Monthly Archives: December 2007

Startup #100 – Drifft

cake.jpgYeah!  My 100th startup idea.  It’s been a great ride, and to celebrate I’m going to post an idea that is a little outside my usual ‘quick-and-dirty’ micro-app genre.  I’ve actually been debating for a while whether or not to post this idea up here on the blog or keep it to myself.  But since it’s the holiday season and it’s my 100th post – what the heck!  So here goes.  This is a little idea I affectionately call “Drifft”.  Enjoy!

Today’s idea is a brand new way to navigate through the Internet.  Take a step back and think about how we really use the web.  You click on a tiny icon of an ‘e’ or some orange fox-looking thing, and a square box appears on your screen with some text boxes.  You either start typing some arbitrary characters (http://www.) or you enter a word directly into a search engine.  You then get a list of web pages, many of whom have paid to appear in front of you, and then you decide to click on one that may or may not have the information you are looking for.  When you’re done, you either click another link or hit the back button to get another list of links that might have what you’re looking for.  Does it work?  Of course.  But, come on!!!  There’s got to be a better way…

There are some sites out there who have identified aspects of this problem, and are making a lot of money in each field by solving little pieces of this issue.  Here’s a list of some of the top sites out there and a quick look at what problems they each solve.

Digg

Problem: Out of all the content on the web, how do I find the best stuff? 

Solution:  Use communities to submit and vote, top content bubbles to the top

StumbleUpon

Problem: Primary interface to the web is search.  But what if I don’t have something specific I’m looking for? 

Solution:  Put a button on the browser that pulls up random, interesting web sites

eHarmony

Problem:  There are lots of people out there, how do I find one who is compatible with me?

Solution:  Use tools grounded in proven psychological theories to make matches with compatible people

iPhone

Problem:  Mobile interfaces are boring and difficult to navigate

Solution:  Use multi-touch and focus on design to create an intuitive and compelling user experience

 

The idea behind Drifft is to pull together some of these concepts into a single experience that will dramatically improve the way we navigate the web.  At it’s core, the functionality is very similar to StumbleUpon as the main functionality of the site is to allow you to quickly flip through interesting sites and stories on the web and tag those that you think are interesting.  However, there are two key differentiators here. 

First, the interface would be better.  Much, much better.  The site would use Silverlight to allow for neat tricks like flicking your mouse across the page to trigger a cool cover-flow-like transition to the next page in the queue.  You could also have a scrollable list of thumbnails across the top of the screen that would allow you to easily choose a page that looks interestings.  The images would have high-level descriptions and could have color-codings or icons to indicate which stories/sites are most interesting or are the hot stories of the day.

Second, the site would leverage basic social media concepts to define that all-important filter of what makes for interesting content.  Most social media sites use two basic filters – ‘show me what’s interesting to everybody’, and ‘show me what’s interesting within my group of friends’.  Drifft would have the option to use these filters, but would also have the option to ‘show me what’s interesting to people who are similar to me’.  To accomplish this, users could fill out a quick personality profile (something like a Meyers-Briggs personality test) or a pop-culture compatibility comparison (top movies, books, TV shows).  Then, users could choose to see sites that are of interest to other people that are strangers but have similar personalities, likes/dislikes, etc..

And finally, to give just a little more insight as to what the heck I’m talking about here, I did a quick-n-dirty mockup on the idea using my favorite image editing tool of the year, Power Point 2007. DrifftMockup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to all my millions (OK, tens) of readers who have been following this blog through the first 100 ideas.  I’ve got some exciting things planned around this blog which will probably go live in early March, so definitely stay tuned!

Startup #99 – Music Concierge

music1

Shhhh…I’m getting my wife a Zune for Christmas.  Seriously, if you know her, don’t tell her.  It’s a huge secret.  She has no idea it’s coming.  The only tiny clue she might use to figure it out is the Fed-Ex box that came when she was home alone that HAD THE WORD ZUNE PLASTERED ACROSS THE FRONT!!!  Thanks, Zune shipping guys, really appreciated that one.  :)

Anywho, today’s idea is a Zune plug-in that downloads a customized selection of new music automagically to your device.  I see this as a completely passive, mobile version of a service like Last.fm, Pandora, iLike, etc..  Here’s how this would work.  First, you would sign up for an account and answer a few simple questions to get a starting point for the style of music that you might like.  The service would then download ten new tracks to your device, using the same “three free plays” approach that Zune uses for sampling shared music.  If there is a song that you like, you would then have the option to purchase it.  If you don’t like it, or don’t listen to it within a week, the next time you synch your Zune the service would remove those songs and load up more songs that you might enjoy.  Of course, the service would track the songs that you purchased vs the songs you didn’t like to further customize the songs that get delivered via the service.

Where’s the monetization?  First, if the service takes off and builds a large enough user base, it might be a good acquisition target (MS could build the feature, but might pay for the built-in community, similar to CBS’s $280M deal with Last.fm).  The other option might be an affiliate-type fee, where the company would get X% of all recommended songs that ultimately got purchased.

Hmmmm…this got me thinking…how cool would it be to have a Zune or iPod development platform where devs could build music-related apps and plug-ins like this?  That would be awesome, like the Facebook platform for music!  What do you guys think?  Any chance for that in the future, or is it way too small of a niche?