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


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/]

The Airport Gym

While traveling to South America and back last month, I spent a LOT of time in airports. I had 26 hours of travel time one way: 2 hours in the Buenos Aires airport, 3 hours on a flight to Santiago, 8 hours in the Santiago airport, 10 hours on a flight to Dallas, 2 hours in Dallas and a 4 hour flight back to Los Angeles.

airport gymAlmost all of that time was spent in a sitting position. My body stiffened up and I definitely felt very unhealthy from the lack of exercise and having to eat airline food.

It occurred to me that I would be willing to pay $15 for one time access to an airport gym where I could get in a good workout. I would pay $20 if that gym also had a basketball court.

There are tons of other businesses that operate beyond TSA security in airports (restaurants, gift shops, etc), why not a gym? I mean some airports even have those weird smoker aquariums so it only makes sense that someone should build a small gym to let people burn off some energy before their flight.

It could be monetized on a pay-per-use basis or with monthly or annual memberships for frequent travelers. The airport gym could be a franchise opportunity for an existing brand like 24-hour Fitness to widen it’s reach.

Getting some exercise would have been extremely good to help get my body moving again and pumping out all the toxins just sitting in my extremities. Traveling is inherently unhealthy in that you’re sitting idle for hours at a time, breathing in recycled air and probably not eating the healthiest food.

I think a lot of other people are like me out there and would happily pay a fairly large fee to get access to a gym with free weights, machines, and possibly a basketball court. Add in carry-on sized lockers and showers and you’re all set.

It would take some investment to lease a space in a busy terminal, but wouldn’t take long to prove if the concept would work or not. A major hub like LAX would be a good place to start because many travelers are coming in from (or about to embark on) long-haul flights and may have a lengthy layover — and would probably love to get some exercise.

The Code for Equity Platform

Small businesses and startups often have a hard time finding qualified technical help to build out their grand ideas.

code for equityFounders can turn to freelance sites like Elance or oDesk, but it can be difficult to sort through the dozens of applicants to find the diamond in the rough.

On top of that, top-tier talent is expensive. Bootstrapped operations may find themselves compromising on quality just to meet budget.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

What if you built out a platform to connect talented web designers, web developers and software developers with cash-poor but idea-rich entrepreneurs?

It could be a win-win for both parties. The companies could get the technical work done on the cheap or free, and the developers could get an ownership stake in the company or a share of potential future cash flows and growth.

The platform could be monetized in a similar way, by taking a small equity stake in each project. Over the long-term, that could be a very lucrative strategy if you end up facilitating some big hits, but might be complex to execute. Another option would just be to charge a flat listing fee for each project.


This unique set-up allows developers to essentially play venture capitalist, except with their time and skills instead of with their money. If they don’t need the income today, but have an eye for a great idea, the payoff could be much greater in the long-run than doing the job as a standard freelance gig.

In addition, there would be a greater incentive to build it right because they would have a legitimate ownership stake. Some skin in the game, as it were.

For business owners, your code for equity platform would solve the problem of finding and motivating engaged talent. And if your project lingers with no one jumping to help, perhaps that’s an early indication the idea isn’t that good.


Freelancers are freelancers and most of the time just want to get paid. They take on risk with each job and might not have the stomach for even riskier work — with the distinct possibility of never getting paid at all.

Even though the platform would allow them to pick and choose which projects they take on, I think it would still be a big hurdle to overcome. They can’t buy groceries today with startup equity and the promise of potential income tomorrow.

And in the reverse of the strength above, in the long-run the companies may end up dramatically overpaying for the initial development work if the project really takes off.


As far as I know, no one else is facilitating these kinds of freelance arrangements. (OK, I didn’t research it at all.) The concept could generate some buzz in the industry — positive and negative for sure.

But I believe there is a large market out there of entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs who have good ideas but don’t have the time or money or capacity to build them out. This platform would give them a low-risk alternative to go out and try and make something happen.


In terms of competitive threats, if this business idea takes off I imagine it would be pretty easy for Elance or oDesk to add “code for equity” checkbox and even provide some boilerplate legal contracts to set up the arrangement.

But if you can gain some traction I think there’s definitely room for this kind of unique niche in the freelance market.

Wrap Up

I like this idea because it’s not just about building one business, but about building hundreds or thousands of new businesses. And it’s about sharing the value created from those new enterprises.

What do you think? Should we build this? Better yet, should we try and get it built on a code for equity model to test the idea?

5 Business Ideas for Stay-at-Home Moms

Do you ever get the feeling life is passing you by because you’re always stuck in the house?

Even if you go out and do things during the day it still might not be enough. You chose to stay home and look after the kids, which is great, but it doesn’t mean you can’t try to make your life a little more exciting.

Have you thought about what you could do to pass the time when you have any available? Why don’t you try and start your own little home business?

Moms don’t need to sit around doing nothing and if you have an entrepreneurial spirit it’s quite easy to make a little cash on the side. At the end of the day, it doesn’t even need to be about the money, but watching your bank account increase is fun even if you aren’t struggling to put food on your table.

You might even be able to turn it into a bigger business once the kids have grown up, so if you’re interested we can look at a few ways you can get started building a home business.

Baking Cakes

Fresh Fruit Upside Down Cake

If you are great in the kitchen you could easily bake cakes all day at the same time as looking after the children. The cakes you make will depend on your skills, but if you could get people to order birthday or wedding cakes you could easily turn a nice profit.

You don’t have to limit yourself to making cupcakes for the village fair. You will need to do a big of marketing to generate some business, but once you have started word of mouth could help you along.

Selling Clothes


If you love designing your own clothes you could easily bring your creations to life faster than ever before. Once you have the proper machines you just need to go around collecting the materials and you’re set.

If you make a few garments for people you know they can show them off to everyone and rave about you. People are always looking for custom clothes that are unique and it means there should be enough people who will order from you.


#76 - The Harvest Writer

If you love writing then doing it at home with the intention of selling books is easy. You can easily write them all day long and upload them to somewhere like Amazon for free.

In the beginning it’s going to be tough, but after you built up an audience that loves your work you can easily sell a decent amount of copies. You might not become the next best-selling author, but at least you will have fun doing what you love.

Build an Online Business

If you were a businesswoman in a previous life you could start your own online business that can slowly be built up over the years. If you don’t have something to sell online you could think of something, or you could even provide a service to other people.

As your company grows you could slowly start to hire more staff and because everyone can work from home they will be easy for you to manage. You just need to find something the market wants.


Family, Hawaii

Some moms are not so lucky and they have to keep working because there might not be enough money coming in. That means they need someone to look after their small children.

You could start a little daycare center in your home because you’re going to be looking after your children anyway. If you love children it could be a fun way to pass the time, plus if you see how much daycare centers charge these days you’ll know you can make a nice bit of money.

Creative commons image credits:

Kish Winner is the author of today’s guest post and also an expert blogger. You might be interested in his Guide to franchise article, which gives tips on starting your own franchise.

Common Business Idea Mistakes

Nine months ago I created an Android app which helped people plan a business.  While I didn’t have a budget to advertise the app, the users of the app loved it, gave it great reviews and shared it, helping the app grow organically.

business idea appRecently the app hit 50,000 downloads and out of those downloads, there have been over 10,000 businesses planned on the app!

However, I noticed that the entrepreneurs on my apps were consistently running into difficulties in the idea-generation phase.

Since the topic of business ideas is such a common one, I have written extensively about some of the best-practice ways to come up with business ideas that are right for you. It is precisely at the idea stage that many companies make big, but very avoidable mistakes.

In this article I want to focus on some of the common problems with business ideas, and what the common pitfalls to avoid.


The overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs who need help with business ideas are first-time entrepreneurs. The reason for that is that there is a very low barrier to entry to begin thinking and dreaming about an idea.

But in reality, dreaming and hoping does not make someone an entrepreneur. Execution makes someone an entrepreneur. Ideas are worthless without execution. To the point we give them away for free on this site. Like the header says, “Ideas on us. Execution on you.”

So naturally, I observe a very high rate of people simply quitting their business ideas once there is no further material to dream about, and once there is actual work that needs to be done.

Part of the reason is that people often dream up ideas that do not take the full picture into account, largely because they do not have the experience to draw from in order to conceptualize what the big picture is for a particular idea. That commonly results in ideas which are simply not a great fit for the entrepreneur.


Often, people do not take their skills, strengths, and passions into account when evaluating their ideas. A good founder-to-idea match should have a balance of all three of these while also avoiding any weaknesses.

For example, if a person loves to cook, they may dream of opening a restaurant.  And even though food is a passion of theirs, restaurants require quite a bit of money to open and run until they can break even financially. So if the person cannot raise that money, then this kind of a business is not really playing to their strengths as much as it originally seems. Additionally, enjoying to cook is one thing, but running a restaurant is an entirely different thing — where the owner has to do everything else except cook.


First time entrepreneurs almost never know how to think deeply about the financials of a business.

Let’s take the same restaurant example. How much money does it take to open a successful restaurant? Most people find it difficult enough to count up the costs to start the business.

What is more difficult is to understand how many months the restaurant will be open, but will be losing money on a month to month basis, and how much money it will lose during those months.

But this is not even the most difficult part. The real challenge is gauging customer demand at various price points, while covering the costs to operate the restaurant at sustained long-term profitability.

And those concepts barely scratch the surface of the financial analysis that might be required to manage or run a restaurant (or any other business).

A first time entrepreneur rarely thinks that far ahead, let alone explores this issue with the care it deserves. Which means they’re often faced with ugly financial realities when it is already too late.


As we just saw in the example of a restaurant, getting into a business you may not understand deeply can lead to a substantial financial loss if you put your own money into it.

That is counter-intuitive to many people because many people see the idea of starting a business as something profitable.  In reality, businesses started by first time entrepreneurs have a shockingly high failure rate, and require substantial commitment of money, time and energy. The odds are high are that starting a business might actually make a person’s financial situation worse than it had been before, at least at the onset.

So as we’ve seen, a business idea is very different from actually starting a business. It is fun to dream and think about, but if you are actually planning on doing the business, you must approach it with a lot of care and discipline, and if you are able, get mentors who can help you.

The Treadmill Desk Revolution


Study after study after study keeps coming out with new findings about how bad sitting is for you.

Employees and employers are both starting to take notice. In recent years, we’ve seen dramatic increases in the number of alternative workspaces: desks with adjustable heights, exercise balls for chairs, standing desks (and chair-less conference rooms), and even the holy grail of them all — treadmill desks.

treadmill desk 5The Opportunity

There are literally millions of office desks in the US and all around the world that will be replaced with more “healthy” models. Understanding the long-term health risks of a sedentary environment, workers will begin to demand it, and employers will need to make the investment to attract and retain the best talent.

In the coming decade there is a HUGE opportunity for a motivated entrepreneur to step in front and ride this wave. Remember, “find a parade and get in front of it?” Well I sincerely believe this is going to be one giant parade.

Even if you only manage to capture a tiny fraction of the market, the office furniture business is a huge one, and it’s ripe for some serious disruption.

The Product

A treadmill desk, if you’re not familiar with the contraption, is simply a tall desk that stands over a treadmill. This way, workers can walk at a slow pace while they work. Of course it also works in “off” mode as a standing desk for when people get tired of walking.

I wouldn’t try and manufacture the treadmills yourself, but rather find a reliable existing model and look for either an adjustable desk you can customize around it, or have the desk portion manufactured.

One modification that will likely be necessary to the treadmill is some sort of noise dampener.

I built mine over a year ago (and absolutely love it!), but it is noisy. Both the treadmill and desk were acquired on the cheap on craigslist. The motor casing is just cheap plastic; I think with a little foam or other noise insulation it would run much quieter.

The benefit of sourcing from an existing supplier is you don’t have to worry so much about maintenance or warranty issues — done right, customers can be covered under the manufacturer’s product warranty.

And of course there’s the additional profit center opportunity of selling extended warranty plans for each treadmill.

The Competition

The treadmill desk idea has been around for a few years, but many entries in the marketplace are very expensive. Like $2000 and up!

At the other end of the spectrum are the hacked together DIY-jobs that are potentially unstable and loud, especially for an office environment.

An opportunity exists for a quality product with a middle-of-the-road price point. Do you think you can build and deliver that product to world full of unhealthy office furniture?

Next Steps

Begin researching the marketplace. How are office furniture sales typically made? Who are the decision makers? Make some calls and find out. Imagine landing an entire floor of an office, or an entire call center or complex as a client.

Find a suitable treadmill manufacturer. Inquire about volume discounts or wholesale pricing.

Do the same for the desks.

OK as I’m writing this the more and more I think this could really be a viable venture with a giant market. Anybody interested in checking it out and testing the waters?

The Craigslist Arbitrage Game

In every big city, there is a healthy Craigslist community. Among the many sections of the giant classified ads site is a popular section for free stuff.

craigslist arbitrageOf course, a lot of this stuff is pretty junky but in many cases it still has some value. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?

Last week I posted a dresser to the free section of Craigslist. I probably could have sold it, but it had been through several moves and was pretty banged up. Within 10 minutes I had half a dozen calls from people to come pick it up.

The family that made the first call arrived with a passenger van (seats removed) full of stuff, presumably all from Craigslist as well. It made wonder if they were running this as a business.

Here’s the basic premise:

  1. Find free or otherwise undervalued stuff on Craigslist or Freecycle.
  2. Re-sell it for a profit.

What you’d need:

  • A pickup truck.
  • A garage or other safe place for storage.
  • Cleaning supplies, tools, fix-it know-how, and a nice camera to take pictures.
  • Salesmanship.

For example, today I found an almost-new rowing workout machine listed for free:

“Wife bought, didn’t use. Can you? If so, come & get it. Please.”

workout machine


Brand new, the same item sells for more than $300 on Amazon!

Think you could turn a profit when you’re “cost of goods sold” is zero?

I like this business idea because it’s very simple, requires little to no start-up capital, and can be done without any specialized training or skills.

Be quick and courteous on the phone, grab the goods, clean/fix them up, take some nice pictures and re-post the items for sale.

I’ve actually heard of people doing this quite successfully with used cars (which is essentially what dealers do with trade-ins), but there is a lot more red tape to deal with in the car-flipping business.

As an added benefit, you can donate to charity any items that don’t sell and take a small write-off against your business profits.

I thought semi-seriously about doing this during college when I had a truck but never pulled the trigger. What do you think? Is playing the Craigslist arbitrage game a viable business idea?

The Playground Sports League

Beer league softball and flag football have been around for ages, which shows there is a strong demand for adult recreational sports.

Rec sports are popular for many reasons. For instance:

  • They give you a chance to burn some calories in a fun way
  • They offer face-to-face human social interaction
  • They let you relive your athletic glory days

Recently, I’ve seen a rise in “non-sports” sports leagues. Kickball leagues have taken off. A friend of mine even plays trampoline dodgeball on Monday nights!

Naturally, there’s an opportunity there.

Could you build a league of your own (or collection of leagues) that specializes in playground, backyard, or bar games?

Beyond kickball and dodgeball, what about:

  • Wiffle ball?
  • HORSE?
  • Ping pong? or Beer pong?
  • Shuffleboard?
  • Darts?
  • Croquet?
  • Capture the flag?
  • Kick the can?
  • Frisbee golf?
  • Ultimate frisbee?
  • Tag?

If you have access to public spaces for the games, you could start with almost no overhead. All you’d need is a website to promote sign-ups.

The challenge would be in creating a critical mass of players and teams, but after that, many will stick around season after season if you provide a good experience. In that sense, it’s a lot like a membership site in that it becomes a recurring income stream.

People are busy, but shouldn’t be too busy to have fun with friends and meet new people. Plus there’s always the nostalgia factor of playing some old-school games. Retro is in, if not just for the irony!

The Midnight Dentist

The Concept

Midnight Dentists is a website and network of dentists that specializes in after-hours dentistry.  All of the members of the dental network would have hours of operation after 6pm (local time) and would be open until 1am.

The Problem It Solves

Your average secretary, office worker and young professional has a challenge.  How to get dental care without having to take the day off of work.  A day off of work equals a net loss in income, productivity, and also exposes them to negative consequences depending on the establishment.  Even if they have dental benefits, they may not use them if they open themselves up to these negative consequences in order to exercise those benefits.

How It Solves The Problem

The Midnight Dentist network has a a wide connection of dentists all of which are open after normal business hours.  The user merely types in their zip code and a host of dentists in their area that can take them as patients.  A user can book online, request more info about the dentist’s education, rates, length of practice and whether and what kind of benefits they accept.

