The Ultimate Resource for Local Happy Hours

Who doesn’t love happy hour? I think we can all agree that leaving work early to grab some cheap food and drink with friends is pretty great.

And I think we can also all agree that reliable information on local happy hours is hard to find. There is no central resource or database for happy hour locations, times, and specials.

Which is why it would make a great business.  This is something that can start locally and expand to new geographic areas like Yelp did.  And, like Yelp, much of the content can be crowdsourced.

In real life, we’re most likely to hear about a great happy hour from friends through word of mouth. This business (a website and mobile app) simply takes that experience online and scales it.

I’ll even give you the name. How about Happy Hour Hero?


Once you have the userbase and eyeballs, restaurants and bars will be happy to pay you to get in front of these new customers.

But like any operation, it’s crucial to nail the user experience first. Reach out to influencers and connectors and see if you can’t begin to gain some critical mass.

Restaurants and bars can also be a great source of information, and should be invited to submit their happy hour details on the site as well. A smart proprietor or franchisee will recognize the low barrier to entry into this new platform and jump at the opportunity to pitch his business in another new avenue.

What do you think? Let’s discuss over drinks at happy hour!

The 2-Minute Personalized News Digest

The traditional newspaper business may be dying, but that is creating opportunity for new business models.  It’s not that people have stopped consuming the news; it’s that they’ve stopped paying for it.  Reading the newspaper is time-consuming and costly, not to mention the information delay problems that come from printing and delivery time.

The majority of the news I don’t care about, and I would venture to guess most other people don’t care either.  Mitt Romney selected Paul Ryan as his running mate?  Great.  Does that impact my day at all?  Not in the least.

However, if Google rolled out a new advertising product, or Nike launched a new must-have sneaker, that’s something I might like to know.

But what if you could introduce an efficient and personalized news service worth paying for?

Curate content from different sources and email people a 2-minute daily digest on the topics they’re interested in.  Topics could be very granular.  Charge a monthly subscription fee.

People don’t want to be ignorant, but pertinent information needs to be delivered quickly in need-to-know chunks.

Google Alerts is the closest product to this I’m aware of.  It’s free, which is an advantage, but the results aren’t awesome.  I think there’s room for a premium model.

A million subscribers at $1 a month is a $12 million a year business.  It scales nicely, costs nearly nothing to procure and deliver.   Plus you’ll be developing email lists of people proven to have an interest in given topics, which lends itself well to advertising opportunities for additional revenue streams.

Could be a winner.  What do you think?

A SIMPLE Web Services Payment System

Subscriptions are a pain to pay for, yet they are an amazing source of repeat revenue for organizations. Things like ESPN Insider, a web host like dreamhost, NYT premium, etc.

Even though the steps involved for each one are almost the exact same, it’s a process I repeat over and over. It’s fragmented, and annoying.

There are services online that I WOULD pay for, if I didn’t have to setup another recurring profile somewhere. And if I knew is was drop dead simple to shut it off the minute it ceases to add value to my life.

The business idea? Build what built for donating to charities at Startup Weekend Amsterdam, but applied to web services. Apple proved that if you make it simple enough to pay for content or services you value, users will do it rather than hunt around for a free way to get the same content or service. The ease of use is worth money to many, including me.

And yes, I know there are a number of of payment systems. Such as MergePay. The length of this summary of MergePay on NextWeb tells me one thing. It’s too complex

Make the payment system simple.




Create a Product or Service to Sell on Fiverr

Do you know about  It’s a fun and useful marketplace where everything is just $5.  I’ve used it for some graphic design work, article writing, and even bought a bracelet made out of baseball seams.

You can find a ton of stuff on there, ranging from helpful to hilarious.  The question is, why not sell your own product or service?


Although some people are selling physical products, I believe the bigger opportunity is with digital products like software, ebooks, or video guides.  Because you only collect $4 (Fiverr takes a $1 cut on every sale), a digital product works best because it has a zero cost-of-goods-sold and can be delivered for free electronically.

What are you an expert in? Could you create an awesome video tutorial on how to more effectively manage your time at the gym?  How about a guide on how to earn thousands of free frequent flyer miles?  Or how to crate-train a stubborn dog?  The possibilities are endless.


I’m less enthusiastic about selling services, because they will usually involve your time, and I’m somewhat opposed to trading hours for dollars — especially such small dollars.

Some examples of services you’ll find beyond the article writing and graphics work mentioned above might be marketing consultations, software debugging, resume editing, foreign language practice via skype, and more.

