Sunday, September 28, 2014

Second Best Ideas for App Related Startups

Continuing on with my series on Ideas for Startups that I'm not going to pursue for one reason or another, I have come up with a couple others that are app related. The reason why I am not trying to develop these are many: I may not think there is much profit potential, I may not have enough expertise around the topic to make it successful, I may not have the time, or a myriad of other reasons. So here they are.

What Kind of Dog is That?

This is what I call the "What Kind of Dog is That?" app. Have you ever seen a dog and wondered what type of breed it is? Or maybe you own a mixed breed and you wander what breeds your dog has? Maybe you are going to an animal shelter and you want to get a golden retriever mix, and you want to make sure it has golden retriever in it.

What if you could just take a picture of the dog with your smart phone and an app, using facial recognition technology, could tell you what type of dog it is and what breeds went into the mix?

Free Birthday Cake

Many restaurants provide a free dessert if you are having dinner there for a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary. How about an app where you could plug in your birthday and the birthdays of your family members (and anniversary date), and it would alert you as the birth date approaches to a list of restaurants in your area that will give you a free dessert. In addition, if any of these restaurants had "birthday clubs", it would automaticly register you for them. You would benefit by getting a free dessert and the restaurants would benefit because by giving out the dessert, they would pull in you and one or several other people to celebrate.

Do these ideas sound good? Going to give any a try? Let me know how it goes. I hope you become wealthy doing so. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Microinterview with James Altucher About Startups

James Altucher is an American hedge fund manager, author and blogger. He has founded or cofounded several companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr. His writing has been frequently published by a number of media outlets, including The Financial Times, TheStreet.com, TechCrunch and The Huffington Post. He has also published several books on investing. He maintains a blog at JamesAltucher.com where he discusses his experiences as an entrepreneur and his theories for success and happiness.

Comments in italics are from StartupAlmanac.com.

Question: Can you give three new ideas for startups that you haven't talked about before?

Altucher: podcast2book

This is a great idea. So many bloggers are doing podcasts right now, it would be nice to have a service that can transcribe all your recent podcasts then put them into book form. 

Altucherlead gen to people who will renegotiate edu loans

There are a huge number of former students with outstanding student loans. There are businesses that will help those people renegotiate those loans. Those businesses just need leads so they can contact those people looking for help.

Altuchercredit lines to pawn shops. charge 15% and 2 pts

Pawn shops need money and sometimes the demand for borrowing gets strong, especially during a rough economy with lots of people out of work. If pawn shops need money, they can easily afford to pay 15%, considering the outrageous amounts they charge on their loans.

Question: Thanks, James.

Altucher has several books worth reading that would be useful for entrepreneurs and those involved in or considering startups, including I Was Blind But Now I See: Time to Be HappyHow to Be the Luckiest Person Alive!, and Faq Me.

A microinterview is a very short concise to-the-point interview with no more than two or three questions and answers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Even More Second Best Ideas for a Startup

If you missed my articles recently on my Second Best Ideas for a Startup, you should check them out here and here. These are startup ideas that I thought of that I'm not pursuing myself for various reasons. Hopefully, you will take one of these ideas and run with it.

Spray Paint Reflector

Graffiti is a major problem throughout the United States. If there was some substance that could prevent spray paint from sticking, it would really sell. Governments and commercial properties would be huge buyers of such a product. This would be something that would be sprayed on walls, and would be clear. If the wall was spray painted with this protection covering it, it would wash off with water or wipe off with a rag. Any science nerds out there that could come up with this?

Earthquake Detector

On the news on a local TV station, they reported that an earthquake detector could be made by anyone for around $100, and could warn people ahead of time about an upcoming quake. How about someone mass producing these and selling them for $19.95? Even better yet, how about an earthquake detector app? An Apple iPhone earthquake detection app would sell like hotcakes in California.

No Calorie Chocolate

Obviously, obesity is a major problem in America. Most people like and eat chocolate. So how about chocolate without or with very few calories. This is what would be needed to make this successful:

  • No weird chemical sweeteners
  • Needs to taste exactly like chocolate (I know carob is sometimes considered a substitute, but not an exact match in taste)
  • Needs to look exactly like what chocolate looks like
  • The cost (and price) needs to be reasonable

So how about it? Think any of these ideas that can make you millions?

