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December 11, 2020

Five Startup Ideas #014

Digital "Terrace House," executable documents, and new museums.

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Friends,

We are officially 1/5th of the way through this season of RFS! The time is flying by, but there's lots more ahead. Thank you to everyone that's shared their thoughts as we've gotten the ball rolling.

Last week's ideasmiths riffed on corporate credit cards, eldercare, and mood rings. We were able to connect readers with a few of the authors, and heard some great takes. I especially liked this response to Naveen's RFS for "distributed care homes."

It's a massive opportunity to redesign our society. It's more than finding arbitrage; it's solving a very human problem.

Well said. That proved a popular idea, though readers were most excited about Jillian's "company credit lines" proposition.

Thank you to everyone who voted and gave their thoughts. If you have takes of your own, I'd love to hear from you.

Marie Curie was one of the great thinkers of the 20th century, conducting pioneering work in radiography, and winning a Nobel Prize for her efforts. There are a dozen fantastic quotes we might pick; this felt particularly fitting:

Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.

Wishing you a Friday full of ideation and creativity.

— Mario

Executable documents

Turn any checklist into an application with instant feedback, logging, and tracking

The best operators are often process masterminds. These are often detailed as checklists or long documents across Google Docs, Notion, Asana, Dropbox Paper, etc. Unfortunately, these documents create separation between where the work is described versus where the work actually gets done.

Instead, operators should be able to work like developers where each document acts as a mini-application that runs like an executable "program." Each time the document is run, the steps are logged and tracked so that the operator can measure success, and more importantly, identify which parts of a process break and need to be updated.

With the growing open API ecosystem, it's more possible than ever for a unified platform that allows operators and non-developers to design and deploy customized operations without writing code.

Minn Kim, Investor at Bloomberg Beta

Museum of Ice Cream‚ but for civil rights

An immersive learning environment to teach our children the lessons that too many in our generation missed.

If 2019 was defined by pastel pics of laissez-faire lounging, 2020 has come to stand for strong statements on what matters most. Similarly, while the most recent chapter of consumerism drove us from prioritizing possessions (purchasing physical goods) to emphasizing experiences (spending on events and travel), I believe the next leg will lead us from emphasizing experiences to treasuring transformation (buying into better versions of ourselves). So, shouldn’t our photo-friendly museums support similar societal actualization?

As we aspire to educate ourselves and our youths, an interactive, Instagrammable exhibition on civil rights (Black, women, LGBTQ+, and the list goes on) holds the potential to both engage and inform. Why leave learning in the dull and dry textbooks of decades past when we can magnify and modernize our education efforts? For too long we’ve played a passive role in driving awareness of society’s most egregious transgressions. Let’s take a stand to better ourselves and our children, because we all, regardless of our demographic, deserve more.

Meera Clark, Investor at Obvious Ventures

Extensible feature flagging

Feature flags combined with auto clean-up, A/B testing, and observability

Now that feature flags have become mainstream, it really seems like someone could build a solution utilizing learnings to improve upon what the existing players already do. Many companies are only now moving into A/B testing. Also, open-source projects have been released in order to identify "stale" flags and therefore reduce technical debt. Combining all these could result in a next-gen feature flagging product with a seamless developer experience. As feature flags in a codebase grow, there is also likely an "observability" layer to be built over this.

Shomik Ghosh, Principal at Boldstart Ventures

Better vendor discovery

Builtwith.com for vendors and suppliers

Builtwith is a bootstrapped Australian business that helps you figure out what tools and tech are used to power software businesses. It’s a terrific way to determine what tools and tech leading websites use. It is also equally a fantastic lead-generation and sales intelligence site for software startups. And, it's hyper-profitable.

I think there’s an opportunity to do something similar for a business’ vendors, suppliers, and service providers. Which service or product does Shell or Egon Zehnder use as an internal learning management service? Which recruitment agencies does Unilever or Stripe use? Who does content marketing for Nvidia or Diageo? And so on.

