The folklore at microsoft says that ms got super interested in what real audio was doing when Jeff Raikes found out he could listen to sports programs from his old university. Jeff is, in my opinion, an incredibly smart guy and, having worked for the man, i tend to believe he was a quiet driver behind ms getting cooking with stuff to keep former msft type RobG honest.
fast forward to today. if you use any number of the travel sites, they all, to one degree or another, allow you to import travel information into your calendar. and, of course, if you are putting meetings and such in your calendar, it will be pretty complete.
somebody should make a net service that i can point my calendar at which will return to me sports that are happening in the town i'm going to be in. wouldn't it be awesome to have a site that could tell you the spurs were in town that night, tickets were available, and with one click or a return email, you could get seats.
hard to do? not at all. Ticketmaster, the monster agency, sets up affiliates all over the place to sell tickets. Somebody should get a license, electronically, to be an affiliate and do this. or offer a service to the venues. expand it to music and other events in the city you are travelling.
build a prototype and get the somebody to try it. who knows? But, of course, the larger issue is providing useful services of the obvious. We all know what we like and telling our computer/pda/phones what that stuff is, should allow us to get more out of where we are and, in the process, make somebody a few bucks.
i don't need a list of steak resturants, i need to know the nicks are in town when i'm in town.
You've seen and heard it, right? The smart oven that keeps things cold until you use your PDA/Smartphone to start cooking the turkey and if you get stuck in traffic or your airbag deploys, the cooking time/temp gets adjusted. uh huh..
let's start with something simple.
give me a sub 20 dollar USB bar code reader for my PC. next, let me scan my food items in as i use em up or want to order more. then, at a press of a button, my list hits a priceline for groceries and automatically finds me the overall cheapest price for my basket of food. but really cheapest including, if i so choose, my time, my gas mileage, etc. None of this is hard and none of this requires anything new. So how come this hasn't happened?
Every grocery store in north america has access to the UPC database and every grocery store in north america has a database of what they have in stock.
Online grocery stores mostly failed because they are not habit and are, in general, a pain in the ass to use. a scanner, one click, and a suggestion on where to get all this stuff, would be simple. We are going to the store anyway cause we want some deli, want to squeeze the tomatoes ourselves so make it easy on me. get my list done up in the order of the store aisles, add some specials to the list i create, and we are off.
now, the interesting thing about this is? You aren't trying to change consumer habits, rather make it easier which might actually result in more sales. and once you have one store in town offering this service, others will want to compete if they see customers going other places. Hmmm, you sell them the services for your local market. Then, demand pricing.. A program for the grocery store that says to the customer, come in today and i'll give you the whole basket of goods for X dollars. The grocer doing demand pricing? Everything can be a loss leader to get the customer in to buy other stuff? Amazin...
think about it. The grocery business is all about making pennies. Offer to make them more money and you should get somebody to listen. Try the local IGA who is trying to compete with the monster. It's all software.
“Food” for thought on this cold winter night in Toronto, Canada.
when i type whatever in google or my favorite search engine, it would be nice if i could get the results of what everybody else did morphed into mine and displayed as what others thought was useful. if you typed in looking for websites on MP3 players to pick a bad example, i'd like to have the results displayed as X number of people thought this site was actually useful as well as linking to these sites.
and then rank those by how many people agreed with that ranking. a giant feedback loop that allows 'smart' people to bubble up to the top.
and another thing. if i want to buy a new coffee maker, i really don't care what some so called 'expert' says. naah, i want to know what the consumers who already own them say. today, it's too hard to entice people to fill in what they like, what works for them, and what hints/tricks/tips are useful. lots and lots of businesses (aka dot bomb) have gone after this in some fashion, mostly failing..
solve this problem and you will get rich because my time and my money are worth something to me. get me better value/satisfaction for my money in less time and I will pay for it. so will others.
i've had a number of people ask me why asp.net as a place for a weblog. personally, i can't stand suits and the stiffs that wear them. somehow creating a blog that is read mostly by corporate types wanting to take a meeting to schedule the review of the meeting about my ideas, does not exactly inspire me to clicking on the post button. i'd much rather have techs, geeks, and change the world types, read it and offer comments that might inspire a new hit product.
consider this website: www.rentacoder.com . While Fortune and other biz rags are talking about the destruction of jobs/coders here in north america, there's this amazing website of code jockeys doing great work for great prices. Yes, many people in many countries neither your or I can spell are on this site. However, I've gotten work done from a guy on a house boat in desolation sound (Canada) and two people in Maine. Great code, good prices, and the dollars stayed here in North America. Now, I personally have no issue with somebody in [fill in the blank] making a living and offering services. i do, tho, admire the FLA residents that created this site, that are making some good coin and giving some developers some great opportunities.
And if you look carefully, you will see that the site has a great feedback/trust system. All hand crafted. Hmmm.. Wouldn't every forum want this type of thing. Ebay does it, Amazon's stores has it, etc. But they are all different. Seems like somebody should make a feedback system and sell it. A hosted solution perhaps.
i've just come back from the movies. to speed up time, i use the movietickets website to pre-pay my tickets and cough up an extra dollar per ticket to avoid standing in line. i hate standing in line, any line, for anything. the theater is crowded but we get to go over to the kiosk, pick up our tickets, and zip on by the folks lined up to buy tickets. To the popcorn line.. agggh.. a line. what makes matters worse is that no self respecting adult would ever be seen behind the counter serving up popcorn, candy, and diet pepsi. So we have dirk's first day on the job figuring out how to make change, get the drink topped up, and squirting fake butter onto popcorn. slowly..
