Reinventing The Wheel (Or Why My Thing Is So Much More Special-er)

I created a way to track how you spend your time time and it’s called Root Basis. This project has been a long time coming actually.  For years, I’ve been obsessively tracking how I spend my time but I’d always give up because it took up so much more time than what felt productive.

Imagine having to take almost a whole minute every few minutes to write down what you’re doing. A lot of that was just repetitive too because I have the same routines.

Eventually, I created the antescedant to what would become Root Basis. This was an extremely primitive program (and ugly) but it worked.

Root Basis is a more streamlined and intuitive version of that and I’m very proud of it. I use it almost every single day to track how I spend my time.

With that being said, the best time tracker is Toggl. It’s clean. It’s simple. It’s intuitive. If you’re going to bring a time tracker to market, that’s what it should look like.

Now why am I writing this? Am I just engaging in negative self talk? Moping about how I failed? No.  It’s because I never used Toggl until almost six months after I began developing Root Basis.

To be fair, I never planned on releasing Root Basis. Originally, the plan was to create a way to quantify every aspect of your life. I never really developed it past time tracking but I used it every day. Since I was using it every day, I figured other people might find it useful. (I was wrong.)

A common bit of advice in business is to find the market first and once you have a paying customer then you build the product. Sometimes, I just wanna build something because it’s awesome. That’s why I built Words Prevail, a way to send out a message if something happens to you. In this case, it would have been helpful, not only as a viable alternative to going through the process of building something, but also as a way to inspire me to build something better.  (Toggl’s design is so minimalist and clean while Root Basis’ is clunky and unnatural.)

[As a side note, Toggl would have been completely inappropriate for my purposes. The entire purpose of Root Basis is so that you don’t have to write down what you’re doing.]

 

Random Ass Questions

I have a Trello board entirely devoted to random ass questions that I come up with.

Which cities have develop since 1990?

Which part of farming cannot be easily automated?

What’s more likely to be an issue as a black women traveling the world?

I never have enough time for it though. I have about 39 questions that I haven’t even bothered to answer and 13 questions that I need to re-ask on Reddit because they weren’t answered in a satisfactory fashion.

Now I’ve been looking for something to blog about and this seems like the perfect thing. I even found a domain that would be perfect: randomquestionoftheday.com

So we’ll see how this develops. I’m really excited to have a project that I might be able to stick with. Though, I’m concerned that I’ll run out of questions.

random question of the day

Idea: A Platform For Artisan Greeting Cards

X For Y: Etsy For Greeting Cards

Origin

I was reviewing my grandmother’s cards for Mother’s Day while simultaneously complaining to her about greeting cards.

The idea of a greeting card is great. You show someone that you really care by sending them a message in a physical format, which in this day and age lends an almost Victorian air of sophistication.

The problem is that the greeting card you bought at CVS is not unique. They print out thousands, if not millions, of them. You browsed a few in the rack and you picked one out. That’s not special. That’s not unique. Something like that can hardly be considered a gift. In the end, giving a card to someone nowadays usually isn’t much more than an obligation or social gamesmanship.

While telling my grandmother this, I thought of Her. How the protagonist of that story works in some lofty future where people pay him to write hand-written messages. Then I thought what if I could do the same thing with greeting cards?

How It Works

With this platform, people could hire someone to custom create their greeting card for them. They could hire an artist, a writer or a calligrapher.  These developers would have portfolios and ratings on their profiles. Developers can provide more than one role. A developer who fulfills all three roles would be termed a full-stack developer.

In order to create a greeting card, the user simply describes what they’re looking for either in text, audio or video format. The user then indicates what type of developers they’re willing to hire and how much they’re willing to pay.

Developers would then place their bid for the proposal and any comments they may have.

The user would then go through the list of applicants and hire whoever they see fit.

Our platform would compensate the developers for their shipping costs and direct them where they would send it to. In some cases, they’d be sending it directly to the customer. In other cases, they may be sending it to another developer to be finished.

After the customer has received their greeting card, they would be able to rate and comment on that developer.

