Startup #103 – What To Do


“What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know.  What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know.”

Think about how many times in your life that you’ve had that conversation, either with a companion or the friendly little voice inside your head.  You could pull some creepy old board game out of the attic and run the risk of rhinos destroying your house.  Or, better yet, you could take advantage of today’s startup idea.

My idea is a site that gives you a personalized list of things to do, such as recommended movies, books, games, activities, etc..  Here’s how it would work.  First, users would be presented with a wizard-like interface that would display four movies, books, or games.  Users would click on whichever of the four choices they like the best.  After making 10-15 choices, the system should have enough info to run a Netflix/Amazon style of recommendation query to get a list of “If you liked X, you’ll probably like Y” types of additional entertainment choices.

Once the system had a list of entertainment options, the user would be presented a list of “27 movies you must see before you outgrow the humor”, “12 books you need to read before they make it to Oprah’s book club”, “15 places that the girl of your dreams might be hanging out right now”, etc, etc..  Alongside each item on each list would be a quick “Loved It/Hated It” type of rating system to provide more feedback on movies that you’ve already seen or books that you’ve already read.  Of course you could share your lists with your friends, do simple comparisons around ‘You Like X% of the Same Movies as Your Friend Sally”, and display your lists on the social network of your choosing.  One last feature – let’s say you’re at the video store and don’t know what to rent, you could send a quickly text “movie” to the “What To Do” short code and receive a text message containing several of the top rentals from your movie list. 

Editor’s Note:  Today I happened to check out the new offering from Comcast called  Believe it or not, it does 90% of what I outlined above!  Go sign up and see how it works – pretty crazy stuff…


4 responses to “Startup #103 – What To Do

  1. I was really enthusiastic and exitied about this idea until I got to the line that says “Editor’s note” which raised a question in my mind that I have struggled to answer many times. If a big bad company is offering something that is 90% similar to my idea, should I even bother looking into it? