Biz Ideas from Twitter: Part II

Twitter It’s fun coming up with business ideas. Whenever inspiration strikes me, I’ll often tweet it. Just because. (I’m not one of those people who believes ideas need to be hidden and sheltered.)

Since the last time I listed all of the ideas I’ve tweeted, I’ve had a ton more. It’s not easy to search through one’s Twitter feed unfortunately. It appears to be limited to a week or two of previous tweets. Instead, I used FriendFeed to put together this list.

This is mostly for my own benefit, though perhaps this will inspire someone to go create someone wonderful. Also, I find it amusing how some of these ideas exist now. (And how stupid some of them are.)

Biz ideas from Mar – Dec 2009

  • How about a site that creates stock portfolios from companies that match the principles from biz books e.g. http://ow.ly/1K9G 30 Mar 09
  • Nose plugs for runny noses. Oh wait, it exists already! http://tinyurl.com/cgqprk 31 Mar 09
  • Re-branding energy bars (eg Cliff bars) as a quick portable meal for busy on-the-go working professionals 4 Apr 09
  • Scalable network of food & history tours in major culinary cities. Indie ones exist already, how about a streamlined nat’l op? 8 Apr 09
  • Niche airline for obese passengers. I’m listening to an NPR report on this topic right now. 20 Apr 09
  • User-friendly apps for doctors (eg patient data, scheduling, etc). Seeing their awful apps just begs for change. Tough biz tho. 21 Apr 09
  • Weight Watchers-type cuisine w/ specific cultural dishes (Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Brazilian, Mexican, etc) instead of just U.S. 3 May 09
  • A Hawaiian shave ice-type shop in inland southern CA (the desert). And maybe NV & AZ too. 4 May 09
  • The Cat Whisperer (hey, we have one for dogs, why not cats too?) 16 May 09
  • A marketing app that retrieves census data & allows marketers to easily parse, filter, dissect, & analyze this info. 21 May 09
  • Gas stations that sell drinks at the pumps (hot coffee, smoothies, sodas, etc). I’d buy one right now 18 Jun 09
  • To the 24/7 diners near Apple stores, hand out free coffee & placeholder placards to people in line, so they can get breakfast 19 Jun 09
  • Law & Order-type show w/ real stories based on 1st responders (firefighters) or 911 operators 28 Jun 09
  • There’s a restaurant dedicated to garlic (The Stinking Rose), how about one w/ chocolate? Appetizers, entrees, drinks & desserts! 11 Jul 09
  • Restaurant selling foods on a stick, like BBQ ribs, fried onion rings, corn, etc. Hmm I think this exists already, huh? 22 Jul 09
  • Public pools for dogs. Could be attached to doggie day care & allow owners in there too. Costs might be too high tho. 21 Jul 09
  • Dog tattoos using permanent marker on hairless or shaven dogs 5 Aug 09
  • A dog training class that teaches funny & cool tricks only, like combat crawl, peek-a-boo, get beer, etc. 5 Aug 09
  • Wifi at a dog park or dog beach, tho perhaps I’m the only person who would use it 9 Aug 09
  • Feature idea for online music sites: Display the lyrics to the song while playing it. Kind of surprised no one’s doing that. 31 Aug 09
  • iPhone app idea: a blog publishing app with Flickr Creative Commons + iPhone camera integration for adding images easily. 28 Sep 09

