Travatar. Gravatar, for Travelers.

Most of you likely know what Gravatar is (& have an account). It alleviates the need to upload profile photos to every website you use. But what about for locations? Long term travelers are constantly changing locations, and get sick of keeping all their various profiles up to date.

Enter…

travatar

Your Travatar is your location that follows you from site to site appearing beside your name when you do things like comment or post on a blog.

There is no doubt this would be a useful service for travelers who are constantly arriving in new locations. There is no doubt developers would value and utilize such a service (assuming it had users). The big question is how you would monetize such a service?

The complete write up on the idea can be found on TravelStartups.co.

The Performance-Based Accountant

buisnessEvery year around tax time I get frustrated with the complexity of filing my business and personal taxes. I’d love to hire help, but have had some not-so-awesome experiences with professional accountants in the past.

Most recently, I felt like I was doing all the work and the accountant was simply punching the numbers into the forms. For $1250 or something crazy like that. OK, I’ll figure out how to do it myself for that rate.

But what I would really VALUE as a customer is some sort of guidance and consulting. If my $1250 would save my $2500 or $5000, or they uncover some new tax-saving strategy I can take advantage of, I’d gladly pay it.

In fact, I could justify paying much more, because it’s “found money.” Much like a salesperson’s commission, a performance-based accountant could collect a fee on how much they save you over a certain pre-determined baseline amount.

(To be sure, there’s a challenge in figuring out what a fair baseline would be.)

When I tweeted out this business idea, a CPA friend informed me that accountants are actually forbidden by law to engage in a business model like this, but I believe there are some creative workarounds possible.

For instance, Lyft, the ride-sharing service, collects fees on “donation” rather than on time/mileage fares — because regulatory burdens prohibit them from doing so as they’re not a licensed taxi company.

I think there’s a HUGE opportunity for tax accountants to really prove their worth with this sort of pricing set-up.

They could even run some sort of “Beat the Box” promo or awareness campaign where they pit themselves against Turbo Tax software and see who comes up with the best results.

I guess it’s similar to when H&R Block offers to “double check” your return for free, but maybe on a more personal scale.

What do you think? Would you be more likely to hire a tax professional if you knew they were going to save you money? What’s a fair “percentage” of the savings to pay them?

TV/Radio Notifications for My Favorite Sports Teams

I was just watching the Georgia – Vanderbilt foot ball game on CBS. I randomly decided to browse to see what other football games were on, and on NBC, I found the Seattle Sounders FC game against Dallas in the 25th minute.

Awesome! I just watched the rest of the game, as I’m not much of a college football fan anyway. The Sounders lost and didn’t clinch a play-off spot, so that was a bit of a downer.

Where am I going with this?

A drop dead sports app idea came to mind.

An app that sends me notifications when the sports teams I actually care about (Sounders, Seahawks, Mariners) are on TV or the radio.

What did I want today? A simple push notification that said “Seattle Sounders starting in 5 minutes on NBC.”

The app would need to know what type of tv service I subscribe to (the answer is basic, basic cable), so as to not send me notifications for games on premium stations I don’t have access to.

Does it exist? If not, build it and I’ll be the first beta tester.

A Platform to Share Private Feedback on Business Arrangements

We all know reputation is matters. And much of your reputation is locked up inside the heads of individuals you’ve worked with in the past.

What’s needed?

A private way to leave feedback on past business arrangements that gives you full control of which people/groups can access that. If someone I know has engaged in a deep business arrangement with company Y or been a co-founder with person X (who I am thinking about partnering with), what was their feedback? Were they good to work with? Responsive?

There are a few interesting scenarios:

  • Venture Capital – which firms and venture partners are great to work with? Which ones suck? Which ones only care about money? Which partners really help their portfolion companies, versus which ones put money in and then disappear?
  • Business development – which companies are a pain in the ass to deal with? Can they move things forward? Are they sticklers for always “winning” every negotiation, or do they focus on win-win deals?
  • Co-Founders – how are their communication skills? Do they execute on their word? Or do they promise the world, and deliver nothing?

Most of this knowledge is being traded via email, text, and voice right now. Which, as you know, is inefficient because people find themselves answering the same questions multiple times.

