Organizing Expats/Digital Nomads to Build Websites for Local Businesses

This idea is more of a non profit initiative and isn’t likely to make you any money. That said, it could certainly be a good route to build your personal network and, in turn, build an audience to market products your products and services to down the line.

The idea is extremely simple.

Organize the community of expats and digital nomads living in a particular city. Build a way for local businesses (and non profits and) to submit a request for a new website. That request would go to a dashboard, or an ambassador of that city, to be matched with a small team of digital nomads with varied skills. It seems a team of 4 people (designer, writer, marketing, and coder) could pretty easily build a fairly good, professional looking WordPress website as well as setup a basic social media strategy in a matter of hours.

Thought Process

  • There are many many expats and digital nomads floating around the world, many of them with extensive graphic designer, SEO, writing, marketing, business development, and online marketing experience. The vast majority of them have have considerable down time while they are staying in a particular location.
  • Most local businesses outside of the US don’t have websites — and if they do, they are horribly designed. Virtually none of them have a clue about how to drive business to their establishment via the web.

Therefore, it makes sense to match those two groups together with some sort of matching making service.

You could even team this with the backpacker time share service I mentioned earlier to give the backpackers something to do in their spare time.

Now, go make the world a better place and facilitate this website matching-making service.

[Photo via]

Create the Next Big Game App

By now you’ve probably heard that the makers of Draw Something, an iPhone/iPad version of Pictionary, sold their hit game to Zynga for $200 million.

From obscurity to millionaires in a matter of weeks.

With one simple idea.

So why not raid the old board game closet and find what’s next?  Words with Friends and Draw Something didn’t invent some crazy new game like Angry Birds did.  They just adapted old favorites to a new medium.

Here are some games to get your wheels turning.

  1. Sorry!
  2. Clue
  3. Monopoly
  4. Life
  5. Chess
  6. Risk
  7. Connect Four
  8. Yahtzee
  9. Boggle
  10. Apples to Apples

Could any of these be adapted for iPhone play and go viral with popularity?  Games where each player takes a turn seem to work best, but it doesn’t seem to matter whether the gameplay is competitive (Words) or cooperative (Draw).


Smartphone games typically make money in 3 ways:

  1. Advertising.  The free version of the game is supported by advertising, so you can collect revenue in this way.
  2. App sales. Sell a premium ad-free version and make 70% on every sale (Apple takes a 30% cut for running the app store).
  3. In-game sales.  Many games create a virtual currency that can be used in the app to buy additional features or bonuses.

Don’t know how to code an iPhone app?  Neither do I.  But hundreds of freelancers on Elance and oDesk do, and they’re just waiting for your idea and leadership.

“Travel Date” Match Making Service

If you’ve traveled by yourself, it’s all but inevitable you’ve gone on a “travel date” at some point during your travels. Unless you are a total hermit and stay in your room and don’t talk to strangers.

Travel dates are exactly what they sound like — a “date” with a fellow traveler to discuss travel and life. Even though you inevitably ask the same questions over and over regardless of the traveler, travel dates really are a great way to pass some time and get some fresh perspectives in the process. Sure, there are the occasional romantic dates that start from travel dates – but it’s certainly not the norm. While the early stage discussion is always the exact same — ie “where have you been, where are you from, how long are you traveling, where are you going next, what did you do in city X, etc” — the end almost always is unique. The goal of the early stage discussion is to identify a few common interests outside of travel. If there are none? Well, it’ll be a boring travel date.

I’ve gone on “travel dates” with multiple travelers in this fashion – the most recent being having a few beers in Vientiane with a 24 year old from English web designer as a result of connecting through

The actual business idea related to “travel dates”?

Create a matching making service for travelers who want to meet other travelers, and figure out a way to cut out the first part of the conversation from the equation — ie connect travelers based on some shared interests outside of travel rather than just based on geography (which is how most travel dates originate now).

Revenue model:

  • Ads
  • Charge a “per meeting” fee (it’s got to be small)
  • A travel date service seems more like a “feature” than a real business
  • You need real critical mass of travelers all across the globe
  • Incentivizing travelers to input their interests (or anything else) is not easy

Is this a business idea? Or a feature idea?

