Startup Ideas I’ve Had

Startup ideas are a dime a dozen.  I guess I’ve generated about a nickel in value in over 10 years of thinking about it.  I’m still thinking about implementing one of these, but I’ve been having a hard time getting really behind one of them enough to start detailed work on one.  The reason I publish these publicly, is because I believe the idea is worth nothing without the execution. If you can take the idea and do well with it, then more power to you.  I obviously can’t implement all 6 of these, but if you’re reading this and you’re interested in working on them, contact me.

  1. Wechooselunch.com
    • Go to lunch every day?  Got a group of people you like to go with, but picking the place is always a huge hassle?  Easy, we pick a random location within a small radius of where you work every day.
    • Lots of other ideas to go with it, add a scheduling feature to upload free/busy data so you can schedule around meetings, randomly rotate your lunch crew, do matching with interested parties, etc.
  2. Point of Sale – Webified
    • Shocking, I used to work for a POS software vendor and the idea of reinventing it from scratch with modern technology is appealing
    • This is a crowded space, with 25 years of entrenched players who have kept it pretty well out of the web era, somehow.  A SaaS model is ripe to be successful.
    • Unfortunately, horizontal software targeting brick and mortar is difficult to market, and getting people through the virtual “front-door” will be difficult, especially as conservative as retailers generally are (“What happens if the Internet goes down?”).  Unlike most web startups, distribution will be key.  A strong VAR channel will be a must here.
  3. Enterprise Search, Email Seeded
    • Enterprise search isn’t something you read about much anymore.  It’s not because Google has owned the market and it’s a no-brainer, it’s because it doesn’t really work and nobody wants to really be in the space anymore.  Relevancy is a huge issue internal to Enterprises because unlike the Internet where relevancy is based at a fundamental level based on how many references (links) there are to a given set of content, Enterprises don’t generally generate links, so tagging, keywords, other meta data becomes required to determine relevancy.  Given my earlier comments, obviously, I think there’s huge opportunity in the space.
    • The best place to farm link data in an Enterprise?  Exchange or another email repository.  I get dozens of links a day, they’re just not publically indexable.  Even better, by examining organizational structure, a link from a CEO is likely to be more relevant than a link from an individual contributor, unless that individual contributor is close to you in the organization (say not more than two degrees removed).
  4. IRC for the Web
    • Some would say Twitter has it locked up here, but I think there’s still a market for topical chat on the Web that’s real time, isn’t limited to 140 characters per message, is easy to get into, and is totally anonymous if you want it to be.  ChatRoulette shows it’s possible for it to be successful, but I think there’s a market for something that isn’t largely filled with video of people showing their penii [sic].
    • I haven’t fully baked the idea, but I think mixing membership with some type of game mechanic to allow for leveling up is a great mix, I just don’t know how to do it because I haven’t thought about it enough.
  5. Game Sharing/Scheduling Network
    • This one I just had the other day.  I’m kind of exited about it, it definitely warrants more thought.  You just bought Game X, and so did all your friends.  When are they online?  Your wife wants the TV until 9, will they still be playing?  Maybe they would be if you were online.  The ability to get a txt or a notification on an iPhone app that your friends were online playing, or maybe even text into them from your phone would be huge.  Twitter for gamers.
    • What about when you’re at the office and you’re talking about what to play that night.  Will they remember?  Maybe you can play from 8-10 and he can play from 9-11, would you stick around till 9 if you were playing by yourself?  Would you maybe not start till 9, win some wife bonus points etc, if you knew he was going to start a 9?  Game time matching for friends could be a big win.
    • Needs to be console independent.  Xfire and others probably play here for the PC, don’t know any that integrates with mobile though to notify you on the device in your pocket instead of your PC which you probably don’t have open while gaming.
  6. Enterprise Distributed Filesystem
    • I put this one here to remind myself I didn’t do nothing in 10 years of thinking about it.  I had very basic deduplication engine completed in Java, when it became obvious that even storing the metadata about unique blocks across the entire enterprise was going at least 10-20% of the total space allocated across all the distributed nodes.  Network latency was going to be a killer.  It’s a great idea, but the reason it’s never made it out of academia is the real world problems kill the idea.  Even for doing backups only (i.e., could be a write-once filesystem), it was still infeasible for a lot of reasons.  Perhaps it’s worth a revisit with things like Redis and Cassandra out there now which weren’t there a year and a half ago when I looked into it heavily.
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How to Offshore

