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December 18, 2020

Five Startup Ideas #015

Robo-memes, machine learning, and making sense of Medicare

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Friends,

This will be the last edition of RFS before a holiday break. We'll be bringing the heat in 2021 with over 75 ideas still to come.

Last week we jammed on gift boxes, modern museums, executable docs, vendor platforms, feature flags, and more. In response to those ideas, we were able to connect a number of RFS readers with the investors behind the concepts. Thanks to those of you that voted for your favorite RFS and shared your thoughts. As it turned out, Sajith's articulation of "SuppliedBy" proved especially popular, registering as the most-beloved idea of the season!

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You might be just the person to build it.

In considering the idea of seizing the present moment, I was reminded of this quote by philosopher and critic Jean-Paul Sartre:

There is only one day left, always starting over: It is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.

May we all use our days in a manner in which we can be proud and feel fulfilled. Sending you my very best for a good end of 2020, and much brightness and building in 2021.

— Mario

Business education that transfers

A simulation-based MBA program optimized for remote work

One of the biggest challenges with vocational training is transferring learnings from a classroom to the real world. Small differences in environmental conditions between these two arenas make it difficult to perform knowledge when the occasion calls for it.

However, as remote work and remote education converge into similar environments there’s an opportunity for a new type of vocational education that would be able to reduce some of these transfer challenges.

Picture this:

It’s Monday morning. You log into class over Zoom where a real executive assigns you a deliverable with a real deadline. To complete your work, you have access to various types of content and coaching to help you figure out the right frameworks to approach the problem.

In the following class, the guest exec reviews the deliverables, highlighting what they liked and didn't like. The magic would come from how well these experiences would transfer to a remote work environment since the tools and platforms in both situations would have a high degree of overlap.

Ideally, all the deliverables would align with your career hypotheses allowing you to test out various functions and industries. A modern MBA that leveraged this approach could have a leg up over less practical alternatives.

Nick deWilde, Product Marketing at Guild and Publisher of The Jungle Gym

CI for ML models

Ensuring CI for ML is easy and smooth

Machine Learning (ML) operations are becoming increasingly important, with an emerging class of platforms focused on making it easier to productize and scale ML models. None of the available tools have a great CI/CD pipeline built-in, though. It would be amazing if there was a simple, lightweight tool (something like Travis CI or CircleCI) for ML models. That tool would monitor the performance, biases, and robustness of a user’s models, and make sure they worked on production data without dimensional mismatches.

Net/net: a tool like this would make it easier to deploy ML models with a higher degree of confidence. One interesting add-on: version control, essentially building “git blame” for model performance :)

— Pascal Weinberger, Founder at Bardeen

Synthetic content generator

A product that decreases time spent on content generation, while increasing the quality of output

Most people who create content on the internet are using social media as the top of the funnel for distribution. Getting more Twitter followers means getting more sales. Getting more Facebook or Instagram followers means getting more sales.

If you look at the best content creators, they have very specific styles. They also focus on specific topics or industries. Most people don't realize how long it takes to create tweets, memes, and other content. The process is incredibly manual, while also being 100% reliant on humans.

There is an opportunity to build a product that can train itself on previous content created, scrape pre-determined websites and sources for topics, and make intelligent suggestions for the content creator on "things to tweet today" or "memes to post today." Many have tried to build parts of this product, but no one has put it together in a compelling way.

Simply finding interesting articles is not enough. Being able to suggest the exact tweet based on the individual's past tweets and known interests would significantly decrease the time spent researching, and create a starting point. It would allow the creator to focus on refining the suggestion, increasing both output and quality.

It also wouldn't be impossible to see a scenario in which the creator could type in a topic and receive synthetically-generated inspiration or suggestions. The more sophisticated the technology, the more relevant, personalized, and effective the tool would become.

Humans love to think that creativity is impossible to automate, but modern technology is quickly disproving that perspective.

Anthony Pompliano, Founder of The Pomp Podcast, Investor, Writer

Reimagining Medicare distribution

Improving the consumer (and broker) experience for the $1 trillion+ in Medicare benefits

By 2025 there will be over 72 million Americans consuming ~$1.2 trillion in Medicare benefits across all plan types. That is trillion with a T.

Yet, when I go to help family members navigate this maze of care options, there are really only two primary distribution channels through which benefits are funneled: long-tail mom-and-pop brokers and big call center businesses like GoHealth. The consumer experience of shopping for healthcare coverage over the age of 65 is unacceptably complex and inefficient. I believe there is meaningful value to be captured for any business that can reduce that complexity and innovate on distribution.

As we've seen in other categories like residential real estate and commercial insurance, there is likely a large opportunity on the B2B side of things to empower brokerages with a new suite of software products, rather than trying to replace them.

Chris Brown, Principal at Inspired

English-to-SQL query tool

Making basic coding accessible for non-technical people

Today, business teams still have to submit intake forms and circle up with their technical teams for even the most basic of data requests.

Often, the ad-hoc questions they're asking could be answered by a ten-second SQL query, which non-developers may not have the know-how to execute. Furthermore, the data visualization products they're using to consume data don't allow for easy manipulation.

A tool that allows business people to type out what they're trying to achieve and offers translation with context, allowing them to select from different query options, could eliminate unnecessary back-and-forth and get simple questions answered, fast. This is mostly a design and translation problem, with data integration sprinkled in.

Annika Lewis, Investor at Vanedge Capital