Biz ideas from Jan – Dec 2010

  • An online video editor that can make VH1 Pop-Up Videos & karaoke videos, a la Yahoo Jumpcut (RIP) 7 Jan 10
  • How about an app that does market research using social media? http://bit.ly/6ViI4l 21 Jan 10
  • A computer game that lets you create your own playable games. Could allow extensions/plugins/mods too. 24 Jan 10
  • Idea for Google Maps: You know what would be cool? Time estimates based on traffic density 26 Jan 10
  • Postal service in airports, especially tourist spots for over-packers. Think I’ve seen this before. Maybe it’s not viable. Hmm. 26 Jan 10
  • Location tracking service w/ sync to environmental data. Bill Davenhall would sure love it. http://bit.ly/bhBaUn 27 Jan 10
  • For ex-media professionals, how about offering media training to execs & entrepreneurs? 31 Jan 10
  • Communication reader & writer for private (email,IM) & public (social media) convos. Like Gmail + Meebo + Hootsuite 17 Feb 10
  • Real-time geotagged emotions. What I’m feeling right here, right now. http://bit.ly/9yeZLd 20 Feb 10
  • Online mix-tape maker (basically, song lists). Could be a feature of Pandora or Last.fm too. 2 Mar 10
  • A site for iPhone text message typos. Not quite a money maker, but perhaps a fun ‘lil meme. 13 Mar 10
  • Idea for CoTweet & HootSuite: An undo feature, similar to Gmail’s. So I can fix misspellings before publishing a tweet. 17 Mar 10
  • Hawaiian shave ice franchise (finely shaved ice, flavored syrup, sweet red beans, sweetened condensed milk & ice cream) 26 Mar 10
  • Minute to Win It home game, for birthday parties, baby showers, etc. (and potentially, practice) 28 Mar 10
  • App that uses Twitter data as a prediction market for movies, games, politics, etc http://bit.ly/aLwakF 2 Apr 10
  • Service that rewrites & publishes legal, medical & business docs in simple terms http://bit.ly/9wHsJE 4 Apr 10
  • An app/extension that allows you to do a text search thru your browser history & cache 8 Apr 10
  • Twitter $ Idea: Fee-based subscription to old data (tweets older than 2 weeks). Good or bad idea? 10 Apr 10
  • Game Idea: 3D maze, where you can move in X, Y & Z planes. 15 Apr 10
  • A cord that connects your mobile device to your belt, so you don’t accidentally lose your device. 19 Apr 10
  • A service that examines your tweets & analyzes how they’ve evolved over time (readability, style, content, etc) 29 Apr 10
  • A niche video site just for Legos videos. Just because. 5 May 10
  • Getting real-time traffic data via crowdsourcing through mobile apps that measure location, direction & speed 12 May 10
  • Social media data mining. Not just influencers, but purchase/harm/etc intent, prediction mkts, trends, matchmaking, etc 26 May 10
  • TV Show Idea: Drama/comedy in real-time 24 style, even with “real” tweets coming from characters as they happen 27 May 10
  • Twitter music reviews. Lots exist for movie reviews already, why not music too? 28 May 10
  • A beach pillow that allows you to lie face down without suffocating, like those on massage tables 31 May 10
  • A white-label, self-hosted user account management system for web apps, similar to Chargify 3 Jun 10
  • Twitter movie review site idea: Track the buzz of upcoming movies & compare it to the actual reviews 4 Jun 10
  • A distributed social network based on blogs, RSS, microformats & shared standards, and a MyBlogLog-like “platform” 7 Jun 10
  • Idea: A browser extension that allows you to change the font color on a page or site. 10 Jun 10
  • An app that aggregates IM chat archives (online & desktop) and makes them searchable in one place. 14 Jun 10
  • Idea: Give customers an easy 1-click way to praise your customer facing employees. 24 Jun 10
  • A mattress w/ varying firmness AND varying temps, for guys who are always hot & girls who are always cold 17 Jul 10
  • Combine Nike’s NIKEiD + Lego’s DesignByMe premise with IKEA to get design-your-own furniture (color, size, etc) 26 Jul 10
  • Idea: A band that sings rap songs & raps pop songs, a la Dynamite Hack’s “Boyz N The Hood” 2 Aug 10
  • An all-in-one message & comm center that lets you see, read & send emails, IMs, tweets, Facebook posts, etc 4 Aug 10
  • Idea for @thechive: Make an app where ppl can select a Jenny DryErase pic, type in some words to appear on the board, then export the img 11 Aug 10
  • App that combines friends’ upcoming birthdays + a shopping list 19 Aug 10
  • A gaming platform that builds social games on both Facebook & iPhone 7 Sep 10
  • Idea for Facebook: Allow people to check in to activities, like “Mike and Mia are playing Words with Friends” 21 Sep 10
  • Game Idea: A choose-your-own-adventure-type game over IM w/ intelligent IM bots 5 Oct 10
  • Purchase SlowNewsDay.com & allow readers to submit URLs of boring news stories & comment sarcastically on them 8 Oct 10

Biz ideas from Jan – July 2011

  • Minute-to-Win-It Bootcamp. Wait, wut? It exists already? Damn. 19 Jan 11
  • Fitness mobile app w/ timed checkins, so you have to jog/run from place to place for badges 14 Feb 11
  • A travel deal finder. Enter your home city, free dates & max price. Then it finds every worldwide deal that matches 2 Mar 11
  • A wrist strap on baby utensils, so they don’t fall to the ground when the young’uns drop them 26 Mar 11
  • A trip planner that lets you plan with both a map view & calendar view. 23 May 11
  • A Mint-like service that manages all the merchant discounts one can get from their credit cards, memberships, etc 6 Jun 11
  • Social Engineering Security Consultants http://bit.ly/kNg8YB 9 Jun 11
  • “Turn your iPhone into a taser” extension case. Um, or maybe not. 11 Jun 11
  • Location review & advice service that uses your 1st & 2nd degree social network, perhaps with a Q&A format 15 Jun 11
  • A restaurant review service that learns, then finds matches based on your individual preferences. 17 Jun 11
  • A tool to help recruiters source software developers from sites like GitHub, StackOverflow, etc http://bit.ly/jyN3i1 23 Jun 11
  • A Hawaiian Shave Ice shop in some hot town on the mainland. 29 Jun 11 (How funny; I apparently have this idea about once a year)
  • An easy way to create an ebook out of selected articles & blog entries. Copyright & monetization would be tough tho. 11 Jul 11
  • Limited range group messaging using transceivers, to replace people walkie talkies during camping trips. 27 Jul 11
  • A Manpacks.com for toiletries, like contact lens solutions, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. 30 Jul 11

Want to see more business ideas? Want to discuss business ideas? Follow me on Twitter at @mikeleeorg! </plug shameless=”yes”>

Biz Idea: Software Developer Sourcing Tool

12_resume Here’s an idea I’m surprised doesn’t exist yet. At least, I haven’t heard of one. If you know of one, please let me know!