So how hard would it be to have express service? Just a line where large bags of corn are ready along with bottles of drink, ready to go. Even better, how about using the technology for the online movie ticket purchase one step further. after entering my ticket order, i pre-order my popcorn and drink. Done. Pre-paid. Service charge added. Now, I'm in theater 2 of 16, so outside theater two, I show my receipt and get handed my drink and popcorn. worth 3 bucks more? dunno.. The theater knows when i've ordered, knows when i've checked in, and could easily bring a tray full of orders right into the theater. i might buy more, i might even pay more to avoid the line and just walk, non-stop, to my seat.
now the point of the above is not to start a raging debate over food costs (cups vs. bottles) or labor costs or for sure a privacy debate. rather, the point is to point out that technology's baby steps (buying movie tickets but not popcorn online) is just another indicator that lots of opportunities exist for great businesses.
(and another thing about movies: Bring back indoor double features. time the movies so that you can have a bio-break and corn refill. I'm already there, sell me more stuff...)
The Consumer Electronic Show is an amazing show for all the obvious reasons; new gadgets, next generation views, Vegas, cheap buffets (not), and a chance to just see across a number of industries all at once.
ignore most of it.
if you want to have your mind overblown with ideas and a real glimpse of what's coming, make sure you spend a solid day in the Las Vegas Hilton's convention center/exhibition center. this is the convention space between the hotel and the LVCC. A zillion people pour through this space but lots don't stop. What's in here? Asia, Eastern Europe, and all the places that are making things cheap, fast, and way ahead of everybody else. It is in here that you will find MP3 players for $30. Quantity 50. 30fps MPEG-4 Viewers for under 200 bux. And component manufactures that can build you anything you want, in any case you want, any size you want, almost any price you want. Want to add wireless to your toy invention? $12 will get you the chip set. Digital Camera in that desktop pencil holder, no problem, the whole thing on one simple board.
The point is that for a day of your time, you can become an almost expert on where to get things, small, fast, and cheap. It has never been easier to get an idea done and to market. Next time you go to CES, check this area out. Well worth your time.
picture this. you are a true gadget junkie and you are really organized. everything is in outlook. all your meetings, tasks, etc. rock solid. you go into an important meeting. the first thing everybody does is? Turn off the cell phones. why? Your calendar knows where you are, in a meeting marked important. your computer is connected to the internet and your cell phone is on and 'connected' to the outside world. what's the deal here? how come my computer doesn't put my phone on mute status unless it's a call from a family member of which has been marked in my contact list which is, of course, sync'd to my phone, wirelessly, without me having to do anything other then pay the cell, internet, and electric bills.
If you are sitting down typing in Word, what does the computer know about you? It knows where you are. If you are driving in your car, what does your cell phone know? It knows where you are without all the GPS stuff. You rollng between cell sites tells the world so to speak, where you are. So why to i have to have my phone ring at my desk when I'm not there? Or, more importantly, my cell phone ring when i am typing at my PC, next to my phone.
See? Nothing really works...
how about this one. you get a piece of mail from somebody. you are using outlook. after opening the mail, you right mouse click on the email address and select “Look up Outlook Contact” If this person isn't in your outlook client list, you get a dialog box that says, to wit, ain't in your client list. With the OK button only; no option to create one.
After lord only knows how many versions of Outlook and with apologies to Jonathan Kaufman of MAPI fame, you still don't get the option to create a new contact. You have to click OK, right mouse again, and select create a contact. Why is that? Why not, when I double click on the email address, I get either the contact card from the outlook DB or options to do something with it.
The list of this kind of stuff is, i suspect, endless. I also suspect that there are at least two zillion ideas in all of these that should make some folks a nice piece of coin.
In Tom Peters' new book, he talks about failing faster in order to get to success faster. As a VC, I like this basic idea, much to the surprise of other VCs I know. Personally, there should be a website and/or a Blog for failures. Like Bizbooboos.com or bizfailures.com. Once set up, people post failures and other information. categorize it, key words, search terms, etc. for every anonymously posted item, you can read/search the others and hopefully learn from them as a way to find success faster.
what would be nice in people's blogs all over the web is some key word or setting that allows my bot to hunt down all the failure postings with respect to a particular thing i am looking at. again, speeding up my failures so i could get to success faster.
the general point here is that maybe if we all share the 'lessons learned' it might make all of us smarter.
just a thought. Great book. Re-imagine is the name. The amazon link is below (I'm not an affiliate, just a handy link..)
wandering in a Kroger grocery store here in Dallas Texas, i noticed a stand alone display of gift cards from an amazing number of vendors. besides the obvious, long distance cards and Kroger pre-paid grocery cards, i saw Macy's, home depot, and about 20 other brand names offering 10 - 100 dollar pre-paid cards.
i have to wonder, apart from giving gifts, is there another set of reasons why people would buy these cards. if it's just the next generation of gift certificates, got it, no problem. but is there something more? it appears there is a whole business in being the guy/gal that manages these displays much like magazine jobbers do in stores, etc. so, what else are customers doing with those cards besides the obvious (gifts).
And, even more interesting. What about selling those cards in physical locations for internet commerce sites. I buy, with cash, a card for amazon and then use it on-line. it might be an interesting way to keep my credit card numbers off the internet, have merchants make a little float on the cash, plus get a who set of people exposed to e-commerce sites that don't have the market clout to get in front of customers. If i wanted to compete with Amazon, say as cookbooks.com, how about selling the pre-paid cards in cooking stores? Privacy and very targeted marking but give a piece of the action to those very people that fill up the mag in the stores, greeting cards, etc.
I'm living my dream job; a partner in a venture capital firm. It's probably the greatest 'job' one could have. After my time at Microsoft, I didn't think there could ever be something as much fun as Microsoft in the 90s. There is...
I decided to do a Blog to share some thoughts, give people a place to read about the things i am looking at from an investment perspective.
It's also a test of my discipline to stay with it.
So, here's to the next adventure.