Today we fired one of our offshore teams.  This post isn’t to criticize that initiative or the manager, they definitely weren’t working out, but it does bring to mind several lessons learned, at least from my perspective.  This wasn’t my offshore team, but I do have an offshoring effort that’s been very effective thus far.  Some advice for when you may be considering your next offshoring initiative:

Preparation

When we created the offshore IT Operations Center, I spent a very significant amount of money with the offshoring company’s consultants to document every application, database, and server they would be supporting.  I had them develop all of our procedures for how to escalate problems, and they put together all of our SLA documentation.  In short, they wrote the manual on how to do business for our IT Operations Center.  Then, and only then, did we consider hiring them to do actual operations work.

Augment, Not Replace

When we brought on the offshore team for the ITOC, it was an augment of existing personnel, which gave us two advantages.  One, we didn’t have a fixed limit on transition period which occurs in a lot of offshoring initiatives.  Second, we were not letting the onshore team go, so we did not end up with personnel training their replacements or the onshore teams attempting to poison the project.  In fact, the offshore team has been a huge success with the onshore team they were augmenting because rather than having a 5 person team covering 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via pagers, cell phones, and a brutal on call schedule, the onshore team now has the ability to leave their house over the weekend rather than be tied to a laptop and Internet connection with confidence we have coverage for the business.

Process, Process, and did I mention Process?

If you cannot onboard a new resource in 30 days, no matter how complicated the position, you’re not ready to offshore.  You cannot take a position that requires intense collaboration with onshore resources, high-end skill set, and a strong requirement on independent thinking and problem solving skills and send it offshore without also outsourcing the entire function.  Creating a new team in a far-flung location requires them to be able to execute their job without ambiguity, without constant reliance on onshore resources, and with a clear direction as to their responsibilities and deliverables.  This means that the processes they are facilitating need to be documented, defined, and well understood.

Offshoring is not Outsourcing

These two terms are used interchangeably, but they are anything but interchangeable.  Offshoring means augmenting your resources with lower cost alternatives in another location (usually another country but I hear people are doing the same thing with lower cost US locations).  Outsourcing means you are moving a function or a department to be handled by another company.  Offshoring is often outsourcing but not always.  If you are expecting a high-end skill set, you will only be successful with outsourcing the entire function.  The team will need the flexibility to define the process, determine service levels, and generally be in control of the deliverables if you want them to do something other than providing a very specific well defined function.

Summary

Offshoring can be awesome for everyone involved, or it can end up in failure.  How it’s approached has everything to do with how it’s received by the co-workers on-shore.  Deciding whether to augment or outsource is critical, and if it’s an augment ensuring there are well defined processes that govern the output of the augmented resources is critical.  Unclear expectations, lack of preparation, and malicious compliance by existing personnel will doom any offshoring effort to failure.


Greatest Random Text Convo Ever!!

I have just had the greatest random text conversation ever!  For those who have never been lucky enough, a random text conversation is the equivalent of a wrong number in texting land.  You’re sitting there, suddenly a text shows up from a random stranger.  Here’s the conversation:

“hey! its bri” – stranger
“Hey” – me
“are you starting rumors that im cheating on chris cuz im pissed right now” – stranger
“I am not but you are right to be pissed” – me
“who told you that tho” – stranger
“I can’t tell u.  I pinkie sweared.” – me
“I dont give a fuck” – stranger
“I promised them I wouldn’t tell.  What kind of person do u think I am?  I never thought u guyz were right for each other anyways.” – me
“its only cuz you like him but we are perfect together and i care about him a lot” – stranger
“When did u guy do it last?  U should get checked or did he get it from u?” – me
“what???” – stranger
“Talk to him” – me
“okay and why cant you tell me???!!” – stranger
“Just talk to him then let me know what he says.” – me
“about what??m” – stranger
“Whether he’s been checked out.” – me
“for what?”
“Don’t be a dumbass   What do people in relationships normally ask their partners if they’ve been checkd for?” – me
“i fucking hate you” – stranger
“one more thing HE’S MINE BACK OFF!!!!!” – stranger