Back when I was a technical manager at Yahoo! (YHOO), I had to wade through hundreds of resumes given to me by our recruiters. After feeling desponded about the poor quality in the candidate pool, I started looking at the people behind the developer blogs I read. If the person was awesome, I sent that person an email to try attracting him/her to Yahoo!. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I failed. But when I succeeded, that person often became a fantastic hire.

I later discovered that this is called sourcing in recruiting parlance. And it was not something hiring managers do regularly, though they perhaps should. However, many are too busy. After all, that’s why there is a recruiting department, right? I was busy too, but I realized that great hires made my work easier. If I spent more time up-front hiring great people, then I could better optimize my time downstream.

To be fair, the HR team at Yahoo! noticed me doing this, then had a dedicated recruiter follow my techniques to scale them across the company. This recruiter and I spent a lot of time fine-tuning our sourcing & evaluation process. She is now a rock-star technical recruiter working for an amazing startup, and I have no doubt she will help them find incredible people.

Target Market

The actual users of such a tool would be recruiters and hiring managers. The buyers will generally be within the HR organization, as they own the vendor relationships for such tools.

Source Inputs

This tool would focus just on software developers. It’s possible this can be extended to other roles though, such as visual designers. More on that later.

There are some great online communities for software developers. A recruiter could look through these communities and pick out a few based on their contributions and participation level. It’s important to note that a developer’s reputation score in a specific community isn’t a direct correlation to being a good employee; many of the best software developers I know have a low profile on these communities. But it’s still a fair criteria. The communities, or inputs into this tool, are:

Then there are some more generic inputs that can flesh out a candidate’s background and personality:

Primary Inputs

This tool would go through these primary inputs and filter out a list of potential candidates using broad filters such as programming languages and location. Further filters could be applied to improve the relevance of the list.

The first input is GitHub, a social code repository popular for hosting open source software. Developers who participate in open source projects have their code and commits shared publicly. This means anyone can look at and evaluate their code. Whenever I evaluate a candidate, I always ask for code samples. GitHub saves me the time spent in asking and waiting for a response. Instead, I can look at a developer’s GitHub account and easily examine examples of their work.

The fine folks at GitHub realized that recruiters & hiring managers were doing this and built the GitHub Resume, an easy way to view the highlights of a developer’s contributions. This snapshot is nice, though it’s still important to dig through a candidate’s code.

There is some debate as to the value of the number of followers a developer has on GitHub. I would use the follower number sparingly. The quality of the code is still my top assessment priority.

The second input is StackOverflow, the most popular question & answer network for software developers. Again, a developer’s reputation on StackOverflow may not map directly to his/her value as an employee, as some great developers don’t put in the time necessary to cultivate a high reputation. Instead, look at the quality of individual answers as an example of written communication and concept clarity. It’s tough to explain complex code, but doing so well is a great sign.

The fine folks at StackOverflow know their value to recruiters & hiring managers and have a great job board. They are also working on a resume builder, similar to GitHub’s.

There are other niches within their StackExchange family, such as ServerFault, Programmers, Mathematics, Web Applications, Android Enthusiasts, Game Development, and more.

Syncing up a members’s profile on both GitHub and StackOverflow would be key. Not all members use the same username, however, so it would take some thinking to map a single member. I would start by trying to match the username and then website. There are also other profile elements, such as profile image and location. This is a tough enough problem that it arguably will be a barrier to entry for competitors.

Secondary Inputs

Once a list of candidates has been sourced from GitHub and StackOverflow, each profile can be fleshed out using information from LinkedIn (LNKD), Hacker News, Quora and Twitter. I personally don’t find Facebook as useful, though other employers may.

LinkedIn can provide a candidate’s education and previous work experience. Getting to this data would require authentication, so some thinking behind the user account structure of this tool would be required. For example, is there a master account that grants access to others? Or does each user create his/her own account? My gut is to have a master account that pays for a certain number of seats, though there are many alternatives.

Hacker News is a forum created by Y Combinator. This community originated around programming and startup topics, though some long-time members argue its focus has widened, bringing down the quality of the overall community. Whatever the case, many non-developers are members here, which is why HN is a supplementary resource rather than a primary one. Once again, a member’s karma on Hacker News isn’t a direct correlation of employee value, but that member’s answers may be useful.