Inspiration for this travel business idea came from Christine Amorose’s tweet earlier today and Wandering Earl’s post.

Content Curation for Any Extremely Niche Industry

I think — HOPE — everyone agrees with me that there is value in content curation. If you don’t agree, you probably won’t like this business idea.  The idea is one I first mentioned this idea on my personal blog, but I wanted to expand on the idea a bit here…

Particularly in an age where the web is littered with useless crap (IMO), finding sources of news that cut out all the useless news in a given vertical is valuable to me. That’s content curation. At a high level, the business idea I’m referring to is to follow the most influential individuals in a given vertical — meaning Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and whatever other platforms are prevalent in their vertical — and summarize the absolute most relevant/interesting/important conversations and links that they share. There ARE people out there (like me) who want to follow that news, but don’t have the time to wade through everything to find the nuggets of value.

Why I like it:

  • Time intensive, but no capital is required beyond building a basic website, and an email service like MailChimp or AWeber.
  • Builds your personal brand and credibility
  • It can be done from anywhere with an internet connection
  • It works with ANY vertical. Travel. Ecotourism. Microfinance. House Sitting. Astronomy. Budget travel. NASCAR. Barbie dolls. Handicrafts. Seattle Mariners. You get the picture..

Challenges to Overcome:

  • ALL the data is public (at least in the beginning until you start to get offline tips from your audience), so anyone can easily out-curate you.
  • You need to get to know the influencers and build real relationships with them by providing value to the discussion

Business Model:

  • Charge a few dollars a month to individuals to sign up for the mailing list. once you have a few hundred paying subscribers, you start to have a real business.
  • Curate for free — and monetize your audience later with consulting, selling other products, affiliates, etc

What do you think?

[Photo via]

Personalized Daily Deal Aggregator

Like most people, I subscribe to several “daily deal” sites — Groupon, Living Social, etc.  The problem is 90% of the time I have no interest in what they’re selling, so their emails mostly end up being digital clutter in my inbox.

What if you could create a customized web or smartphone app (or still email) that allowed users to select what kinds of deals they were actually interested in.  For example, just in the past couple days I’ve gotten emails for:

  • Brazilian Blowout (I don’t even know what that is!)
  • Facial Peel
  • Unlimited Yoga Classes
  • 1-Hour Massage + Chiropractic Care
  • 56% off Speaker Dock + Hair Products
  • 20 Yoga Classes
  • 3-Day Football Camp
  • $100 to Spend on Fabric
  • Family Photo Package
  • $20 for $60 of Flatware

You get the idea — there’s no targeting on these messages which means it’s a huge opportunity for someone to create it.

Your business is to aggregate and categorize all the daily deal feeds, and then send to subscribers based on their preferences.  Pretty simple.  Instead of getting a half dozen (often) irrelevant emails, people get just one (hopefully) super-relevant email.

Conversion rates go through the roof and you’ll typically be able to make an affiliate commission on each sale you refer.

A Backpacker “Time Share” Type Service

Resulting from not having a full time job and the fact I’ve been traveling for the last three months, I’m been brainstorming a number of business ideas related to traveling.

My latest business idea — a time share type service focused on backpackers (aka budget travelers). We all know timeshares are popular with the 35+ crowd, but why can’t the younger crowd have access to the same type of service? Of course, the accommodations wouldn’t be as nice since budget travelers are, how do you want to say it, on a budget. For example, in Chiang Mai where I’m living now — an apartment can be had for less than 5,000 Thai baht (about $170 US dollars) per month. I’m paying about $300 per month at Smith Residence, but there are certainly cheaper places to be had.

My room in Smith Residence in Chiang Mai

This idea actually originally started with the fact that I believe the world needs more “iHubs” and thinking through how to connect like minded travelers with each other to both collaborate further on business opportunities and build lasting friendships in the process. It came back to my mind, and evolved a bit, after speaking with Ian a couple weeks ago and he mentioned that he was thinking about just renting his place here for the long term and use it as a home base to travel around Southeast Asia. Leave all his stuff here in Chiang Mai so as to travel lighter to Burma, Laos, China, Malaysia, etc — and the holy grail being if he could rent it out to another traveler while he was gone on a long trip to recover some of the cost.

