idea. Just a core audience.
First drum up enough interest, THEN look into making it happen.
Better yet, if you believe in the idea enough, pursue it as your mission. Some of the biggest and best businesses are mission driven. You may not be building exactly what you set out to when you start. You can create a firm around more sustainable products, and test out ideas from there.
Damn. I kind of like that idea myself…
3. REVOLUTION EHR COMPETITOR (REVVY COMPY)
This is for private clinics.
My dad’s an optometrist. He had to go electronic in his clinics. Problem is, the best patient management system out there (for optometrists) suck.
Revolution EHR sucks from a user experience standpoint. The learning curve is too high for doctors and their staff. It requires massive amount of training just to use. If it was built well, it should be intuitive.
Check out other medical clinics and offices. They may be in similar problems. Ask your doctor, dentist, optometrist about the software they’re using. What do they love about the software? What do they hate about it?
If you can build something better (aka you can listen to users), this can easily be a multi-million dollar business. By easily, I mean 2-5 years of bust-your-ass hard work. Medical clinics need this. Revolution charges $6000 for setup, then $350/month per clinic. If you can cut the training time by 10x (took us 3 months and we’re still learning the ropes), you’ve got a winner.
As you build for one specialty clinic, you can take your learnings and framework and apply it to another clinic setting. You can build an empire over the next 10 years.
4. ONLINE EDUCATION COURSES (ONNY EDDY)
Completion rates of current online courses hover around 10%.
There are ways to improve on this engagement. First, make the class itself an event.CreativeLIVE does a great job with this by making their courses free while they’re broadcast, then charging for the replays. They make money on their best courses, and people can catch the courses for free.
When students finished the first video in an online course, completion rates jumped to 15%. When they finished an assignment, it skyrocketed to 48%. Use these findings to boost rates in your own online platform. If you get your percentages high enough, you can become a major player in the education space.
The self-organizing model also creates good engagement.
Meetup.com allows people to organize their own groups around topics they’re interested in. An education startup around the Meetup model may have higher engagement numbers.
Jakara is a California based nonprofit that creates and distributes all content for a one day kid’s camp. They can educate thousands of children across the nation with this model.
Startup weekend also has a self-organizing model. They create the programs and emails you need to organize an event of your own. These are much better attended than online courses. Maybe not in terms of total number served, but in term of people finishing events.
TEDx allows individuals to organize TED events around topics they’re interested in. Videos from events can spread after the event to widen the audience.
At the end of the day, low completion rates may not even be a problem. It’s just a different model than universities (which deny 50%+ applicants before they even start).
Recognize that you can create a resource for people if you choose. You’re much more capable than you think. It takes trying, failing, and learning. Over and over again.
5. COMMUNITY APP (COMMY… SEE A TREND HERE?)
This idea focuses on bringing communities closer together.
Imagine your local religious center. As an app, Commie integrates with the projector. The speaker uses their device for personal notes and speaking while the app shows the presentation on the projector.
Commie creates a new forum topic after every sermon. It presents the material presented with starter questions (provided by the speaker or community members). THe forum only stays open that week to drive up engagement each week. The end goal is to drive up community engagement while giving members a chance to dig deeper with the material.
In the Sikh community, I go to the Gurudwara on Sundays, watch and listen to kirtan, then go home and forget about it. The kirtan is beautiful and inspires me for the day. I want to dive deeper and discuss what I experienced. Commie is designed to do that.
After building for one community, pivot to other communities. Adjust Commie to what’s needed. It may work well in the classroom too.
Part of Uber’s massive success is their focus on the entire experience. They refused to improve taxi payments, ride requests, or making it a more comfortable ride. Instead they focused on improving the whole thing from start to finish. You can do the same with Commie.
6. THING LIBRARY (THINGY)
Thingy is an online library around things people need sometimes but not all the time. Leaf blowers. Shears. Lawn mowers. Repair tools.
Revenue comes from a subscription model. People pay for access to all the tools and use them when needed.
The biggest roadblock I see is ease of access. Part of the reason we buy things is we want access to them as soon as we need them.
You can create small shops and storage units in neighborhoods. With a proper distribution model, people can click on what they need online. Since they’re already logged into the system, you know what neighborhood they’re in. You deliver the good to the shop with the unlock code. They pick it up and use as needed. Late fees for later returns. The item has a tracker to sense when it’s returned, eliminating need for extra steps.