Quora’s value is similar to StackOverflow and HN’s – the member’s answers may provide some insights into the candidate’s communication prowess. Since Quora covers a wider range of topics, this source can also offer a peek into other areas of expertise (if the candidate has many answers) or interest (if the candidate has many followed topics).

Finally, there is Twitter. For me, Twitter provides a glimpse into the candidate’s current frame of mind. All of your research could be for naught if you see the candidate tweeting about leaving this career behind to become a monk. It’s also possible to discern the candidate’s interests via Twitter. For some employers, Facebook can provide similar data if it is publicly available.

Other Sources

If the candidate has a self-hosted blog or hosted blog on Tumblr, Posterous, WordPress, etc, that would be relevant as well. Bonus points if that blog contains lots of entries on programming.

And last, but not least, is the candidate’s contact information. Somewhere amongst all of this information should be a way to contact the candidate directly. Sometimes their email address will be directly visible. This tool should harvest that email address. Other times, the email address will be hidden for either privacy or spam reasons. To reach those candidates, you may need to send them a message via LinkedIn (as an invitation request or through a LinkedIn Premium account) or a contact form on their blog (if one exists). I wouldn’t suggest a public venue such as Twitter for contacting a candidate.

Just about every developer I’ve sourced offers some way to contact him/her. This tool should be intelligent enough to find that information.

Final Output

The final product should be a list of potential candidates. A relevancy score could be added, though I’m not sure about its accuracy. I don’t believe the inputs paint a clear picture of a candidate – they only offer a fuzzy image. But say you build such a tool and notice some patterns of quality. It’s certainly imaginable that a relevancy score could be constructed if you have enough data. This, I would argue, should include data on your organization’s particular needs as well, since every company is different. As is every team. In other words, a good relevancy score should mean: this particular candidate is XX% relevant to this particular hiring manager within this particular department of your particular company.

From this list, the hiring manager can view more details about each candidate. The details would include:

  • Name
  • Current location
  • Contact info (direct email address or link to a contact form)
  • Sample code from GitHub
  • Repository membership on GitHub (own or participating repositories)
  • Programming languages used on GitHub
  • Answers from StackOverflow
  • Topics participated on StackOverflow
  • Answers from Hacker News
  • Answers from Quora
  • Education details from LinkedIn
  • Current & previous work history from LinkedIn
  • Personal website URL (and most recent blog posts)
  • Twitter account (and most recent tweets)
  • Reputation scores on all community sites

These listings could be emailed to the recruiter & hiring manager while the position is open. Ideally, this tool would hook into HR’s existing candidate management tools, such as Taleo (TLEO), Kenexa (KNXA), SuccessFactors (SFSF), Peopleclick Authoria, Bullhorn, Zoho Recruit, Recruiterbox, Resumator, etc. Yes, this is a huge market. There are a lot of players, big & small, old & new, that help manage candidates & employees. But they are all relatively weak at sourcing, especially for the niche of software developers.

Business Model

This sourcing tool would work well as a premium subscription. A free query with limited results could be offered to test drive the product, with carefully placed upsells to promote a subscription.

I touched upon this briefly, but having a master account holder for an organization may be the easiest model for users, since it’s generally a single buyer within the HR organization. The buyer can then purchase a monthly subscription based on the number of seats, or additional accounts, he/she wishes to give out within the company. There should be an easy upgrade path – like a single click – in case the account hits the seat limit.

I would experiment with this model a bit. It’s possible a seat-driven model drives some users to share accounts, thereby avoiding this payment system. I would highlight the benefits of individual seats though, because knowing an individual hiring manager’s needs can aid in the relevancy of the candidates as well as the potential relevancy score.

There are other payment models to consider too, such as number of search results and number of saved searches & positions.

Enhancements

Other inputs could be added, such as GitHub competitors Bitbucket and CodePlex, or social coding game coderwall. Other developer forums could also be added, such as SitePoint, Dev Shed and CodeGuru, as well as niche communities for specific programming languages, like the Android Developer Forums, Apple Developer Forums, Ruby on Rails: Talk, jQuery Forums, etc. The list is vast.

The candidate profile screen can be continuously tweaked and optimized for hiring managers as well. Perhaps they’d like a photo of the candidate. Or not. A/B testing is our friend here.

Other Markets

I don’t have the market size of software developer recruitment handy, but there are many other professions to consider beyond this one. The value of this tool is its ability to use very niche and relevant inputs, sync a profile across all of them, and return the necessary criteria for evaluating a candidate. For software developers, this means code samples and answers in related topics.