The service would be pretty simple. What’s Needed:

  • Rented rooms in cities across the globe
  • Booking system so that backpackers/nomads in the network can reserve a spot in the rooms
  • Bonus: amenities and goodies at some of the places. For instance, a motorcycle that could be used while in Chiang Mai would be awesome.

Revenue model:

  • Travelers would pay into the network on a monthly or yearly basis

Investment Needed:

  • Enough capital to rent rooms for 6 months in 8-10 cities – call it $20k (total guess)
  • Capital to build a great website that included a booking system and payment platform – call it $15k
  • Marketing – $3k

The location selections would be vital to making this a success. If it were up to me? The cities would include Chiang Mai, Santiago (never been), Rio (never been), Barcelona, Nairobi, Cape Town (never been), New York, San Francisco, New Orleans (never been), Santorini, Hanoi, Beijing (never been), and Istanbul (never been).

On a small scale, I wouldn’t be opposed to teaming with 4-6 other digital nomads and each “owning” a city — and coordinate some way to share a common calendar so as to determine who is planning to be where at what time. But that said, I truly believe this could be a real business for someone if done right.

The idea…is all yours. Make it happen, and you have your first paying customer already — provided the price and initial city selection are right.

A Tuk Tuk Team that Serves Beer

As you likely know, marketing any business is an expensive undertaking. To combat that, “teams” are used in many verticals to share marketing expenses and resources amongst a group that has similar goals (as well as to pool together individuals with complementary skill sets).

While spending a few weeks in Siem Reap, Cambodia about a month ago, I noticed a theme — many Tuk Tuks were branded (mostly with super hero characters). There was the spidermobile. The batmobile. The super batmobile. But also a few car brands such as Ferrari and BMW. Not sure why I didn’t see the Thor-mobile or Hulk, but maybe in another 5 years, a tuk tuk driver will get a creative and go beyond the most well known heroes.

The business idea I came away with is quite simple: create a tuk tuk team. Organize a group of tuk tuk drivers (10-20 to start), pick a theme that provides some flexibility and fun elements to play off of, and brand all the tuks tuks with similar colors and logos. Then blanket the city. What kind of themes? Personally, I think a movie theme would be quite fun. Image a team of tuk tuks, and each one is painted with one or two characters from famous movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Old Skool, Star Wars, Gladiator, and Braveheart. But any common theme could work. Sports teams. Car brands. Famous artists.

And a bonus to take the business to the next level? Serve ice cold beers from an ice chest. Particularly for tours of Angkor Watt that last a day or two — who WOULDN’T want a few ice cold beers while being driven around? Come to think of it, a “Beers of the World” branded tuk tuk team would be a no-brainer.

Why I like it:

  • SUPER Simple – a little paint, and away you go
  • Conversation Starter – a common theme is an easy way to stand out from the bland, unbranded tuk tuks that litter the city

Tuk tuk teams could work anywhere, not just in Siem Reap. Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Dar Es Salaam, etc.


Mobile Laundry Service

Successful businesses often get paid to solve a problem for their customers.  And for a lot of people, especially in urban areas without on-site facilities, laundry is a problem:

It’s time-consuming, menial, and costly.

It sounds like an opportunity to create a mobile laundry service that lets busy people outsource the chore.

I invision this as a weekly or bi-weekly pick-up service. Just like the garbage man, right?  You come by and grab the bags of dirty laundry and return them freshly cleaned.

Customers no longer have to worry about going to the laundromat, buying detergent, finding enough quarters, and killing time waiting for everything to finish.