TheFunded is doing some of this, but their UI/UX is sorely lacking (looking at their home page – I don’t even really know what the site is supposed to do). It seems to me Angel List has the best shot at solving this, given they are mapping business relationships within the technology industry. Adding a way to privately review an individual or company would be a fairly easy add-on for them (the UI/UX is the harder part).

[Note: I posted the basics of this idea in the comments of Seth Levine's blog]

Make Me Move for Cars. “Buy My Wheels”.

Those that know Zillow, likely know about their Make Me Move concept; that every home in America is for sale — for the right price.

Take that same concept and apply it to cars. It’s my belief that every car in the world is available for the right price. I got to thinking about this yesterday as my friend and I were driving up to his cabin. I looked over into a field, and saw what looked to be a Mustang from the 1960′s sitting under a tarp gathering dust — seemingly not having been touched for years.

The solution? Buy My Wheels. The ability for any car owner to post a dream price for any of their cars.

The cars ripe for a “Buy My Wheels” price are old classics or antiques sitting in someone’s garage, only being driven once or twice a year. Or an old beater muscle car sitting in the field under a tarp and rusting away.

The right buyer would buy those cars at the right price, if they had a simple way to find them.

Challenges:

  1. How to monetize? People aren’t likely to pay anything to place a dream price on a car. Seems you’d need to add this on to a service that already monetizes as a user engagement tool and unique inventory. Cars.com, or even Carfax, would be a viable candidate.
  2. Critical mass. How do you entice enough car owners to post their cars? How do you possibly reach the farmer with a 65 Mustang sitting in his backyard?

What’s your “Buy My Wheels” price?

The Maternity and Baby Clothes Rental Service

Mother and Son PlayingThe global market for children’s clothes is a reported $150 billion industry. But the problem with kids, and specifically babies, is they grow out of their clothes in a matter of months.

I believe there’s room for disruption in their business by a baby clothing rental service. It’s painful to buy something you know won’t have any long-term use or purpose, so a smart company could create a value proposition by offering to lend the clothes instead.

Opportunity

A lot of money is spent on baby clothes that will be outgrown in a few months but won’t be “worn out” by any stretch of the imagination.

Cut a family’s clothing budget in half by renting them quality baby clothes. The family saves money, the company can rent out each outfit several times (cleaning in between each swap), and ultimately fewer clothes end up being manufactured and landfilled.

Weaknesses

Even with the best in-between washings and guaranteed cleanliness, I can imagine some new moms being reluctant to start their child’s life in borrowed clothes. There’s a certain stigma that comes with renting that would have to be overcome.

Starting Up

This is a company that would require some start-up capital, especially to scale quickly. You would have to buy the inventory, invest in some web presence, develop a system for shipping and returns, and have a facility for cleaning.

Actually, one way to save money would be to ask the parents to wash the clothes before dressing the kid the first time, because honestly they will probably do that anyway.

What do you think?

Probably not the most glamorous business idea in the world, but one that a lot of people could definitely benefit from. A strong value proposition and a green element, too.

Angel List for WordPress Freelancers

WordPress is a massive, massive ecosystem of designers, developers, themes, plugins, and expanding by the day. I’ve got a problem. I have a freelance WordPress gig for someone. But I’ve been burned in the past.

freelance-web-developerWho to trust?

Who has done good work for my friends? Of those, who is currently open to taking projects? What types of specific projects have they done? Have they done plugins? In which industries do they have domain knowledge?

Build a  platform similar to Angel List for freelancers. Allow freelancers to tag the people and businesses they have worked with.

Why it Makes Sense:

  • It’s needed immediately prior to individuals and companies spending a large amount of money – so can be monetized.
  • Both the supply side and demand side have incentive to tag those they’ve worked with.
  • It shouldn’t be hard to find a freelancer to build this on the cheap in exchange for an equity position.
  • Don’t need to prove the market need – IMO

In fact, the same opportunity is sitting out there for web freelancers in general (not just specific to WordPress). There is no good solution right now to address the two biggest pain points for those looking for freelancers to work on their development projects.

