Who's working on a startup this year?
As part of my desire to get to know you all better, I'd love to hear from folks that are kicking off 2021 with a new enterprise under their belt or a plan to begin one. Just respond to this email.
Of last week's ideas, Eric's "open commentating" suggestion proved the most popular, though Barry's idea for a beautiful digital journal was received favorably, too. If you hear of anyone working on these ideas, give me a shout and I'll try and make the connection.
On a week dominated by politics, at least in the US, here are the products I found most intriguing. (Intriguing ≠ best)
- Track Biden, a website to keep tabs on our 46th president's first 100 days. You can see that Biden has already released a vaccine distribution plan, signed a federal mask mandate, and rejoined the WHO. Reassuring.
- Finrise, a new incubator from Plaid for underrepresented fintech founders. Now that the company has wriggled free of Visa's clutches, I'm keeping a close eye on their next moves. Hopefully, we'll see some exciting product innovations soon.
- Uppbeat, a stock music platform for creators. This arrives at a perfect moment as I start to plan a few audio projects. I like the simplicity and usability of the platform and admire that the founders are funding it with the revenue from their other startup, Music Vine.
What were your favorite discoveries of the week? Anything is fair game.
PS - Something is coming this weekend...
Benefits for distributed teams and companies
Companies are increasingly tapping into global talent pools by hiring remote workers and opening international offices. Managing the "back office" for distributed teams is incredibly complex — we’ve seen companies emerge to handle different parts of this process, particularly around payment, taxation, compliance, and onboarding.
Health benefits represent a relatively untouched opportunity, by comparison. Like those other functions, it is highly localized and needs to be managed across regions. It is also a core necessity, and a key way companies can attract and retain talent. I think there’s an opportunity for someone to serve this need through technology. As the world continues to become ever-more connected, demand is only likely to increase.
Shopify for Zoom
Tools built on Zoom enabling video commerce experiences
The coronavirus has been an accelerant for service workers transitioning to Zoom. Chefs are hosting cooking classes online, fitness instructors are running yoga intensives from their homes, and party planners are applying their skills to the world of live video. While born of necessity, this transition may prove to be a blessing for many as the internet expands their reach and allows them to earn many multiples more than when they were constrained to IRL interactions.
There’s a missing piece, though; namely, monetization. While a few startups have emerged to help pay-gate video streams, there’s still a gap between where revenue is collected and experiences happen. I’d like to see someone take a real run at this problem by embedding commerce tools directly into Zoom. You’d end up with a much more native buying experience and open up new monetization channels in the process. The result would be a way to immediately subscribe to the output of service workers.
ERPs for everything
Next-generation enterprise systems
ERPs are rarely talked about but are excellent software businesses. Even if it’s not your space of interest, you're probably familiar with giants like SAP, who have built solutions that service thousands of businesses and over a hundred million end-users.
Despite SAP and others’ wild success, several very specific business cases have no good inventory management, forecasting, and analytics tooling. Not only can you monetize via SaaS, but by gathering data through the ERP, you’re able to bootstrap a marketplace, providing yet another monetization stream. I'm looking for someone interested in applying the ERP playbook to obscure but expansive markets.
Twilio for documents
Automating the creation of work’s most tedious paperwork
A lot of white-collar work involves the generation of documents. Think of the amount of time spent spinning up a boilerplate piece of legalese or banal process document.
Despite their omnipresence and stubborn refusal to disappear, there’s relatively little infrastructure built to serve this use case. In particular, few tools help automate the process or manage workflows.
I’m intrigued to see if companies emerge addressing this issue. In particular, I think there’s a lot to be done around templating, which would make it easier to generate standard paperwork like an NDAs or work product like a PDF for sales demos. The trick here may be leveraging natural language programming to ingest existing content and organize it into a coherent format.
Google Maps for space
Mapping satellite infrastructure
The last few years have seen a new space race emerge. But rather than governments taking charge, the private sector is leading the way when it comes to innovation. This is particularly true in the world of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, with companies like SpaceX (who surpassed 1,000 satellites with its latest Starlink launch), Astranis, and OneWeb raising considerable sums with the mission of improving connectivity on earth. They are also able to provide critical imagery and climatic information.
While it’s all very well for these companies to focus on our planet, there’s a need for better connectivity and mapping in space, too. As LEO becomes increasingly crowded, we will need tools to help plan routes and avoid collisions. Moreover, as businesses like Varda, Made in Space, and Space Tango make manufacturing extraterrestrial, managing the movement of goods — essentially the logistics of space — will become critical. I’m hopeful we’ll see systems emerge that help with localization, perception, and planning purposes.