Katie’s Walk Outside

Usually, we have a hard time getting shoes on Katie.   She throws an incredibly huge fit.   Today, however, we decided to take her outside for a walk and she thoroughly enjoyed it, up until the very end of course.   We’ve uploaded some photos to the gallery and a video for your enjoyment.


Amanda Leaving Rocketboom, My Response

Amanda’s Leaving Rocketboom. Here’s my response to the Videoblogging list, which I thought would make a decent blog post with my insightful commentary on stardom:

You’re onto it Deirdre. The fact that the offers are pouring in doesn’t have anything to do with talent or beauty. There are tons of talented beautiful people out there.

It’s the same reason Kirsten Dunst or Julia Stiles get movie roles. Celebrity. They aren’t that talented or beautiful, but they have fame. And nothing against those two, I’m just using them as an example. They’re mediocre, but very successful. It just takes that one break.

So when people see this shit happen, they automatically associate it with old media stylings. Videoblogging is TV. And there are plenty of no-talent hacks out there perpetuating this myth. FrenchmaidTV comes to mind. A large portion of the iTunes video podcast “recommended” section actually. It’s all shitty and everyone knows it.

This is why I wretch when I read someone cooing to Amanda about her extraordinary talent and “you don’t deserve this treatment, baby. Come to me, it’ll be alright”. It’s fucking disgusting and embarrassing.

Advice to anyone who is listening: Don’t be a whore. Or if you already are a whore, stop being a whore.


Adam Quirk
thepan.org

Eh, I can agree with your sentiment to a certain extent, but celebrity and fame are inevitable. People exalt other peers who may not be more worthy than they are to celebrity and stardom, but they do it because they want to believe they also could be there as well.

I talk a lot about Rock and Roll and how it is the American Dream. Videoblogging, and Amanda’s leap to semi-stardom is a great example of yet another facet of the American Dream. The reason Rock and Roll is still popular, 50+ years later, even though it’s many different stylings and forms, is that anyone can pick up a guitar, get in front of a microphone and, if enough people like their work, become famous. How much more American can an idea get?

Videoblogging, blogging, podcasting, etc, are the Rock and Roll of our time. Anyone can pick up a video camera, and if it’s enjoyable enough, they can become stars. No need to wade through a Hollywood bureaucracy, just stick it up on the Internet. As much as we’d all like to be counter-culture, the culture dictates that we exalt the few as examples of what the many could be.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t all bitch about how the culture is the way it is.

Nice to see Robert and Jason posting on the list. Either one of you is free to hire me, but I’m afraid I’m unwilling to relocate. 🙂


It’s a girl!




03-27-06_1507.jpg

Originally uploaded by Coccyx.

Katherine Elizabeth Sharp was born March 27th, 2006 in Fort Smith, AR. She is 7 pounds, 8 ounces, and beautiful.


Bill Proposed to End ISP Traffic Hijacking

This is a must read from the NY Times.  If you were unaware, Verizon, AT&T, and others have proposed implementing quality of service on their networks which they would then sell to companies to have preferential treatment in the case of bottlenecks and also I presume express forwarding (lower latency).  What this means is that they would be able to put their own traffic (read IPTV) at higher priorities than say a Google or Yahoo IPTV product.  This concept has been in use on private IP networks for years, however, the idea was that when it was to be implemented on the public Internet, that everyone would have a fair chance at utilitizing higher priority traffic, rather than allowing the large ISPs to put it up for bid and hold it for ransom.  These companies already have the potential to put third party players like Vonage out of business when they’re in direct competition with them by blocking ports or subversively lowering QoS priorities on those packets without telling anyone.  It’s a dangerous time for the open Internet.  Everyone needs to be writing their representatives about this in support of this bill.