The above information cannot be determined through web scraping or automated tools. What we need is a way to crowdsource such information, along with input from suppliers themselves. Imagine a corporate LinkedIn of sorts, where each company had a page (each country ops could get a subpage too) designed to look like an organogram of functions (marketing, HR, finance, procurement) and sub-functions (brand marketing, content marketing, talent acquisition).

For each of these functions and sub-functions, service providers that support the company could enter their name and related data. This information could be challenged by the official reps of the company if it was untrue or no longer valid. The vendors and service providers would get pages too. In addition to seeing what businesses they rely on, you’d also see the companies they serve.

Over time a credible web of relationships between companies and suppliers would be constructed.

A side benefit of this product: companies would finally understand how many vendors they actually use. No service gives businesses a single-picture overview of their respective vendors and service providers. This would solve that problem.

Let’s call this venture SuppliedBy (working title). SuppliedBy could charge fees for verifying the relationship between company and vendor. Over time other revenue possibilities would emerge: competitors paying to see how long a certain vendor has been used, vendor financing offerings and paid introductions.

Sajith Pai, Investment Team, Blume Ventures, an Indian seed fund

Digital Terrace House

A subscription box for heartfelt content

What's in the box? you ask.

It depends on who you are. A vinyl record of Tame Impala, a T-shirt from the 90s, a real-life version of your favorite sticker pack in iMessage, a membership pin to an obscure online club, a can of handmade pickles.

We are looking for serendipity, delight, and surprise right now. The world is out of control and yet, daily life is predictable.

I think a hyper-personalized, heartwarming subscription box service could succeed right now. The trick would be to have its contents bridge the physical and digital world. An app would allow you to “remix” the digital version of the items in your box. The Tame Impala vinyl could have a stylized digital accompaniment (think Poolside FM) that encouraged sharing. The 90s T-Shirt might manifest virtually as a camera filter, available only for a limited amount of time.

We are desperately in need of connection. Something like this might help provide it.

Tina He, Investor at Pace Capital

Friends,

We are officially 1/5th of the way through this season of RFS! The time is flying by, but there's lots more ahead. Thank you to everyone that's shared their thoughts as we've gotten the ball rolling.

Last week's ideasmiths riffed on corporate credit cards, eldercare, and mood rings. We were able to connect readers with a few of the authors, and heard some great takes. I especially liked this response to Naveen's RFS for "distributed care homes."

It's a massive opportunity to redesign our society. It's more than finding arbitrage; it's solving a very human problem.

Well said. That proved a popular idea, though readers were most excited about Jillian's "company credit lines" proposition.

Thank you to everyone who voted and gave their thoughts. If you have takes of your own, I'd love to hear from you.

Marie Curie was one of the great thinkers of the 20th century, conducting pioneering work in radiography, and winning a Nobel Prize for her efforts. There are a dozen fantastic quotes we might pick; this felt particularly fitting:

Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.

Wishing you a Friday full of ideation and creativity.

— Mario

Executable documents

Turn any checklist into an application with instant feedback, logging, and tracking

The best operators are often process masterminds. These are often detailed as checklists or long documents across Google Docs, Notion, Asana, Dropbox Paper, etc. Unfortunately, these documents create separation between where the work is described versus where the work actually gets done.

Instead, operators should be able to work like developers where each document acts as a mini-application that runs like an executable "program." Each time the document is run, the steps are logged and tracked so that the operator can measure success, and more importantly, identify which parts of a process break and need to be updated.

With the growing open API ecosystem, it's more possible than ever for a unified platform that allows operators and non-developers to design and deploy customized operations without writing code.

Minn Kim, Investor at Bloomberg Beta

Museum of Ice Cream‚ but for civil rights

An immersive learning environment to teach our children the lessons that too many in our generation missed.