This could work piggybacking on a service like Next Door. They’ve already got thousands of neighborhoods signed up. They’ve done the work of networking neighbors on their system. You integrate and build the framework around getting materials to those neighbors.
Test it out on craigslist. Put up a landing page with a video description of how it will work. If it resonates with people, they’ll sign up. Ask your neighbors whether this is a big enough problem for them. Do they like or hate having to buy new things? What things do they buy often? When’s the last time they picked something up?
Allow a depository of items for them to donate old things. You can build up your warehouse of things, supplying it to people who need it most.
7. PROBLEM-SOLVING GAME COMPANY (PROBBY)
Video games are huge untapped resources. Some of our biggest problems today need the brightest minds working on them. Video games allow millions of players to interact with one another in a massive universe. Minecraft is a beautiful example.
You can stretch it further by designing a game around the problem and providing a framework with accurate physics. Create limitations of what people can use to build what they want to. The limits and the problem challenge players to go further. Then let them free to build it. You’d be surprised by what people can build.
Think of Ender’s Game. Here’s this kid who thought he was playing a simulation. They lied to him. He led Earth’s forces in a final battle. He pushed the forces to their limits, decimating the entire fleet in order to win. He was able to do that since he thought it was a game.
Create a real game. Gamify the biggest problems we face. Study the results people come up with. Simcity is a popular franchise. Why can’t businesses present these problems to video gamers? Why not the government? Why not humanity?
Look at Tumblr. Youtube. Soundcloud. The Nobel Prize. WordPress. Makerbots and 3D guns.
Give people the tools, encourage them to test the limits and break them. See what happens.
We haven’t got much time left. Let’s focus on the biggest problems we're facing.
8. INTEGRATED HEALTHCARE INSURANCE (INGY)
Health insurance is confusing as shit. We sign up for health care insurance without knowing what’s involved.
What about a card that does it all? It has your insurance info, integrates with your health records, and tells you and your doctor exactly what you need to know about the premiums.
As Ingy gains traction, it serves as a data center. The data collected gives insight into how much people are paying for the health care for which services. With bank integration, Ingy can adjust premiums based off what people can afford. That way you’re paying only what’s in your ability to do so.
Prime integrates your hospital visits to give you all the information you need (I did an interview with them btw). Ingy could integrate with Prime and build up the insurance and bank information side of the equation.
Even if this idea ends up sucking, healthcare has a lot of problems. Most of it revolves around waste. Ingy works to clear some of that waste.
For a detailed view of what’s wrong with the US healthcare system, check out this video.
9. MACHINE LEARNING API (NO NAME FOR THIS ONE. YOU GET THE REAL DEAL)
If you’re into algorithms and APIs, this is for you.
Machine learning has huge implications for improving technology. This paper takes a deep look at machine learning and technology (you should read it regardless what field you’re in).
When using an app, we gravitate toward the same pages over and over again. Chrome shows your most-visited pages to show up when you’re typing something in. That’s machine learning. It greatly decreases the time in getting where you want to go online. We need this in other places.
Imagine email. Which do you pay attention to the most? Which do you ignore? Which do you want more of?
10. A WAY TO CLEAN THE OCEANS IN 5 YEARS
Oh wait, someone’s already working on that…
If this one excites you, find a way to contribute. Nothing great is done alone. No one person on earth can create a computer mouse by themselves.
If we want to create a better tomorrow, it’s going to take each one of us working to create it. Stop relying on other people and waiting for someone to give you permission.
Choose yourself and create a world you’re proud of.
- Use this article as a guide to doing your market research in an afternoon using the Pareto (80/20) principle.
- Read this book on the 80/20 principle itself (hell, read it no matter what).
- Unbounce lets you create free landing pages to build up your email list before you build anything).
- Lean Canvas lets you create a 1 page business model to test your assumptions.
- Invision App lets you create free mock-ups of your app that people can play with.
- Startup Weekend lets you test your idea by working on it over the weekend (watch this video from Stanford before going).
- Thunderclap lets you build a social movement around your idea overnight (if it’s good).
Recognize that most successful startups looked nothing like they look like today.
Facebook focused on a social network for colleges only… Now they're trying to connect the world.
Google was Backrub before it became our light and savior.
Give it a shot and have some fun.
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