What are other roles that have rich online communities and profiles? How about those in the creative disciplines? For visual designers, possible inputs could be portfolio sites such as Dribble, Carbonmade, deviantART, Creative Hotlist, AIGA, Behance Network, Coroflot, etc.

Question and answer sites may not be as relevant for creative professionals, so repurposing this tool for this discipline would require significant customization on the candidate profile UI. But the underlying platform would be the same.

Although professions with definitive online outputs are easiest to source with this tool, others could be aided as well. For professors and researchers, this tool could fetch their research papers. For lawyers, this tool could fetch their previous court cases. I’m not sure what could be fetched for a truck driver, but with more and more information being recorded on the web, such a platform could become a very powerful recruiting tool.

Photo by: wisdomandwonder.com

Biz Idea: Travel Deal Finder

Airplane Imagine if there was a site where you could enter in your home city, a set of travel dates, and a maximum spending price. Then you’d get a list of travel deals matching your criteria.

There would also be an option to find only airfare deals, or airfares + hotels, or the big three: airfares, hotels + car rentals.

Wouldn’t this be great for vacations and weekend excursions? You know you’re free on a particular set of dates (they’re inflexible), you know how much you want to spend, and you know where you live, of course. What you don’t know is where you want to go. But you’re open to suggestions. That’s what this site would offer. It’s part travel destination discovery, part price comparison shopping.

This idea came from my wife’s coworker. When I first heard it, I thought this kind of service already existed. They insisted it didn’t. Sure enough, after a few web searches, I discovered they were right. The large travel sites – Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Kayak, etc – have similar functionality, but all require that you enter in a destination. And that’s the problem. We know our origin city and travel dates, but not our destination. We want this service to solve that for us by offering suggestions – then to book our selections.

Seems like an obvious idea, huh? So why haven’t the big travel services built this yet? Have they already examined this business model and found it to be unprofitable? Is there a lack of travel deals? And if this were built, what’s to stop the big guys from duplicating this feature?

This would be an awesome product, but I haven’t done any deep research to know how viable of a business it is. Sounds great on the surface, but may be a quagmire in the details. Or business defensibility. I’ve found lots of great deals on the big travel sites and the deals all seem to have a specific set of traits (dates of use, price, etc). So technically, this is doable. But I don’t know if there are business restrictions or requirements around the procurement or use of this data.

Still, if anyone wants to pursue this, let me know and I’d be glad to help!

Photo by: xlibber

Biz Idea: Real-Time Brainstorm Note Taker

There is often a need to record the notes from a brainstorming session. Haven’t had the pleasure of doing one before? I’ll explain.

What Happens in a Brainstorming Session

If your organization hasn’t done a brainstorming session before, it’s essentially an open-ended meeting where ideas around a particular topic or problem are dreamt up and recorded. There is usually a facilitator to keep the meeting going, and to remind participations that there are no bad ideas. All ideas are accepted and no idea is judged or evaluated during these meetings. The facilitator may clarify, but that’s about it. Idea evaluation happens later.

The Problems Around Brainstorming Sessions

The notes from these sessions are typically transcribed and/or photographed. Then they are stored on an internal repository or simply emailed to each other.

Recording these sessions is just the first step too. After that, someone has to organize the information so it can be properly evaluated later. It also needs to be retrievable. Since brainstorms aren’t generating formal product specifications, some teams aren’t sure where to store these notes. As a result, sometimes they get lost in an abandoned email thread or text document on someone’s desktop.

The tools of choice? Some kind of text editor on the laptop, like an email client, online wiki page, or word processor. For photos, a smartphone with a camera or digital point-and-shoot are usually used. If the photographer forgets to share the photos, however, the team may forget and they are never seen again.

Seems like an awful wide range of tools and hurdles for such a seemingly simple task, huh?

A Potential Solution

So how about an app that allows participants to record notes in any media they choose – be it text, photograph, video, or audio? This app could be both a mobile and web app. Notes taken in one app would show up in all of the others in real-time. One participant could be typing in the ideas while another is taking photos of the session. A third could be recording audio or video as well. It would be like a collaborative, real-time Evernote.

The text interface would look like Google Wave (GOOG) – which basically is a rich-text, real-time, multi-user editor. Several participants could be adding notes all at the same time, while photos and other media appear as they are recorded. The media assets could be annotated and tagged for better organization as well.

All of this would be recorded in a single destination. Everyone would know where to look if they wanted to dig up some idea that was passed around. Since note taking happens in real time, the chance of someone forgetting to share a note is decreased as well.

Here’s another way to envision this product. You’re in a brainstorming session as a participant. You have your iPad (AAPL) out to jot down some notes. A coworker is taking photos with her iPhone of all the diagrams on the whiteboard. Each time she uploads one, you view it on your iPad and add some notes to it for context.

The facilitator is recording the audio for this session on his Nexus S sitting on the conference table. Another participant is on her laptop, with several tabs open in Chrome, adding URLs of articles mentioned in this meeting too.