The opportunity I see in selling services is as a creative lead-generation tool for other areas of your business.  For example, if you’re a travel agent, you could offer some insider tips on where to stay in Tokyo.  Then, explain how you can save your Fiverr client money if they decide to book through you.

The best thing about Fiverr is that the marketplace and the customers are already in place.  If you can carve out some shelf space and deliver a great product or service, you’ve got a nice little side business.

DVD Rentals – from Your Neighbors

You’ve probably heard of ZipCar. But you probably haven’t heard of GetAround, a startup in San Francisco my friend Jon Sterling showed me over coffee a few weeks ago. The difference between the two — GetAround connects you with locals who put their own cars up for rent.

Extend the same concept to DVDs to take on RedBox with a true person to person DVD sharing platform.

My friends’ family has a wall of DVDs and Blue Rays at least as big as the photo to the right (and more like twice as big). There is a RedBox about a quarter of the mile away, but I still stand a better chance of finding a movie I want to watch if I walk two doors down and borrow one from my neighbor.

There are four challenges to this approach in my mind:

  1. Convincing individuals to upload their entire DVD inventories – How do you convince individuals to upload their entire library to make it searchable (and tagged to a lat/long)? It seems the only real way to do this is to build the upload tool straight into DVD players, so that every time someone watches a DVD, it auto submits that to their digital library.
  2. Making it worthwhile for individuals – Users should get paid, maybe $2 per rental? Is that even worth the hassle of loaning out their DVDs for days at a time?
  3. Pick Up – how do you organize picks and drop offs when the DVDs are sitting in living rooms across the country?
  4. Reaching scale – how do you get to a point where anyone that uses the site can find someone to borrow a DVD within a mile or two of their house?

What do you think? Would this work, or is getting individuals to upload their entire DVD libraries too much of a hurdle for not enough financial gain?

[Photo via]

A “Hedge Fund” That Invests in Websites

Ever dreamed of being a Wall Street kingpin?  If you could pool investment money and use it to buy income-producing websites, you could literally start your own mini hedge fund.

There is a healthy marketplace for websites on and other sites, and I think there a massive opportunity to build a real business around this idea.

A website will typically sell for 6-24 months earnings, which in a traditional sense is an insanely low multiplier.  In investment terms, that would mean 50 – 200% returns!

If you can attract investors looking to diversify and potentially destroy the returns they’re getting from stocks or other mutual funds, you’ll have a limitless pool of funds to draw from.

Let’s say you average a 50% return on your website acquisitions — that’s huge! Share the proceeds amongst your investors, keep some for profit and overhead, and repeat.

What you’ll need:

  • Become an expert in Flippa and other website marketplaces.  Learn how to evaluate the value of each sale and how to separate the winners from the duds.
  • A maintenance / monetization staff.  Good income-producing websites are mini-businesses themselves, and it’s rare to find a business that runs completely on auto-pilot.  You’ll need a small team (think virtual employees) that can handle content creation and general troubleshooting issues.
  • Some starter funds.  Although you can get started in this business for less than $500, it will take more to build a serious and sustainable portfolio.  In a venture like this nobody wants to be the first sucker, but if you can generate some consistent returns over time you’ll have people beating a path to your door.

Because the Internet is a young and constantly changing medium, this business idea is certainly not without risk.  Among them:

  • Regulatory red tape.  You’ll have to be careful how you market yourself to avoid trouble with the SEC.
  • Liquidity.  If you (or your investors) need to cash out, it could take some time.  Selling a website isn’t as easy as selling a stock.
  • Google drama.  Many sites are monetized via AdSense, which is becoming notorious for arbitrarily shutting down whole accounts.  Diversified revenue streams will help mitigate this risk.

Still, the rewards and upside potential make it worthwhile to figure out a way around the challenges.

I think a pretty cool business could be built around this idea. All it takes is someone with the ganas to start it.


Video Cliff’s Notes

English Lit majors will hate me for this, but I believe most people are perfectly happy with an entertaining plot summary and some bullet-point takeaways.  I once met a woman who thought The Death of Ivan Ilyich was the greatest book ever written.

Spoiler alert: he dies.

I think people have a basic desire to know and understand classic literature — enough to be conversational and maybe get some trivia questions right.  Certain works are part of our collective culture — but that doesn’t mean we need them read it line-by-line and analyze every passage.  (As my English class did with Heart of Darkness).

Even as an ace student, I relied heavily on Cliff’s Notes.  But the problem is, they’re not much better than reading the actual book.

The Pitch:

Create short videos for classic books.  I’m picturing some pen-and-ink-style animation like the Story of Stuff YouTube videos, but really it’s up to you.

