Startup and Small Business Ideas, Looking for Partners
I've been running a small business for nearly ten years setting up carpools, roomshares and a little bit of networking for large conferences and festivals. I could imagine growing SpaceShare into a new niche and have long been looking for partners (espec non-tech) here -- into stadium or hospital specialized carpooling, for example -- but am also considering jumping in one of the directions below if I find partners. I've got far more ideas than I can achieve, so I'm just putting them out on the web, hoping that I'll either find partners to join me (will be sharing these ideas at Start-Up Weekends), or even for people to take some of these ideas and integrate them into your own business, hopefully hiring me to help.
My new ideas, generally with notes about how they would go at a hackathon:
- Get liberals and conservatives talking, with gently gamed communications tools. Huge social good benefits, might get on the news. I think might make money, but risky. Medium-sized to build, not huge, we can do it. Hackathon benefits: in one weekend, we could do a non-tech version of this, walking some liberals and conservatives through the process. Great way to win a hackathon & whatever prizes they have, great way to get resources & publicity, amazing opportunity to learn lean development for non-tech people.
- Verdant Event -- build conference websites with the world's best greening tools (next generation of SpaceShare). Make a lot of money while being green. Very steady business plan. Hackathon plan: build a better website for hackathons. Amazing opportunities for customer feedback right at the hackathon, the pitch-process needs help and we can do it, another way to win a hackathon if we have a good-sized, good-skilled team. Get publicity from that and go. Web shops make money. Quit your job and do this with me (or hack for a weekend.) Already built a real, working, prototype website for a conference, it was pretty cool, the next one will be amazing in a way that clients will pay for.
- Build a better website for parents sending their kids to summercamp to find the camps. Great, small business. I think we can build this in ~3 months work total (not even per-person). Hope for profits in six figures. Very back of envelope so far. Great way to learn, work together. Shades of green, I want to encourage and facilitate carpooling the kids to camp. We could aggregate data about summer camps (anyone want to learn from me how to do that), build a website with that data in one weekend ... another possible winner. Would love a tech-lead in another language committed to seeing the process through OR someone who wants to learn Drupal; and someone who wants to learn or knows a scripting language like Perl to do the data aggregation. I can teach *all* the pieces of this, happy to share skills. Of course a designer would be wonderful, all my work looks like crud, maybe we can find one at the hackathon.
- Ask your friends for help / web and app for rallying around someone with something like depression, also useful as a generic coaching app.
- SpaceShare.org: tools for sharing a home together, like group purchases. Everything from splitting the bills on laundry detergent, to possibly things like getting a cell phone on a family plan, or buying 20lb bags of rice. Plenty of do-good, plenty of money if we succeed by channeling group purchases.
- Build a community app for schools. Messages and emergency messages from the school, or finding neighbors to carpool together or go from school to soccer to home. Bigger than the summercamp project, this is a solid startup idea that might be able to attract investors (or do it on our own). Have talked with parent & school administrator, there seems to be a big unmet need. (Again, carpooling is a favorite reason for me to do this ... parents driving kids burns gas and burns out parents.) Plan to go only if we have an interested first client, so this is completely on hold.
I'm also writing a book, Cognitive Politics, and am somewhat desperate for friends' enthusiasm, feedback, and any flavor of proofreading or suggestion-reading you feel like doing. Ask me for a copy! I also will lead workshops on having better, saner political conversations for example at Thanksgiving, briefly introducing what cognitive science has recently discovered.
An older list:
- Lots of carpool systems are popping up. Let's build a carpool aggregator. Tricky but possible: need both the tech, and to create incentives and profitability, around getting carpool sites to share data. Steps before a carpool weekend would be to find everyone who has tried this before (by searching SpaceShare's email archives) and contact all the carpool sites, listing their approach.
- Conference Greening & Other Web Solutions
- Online maps for event planners from CVBs. A little idea, maybe something we could halfway be done during a startup-weekend, is that convention and visitors bureaus give event planners paper maps and instructions on things like hotels. Let's build a website that let's a CVB enter hotel information including things like schedules and hotel size into a mashup with googlemaps. I'd like it to have a green-tinge beyond saving the paper of the maps, focusing on public transit options, green hotels and restaurants. (Team needs: someone with events background, and a feeling of a team).
- Expanded Conference Registration, Networking, Greening & AV Solutions & Rebuilding SpaceShare. Combine the online maps idea above and SpaceShare as marketing tools, plus I've already got contacts in the events greening field. A business that aggregates SpaceShare, website development, conference registration & seating etc., along with some green tips & tools. I think it could include AV which is where events could be going, integrating multiple events in multiple hotels to minimize travel. My first vision is providing a variety of software solutions and partnering with AV companies. This is a pretty big idea, though smaller version (2-3 partners) could be viable. Like SpaceShare, it is more of a "business" than a "website." Mixing green as SpaceShare does now (which helps projects spread, and is where my heart is) with software that meets needs that events budget for (registration, web dev). (Needs: full business skillset, including one more programmer person.)
- Democracy's Newsletter. A site that let's you sign up and then learns your preferences for news, like Pandora for music or Netflix for movies, with a few additions:
- allows you to sign up to nonprofits, probably with a quantity filter (ok Greenpeace, you get one email per year. I like HSUS, I'll take their whole news feed) and perhaps with issues filters (Care2 articles about vegetarianism I seem to be reading)
- Communities can start to rate articles as being the best articles of a certain opinion. *This can act as a filter, so everyone gets to speak to a couple ears, and the most interesting content rises to the top. Perhaps including filters for "the other side should read this," an option for people paying attention (not ordinary users, but ones who want this function). And in particular would like the democracy option where you pair with people of opposing political positions and share articles, perhaps encourage quieter discussions than comment-wars.
*Some of these ideas are reflections of discussions with Ben Melançon.
- Green Weddings Website. I'd really like to be a minor partner in this. Opportunities to integrate with SpaceShare which is in a good position to promote a Green Weddings site. (if you are considering starting or have started your own Green Weddings site, please contact me!). This site might make a good partner for Gizzy or another gift-related website.
- Niche Matchmaker Websites Like SpaceShare. Exercise, dance and "home alone dogs"-match (that last one I really like as a tool for humane dog owners... basically a work-carpooling site except instead of sharing one car for the people, you're sharing one house for the dogs so they're aren't stuck alone.) I'd be happy to take my experience with SpaceShare and work for a personals website or the HSUS on these. I could build any of these, would primarily be looking for a business/marketing partner. (Some of these ideas could be implemented in a Startup Weekend from the tech side, but I don't have the vision to turn them into full businesses.)
- SponsorMatchmaker. Worthwhile arts and culture organizations go insane looking for sponsors. A couple of companies have come into this space, but none are doing it right. There is a need to create a market where people can act as matchmakers rather than agents.
My Skills: I started as a programmer (Perl, Drupal) but as an entrepreneur at SpaceShare (and the Heart Cafe before) I've become something of a generalist. For me it's more important to be working with good people who bring their own commitment and inspiration -- I have no desire to be "boss" -- and a variety of skill sets, and then I can work where it's most needed. A feeling of being part of a team is important to me, if I'm excited I can get done a ton of work in a variety of fields. I want to avoid my past experiences in non-corporate work which have involved teams that slowly lose steam... a couple times now I've found myself keeping afloat a good idea that wasn't mine while the founder/boss drifts, and I intend to be careful to avoid semi-commitment. I tend to get inspired by green and socially responsible projects, and I tend to pull projects in that direction, but would explicitly like to find a partner who has more of a nose for money: the projects I'd be most excited to work on would succeed on all three of the triple-bottom-lines.