Meanwhile, a coworker who’s sick at home is following along on the web app, watching the updates occur as they occur. He’s conferenced in via Skype. (I’m not sure this should be a feature of this app too, but who knows?) This way, he can see, hear, and even participate in the brainstorm.

All of the notes taken would be stored within the app and accessible at any time. Any note or media file could be emailed. Various levels of permissions could be applied as well. These session notes could be shared with other departments as a jump-off point for further brainstorms.

A Potential Business Model

And how would this service make money? By charging for storage. You could go with a freemium model and offer one brainstorming session free for 30 days. That ought to give users enough of a taste to purchase the premium plan. Or, forget freemium and just charge per session per month.

Potential Initial Target Market Segments

Creative agencies and technology startups could make a suitable beachhead segment to pursue first. They tend to hold such brainstorming sessions more often than other organizations. Once you’ve captured that niche, you can expand to other audiences.

And Beyond

And for future features? Why not hold a brainstorming session – using this tool, of course! What better way to improve your product than by using it yourself? The ideas you generate may be invaluable, and being able to record them in any form may spark other product ideas too.

Business Idea Evaluation with The Innovator’s Scorecard

Need another way to evaluate your business idea? Thomas McKnight, author of Will It Fly? How to Know if Your New Business Idea Has Wings…Before You Take the Leap, has a robust method he calls the Innovator’s Scorecard. This scorecard rates various factors of your business idea to tell you if it is worth pursuing. Each factor is discussed in detail in the book, so if you would like to learn more about this method, check out the book.

An Excel version of the Scorecard is available. I’ve also created this online version of it.

To use this scorecard, type in a score for each feature into the Raw Score column. This score can range from -10 to +10, with -10 being the worst and +10 being the best. McKnight discusses each factor in great detail in his book. Purchase a copy if you would like to know more about any of them.

Raw Score
(-10 to +10)
Criteria Weight Total
Compelling unserved need

Does your product fulfill a lack of something required, desirable, or useful?

Explainable uniqueness

How unique is your product?

Sustainable differentiation

Can you sustain your uniqueness, or regain it if lost?

Demonstrable now

Can the customer touch, feel, taste, see, sense, or use your product right now?

Good competition

Are there weak competitors that validate your market, yet can be beaten easily?

Bad competition

Are there strong competitors that pose a real threat?

Compelling pricing possible

Could you offer your product at a good price?

Closable customers

Do you have any actual customers right now you could sell to, even before you have a product?

Quality of evidence of demand

Do you have good proof that there is a demand for your product?

Ahead of market

Can you deliver your product at the right time to capture substantial market share?

Ambush exposure

How likely are you to be ambushed by an unknown competitor? How defensible is your product?

“Hot Market”

Is there a wild, almost irrational demand for your product right now?

Attitude: confidence and fearlessness

Do you & your team have enough confidence in yourselves & your product to push no matter what?

Commitment

Can you & your team realistically commit yourselves to this product?

Staying Power

Do you & your team have long staying power, even if your product isn’t profitable at first?

Passion

Do you & your team have true, deep passion for your product?

Management Competence

How competent are you & your team in building and marketing your product?

Honesty and Integrity

Are you & your team known to have high honesty and integrity?

Success Ethic

Do you & your team have a record of achieving significant successes? Are you all capable of doing so?

Looking Good in the Lobby

Are you & your team presentable in fromt of investors?

Cash Flowing Now

Can you earn a cash flow now or very soon?

Revenue Model Swamps Costs

Will your business model allow you to earn real profits (revenues minus expenses)?

Delivery Advantages

Do you have any special relationships or privileges within your intended distribution channels?

Resources available

Do you have access to the resources you’ll need to launch your product?

Preemption & Domination

Would you be able to preempt your competitors and dominate some aspect of your market, value chain, distribution channels, etc?

Strategy to Penetrate Market

Do you have a strong strategy with which to enter into the market?

Strategy for Breaching the Chasm

After you’ve released your product, do you have a strong strategy with which to reach a general audience?

Proprietary Ownership

Can you attach enough value to your product that those who wish to own or use it think of you first?

Partnering Candidates

Are there good partnership opportunities that will give you an advantage without hindering you as well?

Appropriateness of Location

Does your company’s location give you any advantages in resources or customers?

Quality of back-up plan

Do you have a good, realistic back-up plan in case things go wrong?

Unfair Advantages

Do you have any significant advantages in your favor that competitors don’t have?

Manageable Capital Requirements

Do you need to raise an unrealistically large amount of funding? Or is it a manageable amount?

Low Cash Required Prelaunch

In the days & weeks immediately before the launch, do you need a large, or manageable amount of cash?

Visible Capital

Is your funding proven? Is it in the bank, or at least accessible to you with a good degree of certainty?