Monday, September 15, 2014

How to Get on Shark Tank

Shark Tank is the reality TV show for entrepreneurs. It has been the most watched TV program for the 18 to 29 year old demographic for Friday nights, garnering over 6 million viewers for each episode. If you can get on the show, even if none of the sharks invest with you, the free advertising you get for your startup is priceless. The sharks include Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John, and Kevin O'Leary.

So what do you do to get ready for and get on the show? There are actually just a few simple steps, but each step can take some work.

Are Your Ready?

1. First, determine if you are ready. If a venture capitalist came to visit you right now, would you be able to make your presentation immediately? Do you have your business plan and pitch deck ready? Have you memorized it?

Getting Ready

2. Next, watch a couple shows and write down every question the sharks ask. Then have a co-worker or friend ask you every one of those questions. Standup when you respond. You may think that this step is putting the cart before the horse but it's not. Often, these shows want you to act quickly with the producers wanting to meet you within a couple days. You need to be ready way ahead of time.

No Confidentiality

3. Understand the lack of confidentiality with your proposal, and the terms of service. If you are concerned about someone stealing your idea, then maybe you should reconsider being on Shark Tank. The (Shark Tank, ABC, Disney) Terms of Service can be found at:  Terms of Service

How to Apply

3. Apply. There are actually two ways to apply; the first is to send in your proposal by email. Send your name, age, contact information, a recent photo, and a description of your business that will not remain confidential. You can email your proposal to: SharkTankCasting [ at ] yahoo {dot} com
More information about applying can be found here.

Open Calls

4. The other way to apply is through an Open Call. An Open Call is when an event is held in a certain city and you just show up to give your proposal without an appointment. To see a list of Shark Tank Open Calls, you can go to the following link:  Open Calls


5. If they contact you, respond immediately. If they want to meet you, drop everything and cancel everything to meet with the producers when they want to see you. 


6. If they decide they want you on the show, then practice, practice, practice and make sure you have all responses that you can answer with ease. (See step 2.)

At this point it's now in your hands. Best of luck!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Launch Festival for Startups March 2 - 4, 2015 in San Francisco

Have you started a startup? Do you want to invest in a startup? Do you want to learn more about starting your own startup? Then you should sign up now for the Launch Festival in San Francisco, which will be held from March 2 through March 4, 2015.

The keynote speaker will be Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn. Previous speakers have included Marissa Mayer, Peter Thiel, Sheryl Sandberg, and Mark Zuckerberg.

There are a few competitions:

 LAUNCH 1.0 - This competition is for completely new companies who haven't had press or public demos, and whose services are currently in closed alpha or beta. Early Bird Deadline to apply is 12/12/14.

LAUNCH 2.0 - This competition is for existing companies that are launching new products or significantly new features of an existing product. Early Bird Deadline to apply is 12/12/14.

LAUNCH Hackathon - This competition is for the best LAUNCH Hackathon project.

For tickets to the Launch Festival, go to the following link:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Exclusive Interview with Jarrod Smith of Rolling Paper Depot

Readers who are interested in learning how a startup became very successful will find this interview fascinating. In a continuation of our series on startups, the following interview was graciously provided by Jarrod Smith of Rolling Paper Depot, a fast growing online company that was started with less than $2,500.

Why don't we start by briefly describing what the company does? 

Rolling Paper Depot is an online retailer of rolling papers and smoking accessories for the roll-your-own enthusiast.  We provide a wide selection of products that aren't always available at gas stations or smoke shops.  Our goal is to provide our customers with great prices and excellent customer service. 

How did you happen to come up with the idea for the business?
Believe it or not, the business idea literally landed on my desk out of the blue.  I own several e-commerce companies and somehow a catalog for rolling papers landed on my desk.  I thought to myself, "who would buy rolling papers online? Can't you just go to 7-11?"  My naivety of the situation was comical.  I did a good bit of research on the market and was surprised to find that the business is viable.  It is not the biggest company I have, but it is the most fun to work on.  

