Monthly Archives: August 2007

Startup #86 – Predict Me Elmo

pleo.jpgPicture this.  It’s Thanksgiving Day, 2007.  You’re sick of watching the Lions getting merciless beatdown yet again, so you flip to CNN and catch a story about a Sunday school teacher who gave a Million Dollar Drop to a short-order cook in order to get her hands on the last “Let’s Dance” Barbie.  You jump over to eBay and realize that the current bid on a “Bratz Forever Diamondz” Cloe doll is up to $280 with 5 hours still remaining (retail price: $29.95).  Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to predict the must-have toys for the ’07 holiday season?

Today’s idea is a site centered around the idea of predicting (and consequently selling) the must-have toy of the upcoming holiday season.  First, users would join the site during the “off-season”, which would be approximately May – Oct.  Users would submit items that they feel are going to be holiday hits, and other users would vote to determine the top picks.   

As the holiday season starts to get closer, users could take advantage of the list to go out and pre-order the items they feel are going to be top picks for the holiday season.  When the holiday season rolls around, users could put their items up for sale on eBay, and post a link to their eBay auction on the “Predict Me Elmo” site.   Parents who don’t mind spending a little extra cash for the convenience of getting a hard-to-find gift could then visit the PME site, search for the hot toys (or view the top-selling toys), and access a list of the eBay auctions where they could place bids on the must-have toys.

The site could generate income by charging a monthly/yearly fee for sellers who are looking to post items on the site, along with contextual ads placed next to the auction items.

Speaking of cashing in on must-have toys, note the pic of the Pleo – if it weren’t so pricey ($349) I’d be getting on the pre-order list for that bad boy today…  :)

Startup #85 – My Perfect Pet

lolcatrenderer2.jpglolcatrenderer2.jpgRemember this idea?  Check this out: http://kscakes.com/LolCats/  I love it!

In honor of my recent nuptuals, I’m going to post an idea that I stole from my beautiful and talented new bride.  We were discussing the soon-to-be newest addition to our family (either a dog or cat) and she came up with a great idea for a new site that would ask you a series of questions and then present some options for a pet that would fit the given criteria.  For example, we are looking for a pet that is relatively small, has short hair, could be left overnight without supervision, has a good temperment, etc…   The site would use the filters to display a list of specific pets that might be a good fit (i.e. Cocker Spaniel).

There are a few things you could do to spice it up a bit.  For one, the site would be extremely visual.  Instead of filling out a boring text questionaire, the site would start with a ton of small photos of pets on the bottom 2/3 of the screen, and the top 1/3 would have a series of sliders that you could adjust to choose the various filters.  As you moved the sliders, the list would be narrowed down and the images would scale up to fit the screen.  Also, once you reached a point where you have a pet that meets your criteria, you could click on the pet and the site could pull a list of animals from the local shelter that need to be saved. 

Thoughts? 

I’m Back!

thankyou_small.jpgJust got back from Hawaii!  The wedding was amazing and the honeymoon was even better.  I’ll be posting a new idea shortly, but first I want to give a huge, gigantic thank you to Colin for posting some ideas while I was out.  I’m a big fan of his blog and it was an honor to have him filling in while I was off in Hawaii.  We even made up a sign, carried it all the way to Maui, and took this picture to show our appreciation.OK, so maybe it’s also for our thank you cards…but still…thanks, man, I owe you one.  :)

Startup #84 – iVoting Block

I received an email yesterday that was sent to about 100 people. It was from a friend who was trying to rustle up some votes for his girlfriend, who had been entered in a contest to find the sexiest bartender in America. His message was pretty simple: “Vote for her…here’s the link.” No doubt it had some affect, but I couldn’t help but thinking that when you (or someone you know) has the chance to win a contest on the internet via votes from friends, it would be handy to have a lot of people who would vote.

Startup #84 – iVoting Block

This idea would be a site where folks sign up as members and then post contests online in which they need votes. The catch would be that you can only receive as many votes to your contest as you have given. So, you would need to vote in other people’s listings to get votes for your own listings. From contests to Digg posts, there are TONS of things to vote on on the internet. Is this idea “gaming” those ballots? Yes. But participants game ballots all the time; this is simply making the process more effective for those that are inclined.