Why I like it:

  • Recurring Revenue Model.  It’s a membership system; as long as you keep customers happy, you can collect income week after week, month after month, and year after year.
  • Start Small.  Starting out, you can make pick-ups in your own car, and maybe even use your own washer and dryer.
  • Upsell Opportunities.  Depending on how you price your service, folding and ironing could be extra, and you can add-on services like dry cleaning.  In the beginning you can partner with a local laundromat or dry cleaner and they will probably be happy to offer some volume discount in return for your business.

I HATE ironing and I can’t be the only one!

It’s All About the Story

Convincing people to change their habits is never easy, but it can be done with a compelling story.  You’ve probably seen the Dollar Shave Club video that’s been making the rounds lately.  They’ve got a great story and there’s no reason you can’t create something similar for your mobile laundry service.

You’re selling convenience, yes, but you’re also kind of selling a lifestyle.  ”Laundry?” your customers will say. “I’ve got people for that.”

Two Challenges to Overcome:

  1. Security — how will you arrange pick-up and delivery so clothes don’t get stolen?
  2. Privacy — how will you make customers trust you with their underwear?

What do you think? Done right, I bet something like this could take off in New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, or other apartment-dense cities.

Junk Hauling Service

Americans have more “stuff” than anyone else on earth.  In fact, we don’t even have room for it all so we built a billion-dollar industry out of self-storage.

But with great amounts of stuff comes great opportunity.  It all has to go somewhere, and that’s where you come in with your junk hauling service.

Sure, there are competitors in this space already, but here a few reasons I like it:

  • Low Start-Up Costs.  You can get a cheap pick-up or rent a moving van.
  • Potential Multiple Income Streams.  People pay you to take their stuff away, and if it’s worth anything, you can sell it on craigslist or ebay.  Now how many businesses can you think of with a negative cost-of-goods-sold?  Alternatively, you can turn around and donate it to Goodwill and take the write-off.
  • Easy to Expand.  Expanding into new territories is as easy as getting another truck and driver, and expanding into other verticals like moving or delivery services is as easy as saying you’re a moving/delivery company too.

Your Strengths:

Junk removal can be a boring business, so you have to find ways to make it fun and exciting.

For marketing, you could make videos about the biggest/smallest/weirdest/most worthless stuff people asked you to haul.  Maybe your drivers wear crazy JunkBusters uniforms a la Ghostbusters.

Two Weaknesses:

  1. One downside is many customers will view this as a commodity service, so it might be tough to avoid price wars with competitors.  Build a recognizable and desirable brand and you’ll be golden.
  2. With junk hauling, most customers will be one-time clients.  If you can master customer-acquisition/sales and potentially find some repeat business on the side, I think it can still work.

One man’s trinket is another man’s treasure, and there’s definitely no shortage of trinkets. Time to back up the truck and make some money!

A “BETTER” Social Network IS Possible

From Fred Wilson’s The Next Generation post:

Another eighth grader said he wanted to build a better social network, one that was based on the things that interested him and one that would connect him with kids around the world that were interested in the same things.

I have to agree that a BETTER social network is possible. Heck, anything – except defying gravity – is possible. Like this eighth grader Fred mentions, I desire a network that connects me with like minded individuals all across the globe. I want a network that identifies people who share my same interests, values, and habits (microfinance, social entrepreneurship, web, travel, non materialistic, etc) — no matter where they are located in the world. I want a network that knows where I am in the world (being the traveler that I am). I want a network that recommends very specific people who I should reach out to when I get to my next location. The PERFECT social network would identify potential “best”/”great” friends. All WITHOUT making me spend any time scouring the web for people to meet. I’m certainly more than willing to do some research, write them a custom request, etc. But finding the people who I know I will relate to in the first place is a hugely time consuming process right now. They are certainly out there, there’s just no central spot to find them — instead they are scattered on niche sites all across the web. Facebook helps me keep in touch with the people I already know, but it doesn’t help me meet new people.

Yes, competing with Facebook to build a better social network isn’t going to be easy. Then again, nothing worth doing is easy. Facebook’s shelf life isn’t going to be infinity — eventually another social network will come along and capture the crowd the same way Facebook did a few years ago. You just have to figure out how to be that social network…

What does a BETTER social network entail to you?