Did you get any venture capital to begin with or are you self funded?
We are completely self-funded.  In fact, I started this company with less than $2500.  Today that would not be possible.  The market is extremely competitive and I suspect "Big Tobacco" will eventually enter the niche because of the ongoing legalization of medical marijuana.  

This is outside of the scope of the question, but I predict that "Big Tobacco" will migrate from tobacco to medical marijuana. I'm not saying tobacco is going to cease to exist, but in the future it won't be as prevalent as it is today.  I think "Big Tobacco" is actually working to delay federal legalization of marijuana.  Once they find out how to package it and sell it in conjunction with "Big Government", the entire landscape of MMJ will change into something like the beer industry where the Coors and Millers of the world sell the majority of the product and the "boutique" MMJ shops will turn into micro-breweries of sorts.  The best product will be in the small shops, but they won't be able to produce as much or be as competitive on price as the big boys. 

How long have you been in business and is the company a corporation, an LLC, a partnership, or what?
The company is a LLC. We have been in business for about 4 1/2 years.  

The recreational and medical marijuana industry seemed to take off in January after the legalization in Colorado. Did that provide a substantial increase to your sales?
It's difficult to attribute legalization of marijuana to an increase in our sales because our sales have been growing steadily since we started.  However, I think the "buzz" around legalization has sparked an interest in some products we carry. 

Any thoughts on what  will happen with the upcoming ballot elections on recreational and medical marijuana?
 The legalization of marijuana isn't an issue that is red or blue.  Nearly three fourths of the people in the US are sick of the battle over marijuana.  Our government is spending tons of money fighting a losing battle.  People are being charged with felonies and going to jail.  Our jails are full and our citizens are struggling to find jobs.  It just doesn't make sense to fight it anymore and the majority of people are fed up.  My thoughts are that the states will continue to legalize marijuana and eventually the federal government will have to give in to the will of the people.  At least, that's how it's supposed to work anyway. 

How many employees do you have and do you use virtual assistants?
We have 7 employees and we do not use virtual assistants.  Everything we do is in-house.

How were you have to get the the top of Google search, and do you consider high ranking a key in being successful?
I have been doing SEO for nearly 10 years.  I own an internet marketing company also and that helps me stay at the top.  I think being on the first page of Google for keywords in any industry is extremely important to succeed. Most people know a little about SEO, but they fail to see the benefits of social media marketing.  In fact, when I launched my latest e-commerce company in the roller skating niche I didn't focus on keyword rankings at all.  Instead, I focused on a large social media following.  Interestingly enough, that is actually leading to higher keyword rankings because my social followers are linking to my website for me.  The more links I get the better my rankings are.  This technique isn't "cutting edge", but it is definitely the progressive way to market an internet start-up in 2014.  

Tell us a little about your background.
 I am an entrepreneur at heart.  I built my first business in the 6th grade selling blow-pops at school. I hid it from my parents because I didn't think they would approve. I'm not sure why.  As it turns out, the school didn't particularly appreciate the competition.  My candy was cheaper than the school's candy.  Eventually I got caught and I had to stop selling blow-pops. The principal called me to his office and then called my father to discuss my "business".  They had a good laugh about the entire thing while I sat scared to death of what might happen to me.  My parents were impressed with my work and gave me the obligatory scolding for taking the lunch money of my schoolmates.  Since then I've had a keen eye for business opportunities and I've kept solid ethical standards. 

I got my first computer in 1994 and I had a dial-up internet connection.  I was not particularly interested in "chatting with someone in Germany", but thankfully my mother forced it on me.  She definitely saw the benefits of being proficient on the computer.  The first part of my experience on the internet was mostly IRC and learning the Linux OS.  As I learned more I did some tech work with Windows machines, but eventually I got a job as a Linux System Administrator.   Though it was unrelated to my duties, that job led me to learn SEO and internet marketing.  I also got my first experience with e-commerce at that job.  Once I learned both the marketing and e-commerce processes, I set off on my own to build my own e-commerce companies.  Rolling Paper Depot is one of those companies.

I believe my technical background has proven to be extremely beneficial for my businesses. My competitors have to hire out internet marketing and SEO.  They also have to pay programmers and designers to keep up their sites.  These services are expensive and time-consuming.  We are lucky enough to have all of these services in-house.  I have also been able to develop proprietary software and shopping-cart modules that keep me ahead of the competition.  