Revenue could be generated through membership fees or, more lucratively, “buying” votes. Clicking on an external link and voting on something is not all that time-consuming. A few pennies here and a few pennies there could add up quickly.

The difficulty comes in creating a system with integrity wherein votes can be confirmed. I’d have to leave that one to the software engineers, making this idea somewhat incomplete. That said, there are a few Digg gaming sites like Suvert and Conquer (iirc) that have a mechanism in place for deploying voting blocks. Thoughts?

Startup #83 – True Wireless Networks

I used to work for a major computer/PC/Server/etc. manufacturer based in central Texas (you can guess which one) and I was always amazed at how little forward thinking was being done with regard to product leveraging.  Granted, it no doubt takes plenty of time and energy to manage the logistics of manufacturing 1200 PCs an hour, and I realize it’s a little difficult to change the path of a freight train when the tracks have been laid.  That said, the opportunities to completely dominate and own different market segments that are right there ready to be had were vast….and almost always ignored.  Instead, it was just more PCs and servers rolling off the assembly line as market share eroded and stock price declined.  Sigh.

One of the things I thought of when working there that couldn’t have been more ripe for the taking was the idea of a True Wireless network.

Startup # 82 – True Wireless Networks

I actually think this is a really good idea and would have “saved” it for myself except for the fact that I know even less about mechanical engineering then I do software engineering.  Toss in that the money it takes to market and produce a piece of hardware is substantially more then it is to get some good code, and I’ll toss this idea out to the masses.

When I was selling computers for the aforementioned company, we experienced a period where we received bonus money for every Broadband card we could get added in to a laptop.  Verizon and T-Mobile were trying to get hardware in to our computers so that they could provide wireless broadband service.  My thinking is “Why limit it to an individual laptop?”   Why not make a wireless router that is truly wireless?  Instead of plugging in to an internet connection at a home or coffee shop, why not have a piece of hardware powered by a 6 cell or 9 cell battery that connects to the satellite broadband signal and then redistributes it to a short range area, just like a wireless router.  Effectively, it would be the same thing as the wireless router in your home except it wouldn’t be plugged in to a power outlet or the wall.

Setting the device to have security options would make it appealing for folks doing group-work in a public place.  Similarly, the uses in remote areas (think: medical facilities in the developing world) are vast.  While WiMax and city-wide Wi Fi may be on the horizon in some places, there is definitely a 10-20 year window of opportunity for providing this type of broadband.

Sure, the satellite broadband companies might balk.  But the leverage of a major manufacturer (Cisco, Dell, HP, etc.) saying, “One of you is going to get to serve signal to these devices that we’re going to spend a lot of time and money bringing to market” would be great enough that someone from AT&T, Verizon, etc. would blink and say, “We’re in.”

No cables.  No wires.  No anchors to the wired world.  True Wireless.

Startup #82 – Everyone’s An Expert at Something

Message boards and social networking sites have inarguably put people in a position to communicate with each other on a near-continual basis without having to be face-to-face or on the phone.  While many of the people who are your “friends” online aren’t likely to be folks you go grab coffee with or have over to watch the game on a regular basis, they still have a spot in your life that you hold in some regard.

I spend a fair amount of time moderating one of the internet’s most popular Fantasy Football message boards and I am amazed at how wide the knowledge base is there.  People come looking for marital advice, and a counselor will chime in.  People come looking for home loan advice, a mortgage lender shows up.  Someone got popped for a DUI?  Lawyers offer free suggestions.  Anything I need a complex answer to, I ask the mindhive at that board LONG before I go to Google to find the answer on my own.

This  Startup may not be a startup at all really.  It might be as simple as adding a new dropdown to message board registration asking “What are you an expert in?”  But short of that, let’s go with something from scratch..

 Startup #82 – “Everyone’s an Expert at Something”

This startup would be a social network based not on music or dating or taking offline  friendships online, but rather in the swapping of professional advice and services among members.  The site itself would require many of the features and functions of a standard social network/message board but not necessarily the same appearance.  The site would include a marketplace where users ask questions and receive responses from other members.  The ability to ask a question comes with the acquisition of “Points.”  “Points” can be purchased OR earned by answering other people’s questions.  If you answer a question in a category of which you declare yourself an “expert”, such as law or landscaping or beer-brewing, you earn more points then if you simply answer a question in a random category.  The quality of answers can be community policed via a “was this answer helpful” rating/voting system.