If 2019 was defined by pastel pics of laissez-faire lounging, 2020 has come to stand for strong statements on what matters most. Similarly, while the most recent chapter of consumerism drove us from prioritizing possessions (purchasing physical goods) to emphasizing experiences (spending on events and travel), I believe the next leg will lead us from emphasizing experiences to treasuring transformation (buying into better versions of ourselves). So, shouldn’t our photo-friendly museums support similar societal actualization?

As we aspire to educate ourselves and our youths, an interactive, Instagrammable exhibition on civil rights (Black, women, LGBTQ+, and the list goes on) holds the potential to both engage and inform. Why leave learning in the dull and dry textbooks of decades past when we can magnify and modernize our education efforts? For too long we’ve played a passive role in driving awareness of society’s most egregious transgressions. Let’s take a stand to better ourselves and our children, because we all, regardless of our demographic, deserve more.

Meera Clark, Investor at Obvious Ventures

Extensible feature flagging

Feature flags combined with auto clean-up, A/B testing, and observability

Now that feature flags have become mainstream, it really seems like someone could build a solution utilizing learnings to improve upon what the existing players already do. Many companies are only now moving into A/B testing. Also, open-source projects have been released in order to identify "stale" flags and therefore reduce technical debt. Combining all these could result in a next-gen feature flagging product with a seamless developer experience. As feature flags in a codebase grow, there is also likely an "observability" layer to be built over this.

Shomik Ghosh, Principal at Boldstart Ventures

Better vendor discovery

Builtwith.com for vendors and suppliers

Builtwith is a bootstrapped Australian business that helps you figure out what tools and tech are used to power software businesses. It’s a terrific way to determine what tools and tech leading websites use. It is also equally a fantastic lead-generation and sales intelligence site for software startups. And, it's hyper-profitable.

I think there’s an opportunity to do something similar for a business’ vendors, suppliers, and service providers. Which service or product does Shell or Egon Zehnder use as an internal learning management service? Which recruitment agencies does Unilever or Stripe use? Who does content marketing for Nvidia or Diageo? And so on.

The above information cannot be determined through web scraping or automated tools. What we need is a way to crowdsource such information, along with input from suppliers themselves. Imagine a corporate LinkedIn of sorts, where each company had a page (each country ops could get a subpage too) designed to look like an organogram of functions (marketing, HR, finance, procurement) and sub-functions (brand marketing, content marketing, talent acquisition).

For each of these functions and sub-functions, service providers that support the company could enter their name and related data. This information could be challenged by the official reps of the company if it was untrue or no longer valid. The vendors and service providers would get pages too. In addition to seeing what businesses they rely on, you’d also see the companies they serve.

Over time a credible web of relationships between companies and suppliers would be constructed.

A side benefit of this product: companies would finally understand how many vendors they actually use. No service gives businesses a single-picture overview of their respective vendors and service providers. This would solve that problem.

Let’s call this venture SuppliedBy (working title). SuppliedBy could charge fees for verifying the relationship between company and vendor. Over time other revenue possibilities would emerge: competitors paying to see how long a certain vendor has been used, vendor financing offerings and paid introductions.

Sajith Pai, Investment Team, Blume Ventures, an Indian seed fund

Digital Terrace House

A subscription box for heartfelt content

What's in the box? you ask.

It depends on who you are. A vinyl record of Tame Impala, a T-shirt from the 90s, a real-life version of your favorite sticker pack in iMessage, a membership pin to an obscure online club, a can of handmade pickles.

We are looking for serendipity, delight, and surprise right now. The world is out of control and yet, daily life is predictable.

I think a hyper-personalized, heartwarming subscription box service could succeed right now. The trick would be to have its contents bridge the physical and digital world. An app would allow you to “remix” the digital version of the items in your box. The Tame Impala vinyl could have a stylized digital accompaniment (think Poolside FM) that encouraged sharing. The 90s T-Shirt might manifest virtually as a camera filter, available only for a limited amount of time.

We are desperately in need of connection. Something like this might help provide it.

Tina He, Investor at Pace Capital

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