What are your plans for the future of the company?
My plan is to continue to grow the company and increase my market share world-wide.  We have considered licensing our name to shops around the globe to build our market share. I am fairly private about the details of my plans because I believe that I am an innovator and that secrecy allows me to stay ahead of the competition. I like to be first with website features so I'll hold those cards close to my chest for now.  I believe my plans for 2015 will grow the company by 30% or more. 

What do you consider your biggest challenges as a startup?
 Wow!  Good question.  There are so many challenges these days.  Starting a business and being successful has grown increasingly difficult over the years.  I feel the answer to this question probably changes by the month, but as of today my personal biggest challenge is patience.  I see what this company can be and I see the growth.  I just want it to grow faster.  I want to push my people harder.  I want to see the legalization movement progress quicker.  Unfortunately for me, these things take time and some things shouldn't be forced.  Patience is my challenge. 

What one piece of advice would you give someone who is just at the beginning stages of developing a startup?

Predict the future. How can one do this?  I'll share a trick that I have found particularly useful.  You can never go wrong if you build a business based on pending legislation.  When laws change there are often new opportunities.  For example, when the credit reporting laws changed (Fair Credit Reporting Act) there were many start-ups that built a business that helps people clean up their credit based on the new laws. This opportunity did not exist before the change in the laws! These start-ups were wildly successful and the ones that were set-up and ready to service customers immediately after the laws went into effect are the ones that still stand today.  But, to compete in this market today is an act of futility.  One would need massive funding and a huge budget for marketing.  Barring some kind of revolutionary approach to the market, you will have a hard time competing in this niche. 

Build a business that will service the future needs of people.  It is difficult to start and grow a business in a market that is well-established.  This is especially true if the Wal-Marts of the world are already selling your product or service.  A start-up cannot compete with these huge companies.  However, if you spend your time and energy on a business that is going to be big in the future, your success can be virtually unlimited.  You will have less competition and you can actually set the standard for products and customer service in your niche.  If you time it right, you might end up with a FaceBook or Yelp.  What's the bottom line?  Lead.  Never follow.

No investment recommendation nor any investment promotion is expressed or implied by either the publisher, the interviewer, the interviewee, or any of the interviewee's companies..

Saturday, September 6, 2014

More Second Best Ideas for a Startup

Did you see my article last week on my Second Best Ideas for a Startup? These are ideas that I've come up with for startups that I don't want to pursue myself for one reason or another. I figure that my readers my be interested in these ideas for development and become rich doing so.

Celebrity Finder

Anyway, here are a couple more ideas that I've come up with. This first one is for an app that would let people know where celebrities are. If a user happens to spot a famous movie star in a restaurant, they would type in the name of the celeb and it would alert others with the app who are interested in that person to know where that celebrity is. The app would even include a map with directions on how to get there and how long it would take.

The reason why I don't want to develop this idea is that it seems like a semi-invasion of privacy for the celebrity. But I guess another way to look at it is that if a lot fans turn up and recognize them, it means they still have their fame.

Smart Toilet

Another idea is a smart toilet. What would be so smart about it you may ask? First, when you urinate an defecate in it, the toilet would run an analysis of your feces and urine, to determine you cholesterol, triglycerides, a complete blood count, Vitamin D level, blood in the stool, sugar level, and so forth.

It would provide a digital report on the top of the toilet tank, that could be sent to your wireless printer if you needed a hard copy. If you are trying to reduce your cholesterol, you could track it on a daily basis with your toilet.

In addition, the toilet would also have the smarts to know if it contained just urine, or it it contained feces, and would adjust the amount of flushing to eliminate what is in there. No more multiple flushes on those low flow toilets.

Don't take this idea sitting down. Don't let it pass you by. Flush out the facts to determine what will make this successful.  You could really wipe away the competition. I'm getting pooped out by writing about this.

Future Ideas

I will continue to write about other second best startup ideas. Hopefully one of these will strike your fancy and you can make it a success. If you do, feel free to throw some shares my way.

Wishing you all the best in your startup pursuits.