High Potential Value

Will your business have a high valuation after about five years of existence?

Foreseeable Harvest

How likely will a return on investment be possible for an outside investor?

Taboo

Does your product violate any ethical, societal, cultural, politcal, or environmental taboos?

Lack of Showstoppers

Do any foreseeable showstoppers exist to block your success?

Pretending not to Know

Are you or your team in denial about any threats to your success? Be honest.

High Profile Persons Available

Can you attract any high profile individuals as team members, customers, or evangelists?

Punchy, compelling story

Do you have a solid, interesting, and catchy elevator pitch?

Government Relevance

Can you gain any political standing or supporters in the government?

Low-Hanging Fruit

Do you have any easy wins you can make, such as prospective customers, rock star employees, low-cost resources, etc?

TOTALS

Grade:

After you’ve finished scoring your business idea, your final Grade will indicate the viability of your idea. If your grade is:

  • 80% or higher – You have a good chance of success, and your grade is high enough to potentially seek outside funding.
  • 70% – 79% – You have a decent chance of success. Examine each factor to see if you can improve its score.
  • 60% – 69% – You have a low chance of success. Examine each factor to see if you can improve its score.
  • 50% or lower – You should move on to another idea.

This scorecard isn’t only designed to give you a one-shot assessment of your business idea. As mentioned above, it also reveals the various factors that can significantly improve the success of your business. If you have a low score on any of these elements, consider revisiting each one and thinking of ways to raise that score.

Business Idea Evaluation with The Product Opportunity Assessment

Want to know if your idea is worth pursuing? There are lots ways to determine this. Marty Cagan, author of Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love, outlines a lightweight method he calls the Product Opportunity Assessment. This document’s goal is to determine whether or not a particular product opportunity is worth pursuing.

Here is what goes into a Product Opportunity Assessment.

  1. Value Proposition: Exactly what problem will this solve?
  2. Target Market: For whom do you solve that problem?
  3. Market Size: How big is the opportunity?
  4. Metrics/Revenue Strategy: How will you measure success?
  5. Competitive Landscape: What alternatives are out there now?
  6. Differentiator: Why are you best suited to pursue this?
  7. Market Window: Why now?
  8. Go-to-Market Strategy: How will you get this product to the market?
  9. Solution Requirements: What factors are critical to success?
  10. Go or No-Go: Given the above, what’s the recommendation?

This sounds like a method entrepreneurs can use as well. It’s meant to be fairly basic, yet comprehensive. While it may not replace a full business plan for a VC presentation, seeing all of these factors spelled out and help you decide on your next product or business idea.

The Fourth Wave

When venture capitalist John Doerr has a theory, people sit up and listen. Over at the TechCrunch Disrupt 2010 conference (happening today), he’s presenting what he calls the Third Wave. As reported by TechCrunch yesterday:

The First Wave was personal computers and the wave of disruption that caused. The second wave was the Internet, ditto. We are now, says Doerr, in the Third Wave.

What exactly is the Third Wave? It’s the tectonic shifts we’re seeing in mobile platforms (read his post here about the iPad), the social graph (particularly Facebook), and online commerce. All of these things are related and being accelerated by each other (Facebook is the largest mobile application, Zynga leverages Facebook and also stokes Facebook growth, Groupon is social/flash commerce, etc.).

John Doerr’s Waves of Disruptive Technologies

To summarize, it sounds to me like Doerr is saying:

  1. The First Wave is personal computing
  2. The Second Wave is the internet
  3. The Third Wave is social media & mobile devices

Common Traits of Disruptive Technologies

When I look at these waves, I see several common traits. Each subsequent wave builds upon one another. Also, each wave:

  • Increases the level of communication the previous technology affords. These advances, to some extent, mirror real-world interactivity, and extend beyond it. For instance, real-world interactivity only happens at a specific time, a specific location, and by the specific people who are present. Online interactivity can do this, and be at any time, at any place, and by multiple people in real-time or delayed-time. Additional information about the other person can also be shared, such as location, work history, and favorite restaurants, providing a context that real-world interactivity may not.

  • Decreases the distance & friction between two or more parties, consumer-to-consumer, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-business, and business-to-business. Each of those entities can be plural as well. This means the velocity of communication has gone from weeks to minutes to immediate. This also means traditional layers of hierarchy have broken down. A grade school student can contact a CEO or the President of the United States, for example. Or a fast food franchise can send a coupon to your phone if you walk by one of their restaurants.

  • Increases the utility of the previous technology for the user. The personal computer allows a person to write reports, spreadsheets, and presentations. The internet allows a person to conduct research on any topic in the world. Social media allows a person to communicate with friends, family, customers, and more. Mobile devices allow a person to conduct any of these operations wherever that person is located. It is becoming easier, faster, and in some ways, more effective & efficient, to accomplish all the tasks you need to accomplish.