Frankly, I’m surprised an opportunity like this – which is clearly clearly known by multiple developers – has not been solved by someone tired of dealing with the issue and who has the chops to build it.

Any takers?

The Future of Your Inbox

There was an interesting comment from Anne Libby on Brad Feld’s post awhile ago that got me thinking about the future of the inbox.

Here is Anne’s comment:

If I were to write a similar post, it would be titled “Email is no longer working for me.”

 

Every day, we all create transaction requests, questions, introductions, responses to questions, needed data, jokes, attempts to be understood, negotiations on a meeting time — and so on — into what’s essentially a giant pipe called “email”.

 

Then we press “flush,” and expect it to be sorted out on the receiving end. (Yeah, we can set filters. It’s somewhat helpful, but for me it’s not enough.)

 

My five year future would include the emergence of email “process owners” in organizations. Industrial engineer/design specialist tasked with understanding the cost of the sorting out process, distributed across every person in the organization (i.e 100 emails/day * time to process each email* people in the organization). Then they’d figure out ways to get info where it’s meant to go…bypassing email where it doesn’t make sense.

It’s not just about tweaking the email client, but creating alternate and more effective communication behaviors.

I whole-heartedly agree. My inbox sucks, and there is an opportunity for an exponentially better experience. The inbox is certainly not a small problem one individual can solve. It’s a big crazy idea to totally redefine what an email inbox looks like and how it operates. Big risk, big reward.

The other day, I finally got around to putting together what I believe the future of the inbox is and posted it over at Geek Wire. Head over and give it a read and let me know what you think!

Work Productivity Screen Share App (aka POW)

You’ve all spaced off while “working.” Maybe that means watching a YouTube video, perusing Facebook (for the 36th time that day), g-chatting a friend, or checking ESPN for the 15th time. It results in hours and hours (and hours) of lost productivity.

What if there was a powerful and simple way to avoid wasting so much of your time?

Sure, there are already apps and browser extensions that enable you to “block” social media sites, or provide visibility into exactly how much of your life you’re wasting. They are great in theory.

The problem? They all rely on YOU to initiate and execute them. And even if you do turn them on, you can turn them off with a flick of a switch (click of a mouse if we’re being picky).

The solution?

POW – a work productivity screen share app that uses the power of your friendships to keep you productive.

Crowd-source your work productivity, and rely on the power of friends to keep you in line. I’m much more likely to stay productive if real people, or even better yet, current friends of mine, are the ones keeping me in check. The human aspect is why I prefer working at co-working spaces or coffee shops — because there are other people around which makes it harder to just goof off and do nothing.

How exactly would POW work?

First of all, you’d be paired with 4 other people to form work teams of 5. In the upper right of your screen, you’d have a small window which gave you a quick view into what your friends were doing right that moment (think TV-in-TV from the 1990′s). If you noticed one of your 4 friends was goofing off, you could click the “Lazy” button on them which would trigger a quick takeover of their screen indicating they’ve been spotted. See the quick wireframe below…

pow productivity

I firmly believe this would work. But I leave it up to someone else to build it…please send me a note if this exists, as I’d love to try out a service like this. And if this doesn’t exist and you build it…I’ll be your first beta tester.

PS: It doesn’t have to be named POW. Name it whatever you like :)

Centralized Trust System for P2P Marketplaces

There is a wealth of “sharing economy” sites (not sure what sharing economy is – read this), with new ones popping up everyday. AirBnb. Lyft. Uber. Kickstarter. TaskRabbit. Skillshare. etc

1280-sharing-evolution

Each sharing economy site has to build out their own trust system, which happens to be the most critical component to the viability of their marketplace — and the single hardest part to execute on (IMO). Users on their site need to know they are transacting with trusted people who will not rip them off.

There is an opportunity for a neutral source to aggregate user trust in the form of authenticated social media accounts, phone numbers, photo IDs (AirBnB just added this), and reviews that can be plugged into any peer-to-peer marketplace.

It looks like TrustCloud is already well down this path. But, surely, they aren’t at critical mass as of yet and someone could yank this opportunity from under them.

What do you think? A needed system? Or just added complexity?

[Image via http://www.fastcoexist.com/]