Concerns

The price point for these greeting cards is $10. The platform would take $1 for every greeting card sold. Assuming that the artist would get less than 1/2 of that, there’s a very real concern that this is not enough money, but artists from less developed countries could possibly fulfill that role.

In the event of an international collaboration, the cost of possibly shipping the card to  three separate countries (from artist to calligrapher to customer) may have a huge financial impact. This could be mitigated by only allowing for domestic collaborations or passing that shipping cost directly and transparently to the consumer as part of working with that developer.

Business Model

The platform receives $1 for each greeting card. All greeting cards are developed in a standard medium and must be purchased by developers for a nominal fee.

Idea: A Way For The Homeless To Panhandle Digitally

X For Y: Kickstarter For Homelessness

Imagine a world where the homeless don’t have to stand next to a freeway exit to panhandle. They don’t have to hold up signs begging for money in order to survive. That was the seed that spawned this idea.

Social Media For The Homeless

What if there was a platform, specifically, for people to panhandle? Helping the homeless went viral in 2011 when Ted Williams was put in the national spotlight. So people are interested in helping the homeless. It’s just about whether or not they can access their story. On this platform, the homeless can take pictures of their lives and post updates so people can see how their donations help that person.

Augmenting Solicitations

Now, that kind of social media involvement is going to be rare, especially for someone from the homeless community. So there’s another added benefit, they can augment their cardboard signs with a 4 digit alpha-numeric code that people can use to donate to them digitally. People who don’t have cash  or people who don’t have time to stop would now be able to donate. Also, people can choose to support someone through regular donations if they were inclined.

Monetization

A transaction fee would be deducted from all donations.  Homeless people may not have a bank account, so the company would provide a debit card for the homeless to use.  Additionally, as another source of revenue, this debit card would have transaction fees for withdrawal. This type of revenue may be viewed as predatory so the entire platform may work better as a not-for-profit.

A Possible Pivot

Some homeless people may feel uncomfortable with attaching themselves and their livelihood to any kind of entity, due to mental illness or disinterest.  The homeless, by nature, are transient and may not necessarily be confined to a specific geographical area. This app could possibly provide a way for homeless shelters and homeless advocates to document possible security threats and create a safer environment for everyone involved.

Starting A Great Business With Any Idea

On /r/startups, people will occasionally ask for ideas for startups or how people come up with ideas for their startup. I understand why they’re asking but it really bothers me every time.

If you need to ask someone else for help just to get an idea to start a business, you probably shouldn’t be starting one. Having an idea for a business is one of the most basic requirements for a business and if you’re not able to do that by yourself without asking for help, I don’t know how you’re going to succeed.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. I did the same thing more than a decade ago. I was looking for businesses that I could run on my own. I went through a book at the local book store and came upon ‘massage therapist’. I could do it entirely on an entrepreneurial basis and wouldn’t require employment in order to do it.

I failed miserably. I spent thousands of dollars on training only to find out I couldn’t even give way the massages in order to fulfill the licensing requirements. Also, and this is the bigger issue that I oddly did not even consider at the time: I don’t like touching people. I’ll do it for the money, of course, but it skeeves me out to have to touch another human being that I’m not attracted or related to.

So, that’s one reason why you shouldn’t be asking other people for help in ideas to start a business. Another reason is that most ideas aren’t particularly helpful to begin with in the first place. You need to believe strongly in your business and if the idea doesn’t resonate with you on a deep, meaningful level, you’re not going to be able to weather all the rejection, stress and failure that comes with running a business.

Ideas aren’t that hard to come up with. Yesterday, I was listening to a podcast that was bringing up some concerns regarding privacy for Facebook and Google. Given that so much of their business model is based on acquiring data from their users and how people are becoming more concerned about their privacy, they predicted that other business models will rise up to address those concerns.

Now I don’t personally feel that privacy is that big of a concern but I came up with an alternative. Rather than a business model that’s based off of pimping their customer’s data, I came up with a business model oriented towards customers earning their cycles through Mechanical Turk type work. It’s probably a horrible idea. I didn’t even bother to write it down when I got it, but it was an idea nonetheless. That’s the only kind of mindset that’s required for an idea to start a business. You see a problem and you find a solution. It’s really that simple.