  • Increases the level of intimacy of the technology, while conversely decreasing the level of privacy. A personal computer enables a person to publish print newsletters and reach a limited, yet known audience. The internet enables a person to publish websites and reach a vast, yet unknown audience. Social media enables people to publish thoughts, opinions, and self-expressions, and reach a vast, yet selective audience. Mobile devices enable people to publish anywhere, not just at their laptops, but on a train, plane, or even the toilet. The Third Wave allows you to share your intimate thoughts during potentially intimate moments, though the services are still struggling with the appropriate levels of privacy.

  • Increases the relevancy & clarity of the message. As the intimacy level increases with each wave, the sender is able to know more and more about the receiver. This enables the sender to customize and personalize each message, making it more relevant and useful to the receiver. A skilled sender will also know how to use the latest technologies to send a clear message that can prompt action and be measurable. There is still value to broadcasting a common message to the masses, though sending customized messages to targeted individuals will yield a higher conversion rate & return on investment.

Predicting the Fourth Wave

When placed in this light, I think it’s possible to draw tentative conclusions on what the Fourth Wave may look like. Some trends that I foresee are:

  • Predictive computing. Communications have sped up to real-time now. How much faster can you get than that? How about happening before it even happens? There are indications that predictive computing may already be here, so perhaps this will be just another trait of the Third Wave. Facebook already has a data science team that may know who you may hook up with. Ferreals.

  • Life action streams. Foursquare allows you to publish where you are when you are there, though it’s just a single message and not an exact note of when you arrive and when you leave. Miso allows you to publish what you are watching when you watch it, though it doesn’t let anyone know if you are tuning into the commercials or channel-surfing. The Fourth Wave may offer a continuous stream of all your actions. It’s a bit scary, but I could see its usefulness in ethnographic studies, television ratings, and perhaps tracking your children when they are at Disneyland with you, in case they get lost (mobile phones with GPS can already do this though).

  • Bio-sharing. Devices could be implanted into us to provide someone with immediate information about our bodies. To some extent, this is already being being done in the medical community, like the pacemakers that transmit a heart’s condition in real-time. But how about a device that monitors how well the body is holding up to chemotherapy? Or how happy or angry you are at a game? Could be a good predictor of riots. I suppose some enterprising individual could foresee social media uses too, like sharing when you’re hungry and when you’re sleeping.

What do you think may be in the Fourth Wave?

Photo via: cliff1066™

Biz Idea: Hawaiian Shave Ice Franchise

Matsumoto Shave Ice It started innocently enough. My fiancee took me to a Hawaiian shave ice (yup, it’s “shave ice,” not “shaved ice” with a “d”) shop one day. The famous Matsumoto Shave Ice shop, to be specific.

And I fell in love. With the Hawaiian shave ice, I mean. I was already in love with my fiancee, of course. (Plug disclaimer: her relatives own Matsumoto Shave Ice.)

What is Hawaiian Shave Ice?

If you haven’t had the pleasure of trying Hawaiian shave ice before, let me enlighten you. First, you start with finely shaved ice. Very finely shaved ice. If you’ve had a Slurpee, snow cone, or Italian ice, that’s not finely shaved enough. Hawaiian shave ice is more like fresh, fluffy snow. Those others come off like coarse ice in comparison.

Next, you add some delicious syrup. Flavors include strawberry, pineapple, lemon, coconut, banana, vanilla, root beer, grape, lime, melon, mango, lychee, peach… you get the idea. All of this can sit on top of vanilla ice cream (which adds a nice, creamy component, if you like that) or sweet red beans (mmm mmm good). Then you top it all off with sweetened condensed milk. And that’s all there is to Hawaiian shave ice. All of these ingredients are optional and can be mixed-and-matched to your tastes.

(Oh boy, my mouth is so salivating as I write this.)

Potential Market Need?

When I returned to the hot California weather and faced droughts & wildfires, I longed for more of that sweet Hawaiian shave ice. The only offerings around me were frozen yogurt shops. Good as they were, they aren’t refreshing like finely shaved ice is.

So as Asian-influenced frozen yogurt shops like Pinkberry, Red Mango, and a bunch of self-serve froyo shops spread like Starbucks (SBUX), I can’t help but wonder if Hawaiian shave iced shops could fare just as well. They’ve certainly got a lot going for them:

  • The refreshment factor, especially in hot, dry weather
  • The novelty factor; I don’t think many Americans outside of Hawaii are familiar with this
  • The operating costs shouldn’t be much higher than a frozen yogurt shop

I also mentioned this idea as a Facebook status update and got alot of surprisingly enthusiastic responses. Granted, they could just be friends showing support, but it shows that there certainly are potential customers. Like me, for one!

Anyone want to create such a shop? Then launch it into a national franchise? Methinks it’s got potential. And you can open your first store right next to me please. Thank you.