The Nuances

The average person these days that does not have a dentist already is concerned with a few things.

  1. Does my dentist take my insurance?
  2. Does my dentist have hours that accommodate my schedule?
  3. Are their positive (and negative) reviews available to tell me about her performance, office demeanor and ethics?  (Does she push for unnecessary services.)

A user will not be so consumed with whether or not the dentist went to Columbia or USC as much as they are concerned about other items.

How to Launch

I propose that you approach dentists already in place and ask them if they would be willing to have 2 days where their hours are 6pm to 1am.  If not, ask them if they would be willing to sublet their space for our purposes.

Effectively keeping the office open for later hours, but installing another dentist in their place.  Obviously their motivation would be the rent paid to them (plus money for use of the equipment.)  This would make for substantial savings over opening new offices and would keep the dentist ‘density’ the same.  In some cases, new offices would need to be opened in order to have full coverage in that area.


1-800-DENTIST – my plan would entail leveraging their database in lieu of a stock position in Midnight Dentist.  We would contact the dentists in their DB and offer them the the opportunity of working with us.  Not only does not hurt 1-800-DENTIST, but it actually improves their level of service!

Our dentists would be available through their network, but we could not offer the same to theirs as the hours are not appropriate.  However, this could easily become Win-Win.

In doing my research, 1-800-DENTIST was the only serious competition of any kind.  The other websites that specialize in Dentist search were cheesy and extremely localized.

How to Launch

I propose taking Los Angeles first and then working out the bugs, spread to NYC, Chicago and Houston.  Having the four major US Cities under our belt would give momentum to taking on the other 200 demographic zones or so zones in the US.

Need For Capital

The initial need would be for salaries and startup equiptment.  Rent, Internet access and  utilities for three months.  Initial outlay to purchase contact lists of local dentists, unless a partnership is established with 1-800-DENTIST and the like.  Need would hover about $50,000 to start with.

First Steps

Hire someone that has massive experience in building this sort of network.  Next, analyze how 1-800-DENTIST stands alone in its field.  I just sent in my info and was greeted with a polite email and also will be getting a call tonight.

They offer 3 referrals; all free.  Obviously the dentist is paying for the service.  It’s pretty ingenious.  Our program would do well to imitate what is working and improve on what is not.  It does not look like you can book online at 1-800-DENTIST, I was thinking we could offer that.  Unless there is a compelling reason not to.


Obviously developing a base of users quickly is the main challenge.  Aside from getting a list of 30 or so dentists to buy-in at the onset (for Los Angeles only.)  So money would be needed for massive advertising.  To get the ball rolling.  Probably $20,00 over the first 3 months.

A Smarter Way to Shop For Cars

Buying a car (new or used) is a pain point for many people.

Why? Because it’s a big purchase and there’s a general distrust of car dealers.

Although the Internet has brought about increased transparency, and made it more difficult for dealers to gouge buyers, there is still a lot of room for an improved car-buying experience.

New Cars

For new cars, the system I’m thinking of could be like a reverse auction system. A customer would enter the car they’re looking for, and dealers would bid for their business.

This is easier for new cars because a certain model of Camry for example is the same at Dealer A as it is at Dealer B.

Dealers would know they are in competition with each other and would have incentive to offer their best price. And customers, knowing the “bids” of all the nearby stores, would have better confidence in knowing they’re getting a good deal without having to haggle.

In an important contrast with other car shopping sites, your personal contact information would NOT be sold to the dealers. There’s nothing that pisses off customers more than getting hounded by salespeople when all they’re trying to find out is an honest price.

The system could have feedback mechanisms in place to reward good service and communication. And to punish dealers who abuse the system.

Used Cars

For used cars, the set-up would be a little trickier, but may be even more valuable. Instead of searching classifieds and other websites, customers could enter in the car they’re looking for either by model or type.

For example, you could put in Ford Escape 2006-2008, under 70,000 miles. Or you could input Small SUV, under 70,000 miles.

Similarly, dealers could then compete for your business in an open and transparent way.

Everyone wins. You get a better deal with less effort, and dealers get access to hot leads and only have to pay when they make a sale.


You’ll need to build a tracking system in which you earn a commission on each sale generated through the site, much like an affiliate marketing set-up.