The incentive to participate in the answering process is two-fold: participants earn points so when they need help with something, they can ask a question of another expert.  And participants have the ability to create valuable, branded networking connections that can lead to offline business down the road.  (I have hired folks from the aforementioned football message board for all kinds of offline real-money things.)

The site can generate money via:

  • Sales of “points” (a la people who are not regular members asking questions of the site’s experts).
  • Syndication of original content created via the question/answer function e.g. a series of “How To” books.
  • In-site advertising (I think I just threw up in my mouth…but the dreaded “Ad model” does apply here.)

Why will it work?  Simple: there are enough people online with the necessary vanity to fill the site with content.  MySpace is a success partly because people like to stare at their own pages, their own pictures, their own comments.  The user-submitted web is growing precisely because people like the “sound of their own voice.”  As such, giving people a chance to declare themselves an expert at something, and then giving them a chance to prove it go hand in hand.  The biggest challenge will be in maintaining high-quality answers.  Over time, the site could become an archive of questions and answers.

At this point, you are thinking, “This is like Yahoo! Answers…duh.”  The difference is that Yahoo! Answers is strictly a question/answer portal.  Any networking between folks that is not based on questions and answers has to be carried out somewhere else, either at another Yahoo! product or on another site entirely.   This version, for all it’s similarities to Yahoo! Answers will have profile pages, feeds, etc. built in.   Furthermore, this idea is tailor-made to be an F8 Facebook application.

What say you?

Startup #81 – Ringtone Studio

First off, “Hello CLEEEEEVEEEELAAANNDDDD!” (Cue Spinal Tap). Thanks to Kevin for having me while he is on his matrimonial getaway. My name is Colin and I write the blog Tech(st)books, which you can get to by clicking on the link in the blogroll to your right. I offered my services to fill in and was glad when Kevin agreed to let me post a couple ideas. I look forward to seeing what you guys have to say. With any luck, we won’t burn down the house while he’s sunning in Maui. Let’s get started…

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Idea – RINGTONE STUDIO

I conceived of this idea while considering how much time people waste on the computer doing things that have little (if any) value once the browser window is closed. Interactive entertainment – a la Desktop Tower Defense or Digg – is big business and despite the fact that there are a zillion different things you can do on the internet, most people will choose to do somethng fun over something productive 100 times out of 100.

Ringtone sales are serious business. I have no idea how many ringtones get sold out there every day, but it’s enough to justify a seemingly endless string of ads during “Flavor of Love” reruns offering to sell me T.I. or Fergie’s latest hit for a mere $1.99 a month. (I’ve been holding out for the music being played by the band in Star Wars at the Mos Eisley Cantina, but so far it isn’t available.) Regardless, people like their ringtones as either an expression of themselves, to impress their friends, or to just here a cool bit of music when the phone rings rather then an annoying factory ringtone.

This idea is simple. Create an online music-creation space for ringtones. Attract users by offering the full functions for free, wherein they can play around creating snippets of music for no charge. Think of it as entertaining “time-wasting” at it’s finest as users are free to toy around with different instruments and sounds. If the user wants to download their “song” as an actual ring-tone, it costs them a couple bucks. Additionally, you could have a ring-tone marketplace built in and share sales revenue with the original composer.

There is a ton of music software out there. Some of this software allows you to connect an instrument to your computer and play music in to it. Some of this software is an empty sheet of music and you mouse-click where you want the notes to go and what instrument you want them to sound like. Why not take the latter of these to create this online “sandbox” where folks can make music? Right now, it’s hardly worth the trouble to hook up your Les Paul to Cakewalk (software) and riff for 15 seconds to make a ringtone. But given the option of using your mouse to make a ringtone with a full iOrchestra while you’re on your lunch-break or bored at work….people might do that. And since ringtones are so short in duration, you hardly have to be Mozart to make something functional and fun.

What say you?