  • Plot summary
  • Literary analysis
  • Historical significance
  • 5-10 minutes MAX

Well TED talks get away with 20 minutes so maybe people will have a longer attention span, especially if they’re paying you.  And even at 20 minutes, you’re still saving them HOURS over actually reading.

How to Monetize:

You could turn this into a business in a few different ways.  You could put up a few teaser videos   to get people interested, and keep most content behind a paid membership wall.  The advantage of this is the recurring revenue stream and the scalability.

Another option is to charge by the title.  The price point would have to be pretty low, but there’s a lot of volume potential.  I mean every year how many millions of students have to read Hamlet, right?

A third monetization strategy would be to give all the short video away for free, and charge for “premium” service — access to your team of English majors or librarians, more in-depth analyses, one-on-one essay writing help, etc.  It would be more labor intensive but could be positioned as a more high-end service.

What do you think?  Start-up costs wouldn’t be huge.  Just need an animator/video editor and a giant passion for literature.

Disclaimer: I’m a reader.  But I think there are a lot of people who would find value in this service.  This business idea isn’t about cheating; it’s about making learning more fun and efficient.

How Facebook Could Single Handedly Wipe out the Online Dating Competition

I firmly believe Facebook could wipe out the online dating competition (eharmony,,, etc) by adding a single field to their database (or maybe a couple from a technical perspective).

On the profile page of all your friends (and heck, even your non friends) — add a drop down field viewable only to you labeled “I want to:” with the following options “Date/Marry/Hookup/Not Interested”.

You could go through you friends and choose your interest level in each of them. A notification would go to both parties IF both parties indicated they had the same interest in each other. For example, if only one party indicates that they want to “date” a particular friend of theirs, that info stays hidden from everyone forever unless the other friend makes the same indication back at their friend.

What better way to form romantic relationships than by facilitating a discussion between two parties who are interested in the same thing?

Sure, there is the discovery of people that aren’t your current friends who could be a good match for you. That’s essentially what eHarmoney and Match are built on. However, Facebook has enough data to make those recommendations better than Match or eHarmony can — particularly if all their users start telling Facebook what their preferences are based on the types of people they are interested in.

I realize this is another extremely niche business idea since Facebook is likely the only company that can pull it off. Maybe someone can figure out a way to do this using a Facebook login system. The challenge with that approach is then each of your friends has to authorize and app and then interact with it rather than simply changing a drop down field when looking at a friend’s profile.

Thoughts? Would you use this feature if it existed on Facebook?

A Really Really Niche Business Idea (for Old Website Companies)

Remember Geocities? Remember Tripod?

I had websites on both of those sites back in the day — circa 1994 or 1995 I’d guess.

If they can retrieve those websites in their entirety and deliver me the html files? I’ll buy them so I can put them online on my own server. I just want to have them for old times sake.

Tripod? Geocities? Hackers that know how to retrieve sites no longer online? Bueller?

Membership Website

A membership website is a simple business model that is both very simple and very lucrative.  Imagine you ran a membership site with 1000 people, all paying you $10 a month.  How about 10,000?

Pretty nice, right?

Think of it like a country club online.  Members pay for special privileges, exclusive access, camaraderie with like-minded people, and (importantly) they buy into the idea of belonging to something.

And the thing is, there are successful membership websites for nearly every niche imaginable, from cooking to marathon training.  

Everyone is in an expert in something — what’s your specialty?

The beauty of a membership site is the power of leverage.  It will take roughly the same amount of work to produce content for 10 people as it would for 1000.  All that extra income is just gravy.

So how to get started?

  1. Establish expertise.  Anyone can be an expert at anything, it just takes some time to study up and become an authority.
  2. Establish trust.  Be honest and authentic.
  3. Establish value.  Deliver amazing content people won’t find anywhere else.

What most people do is give away some content for free, but put the REALLY good stuff behind the membership wall.  Maybe you put a few teaser videos out for the public, but make people join for access to a private forum, exclusive how-to’s, and personal attention from you, the expert.

There are some powerful WordPress plug-ins that can add a membership layer to any WordPress site, so you don’t even have to worry about the technical implementations.

The downside to starting a membership website is that you may be signing yourself up for many years of creating content.  But if you choose a niche you’re passionate about, it probably won’t seem like work at all.  Plus, you’ll have your entire membership base to keep you motivated and it can turn into a great support community.

For more information, check out Seth Godin’s Tribes and Chris Brogan’s Trust Agents.  And then get to work!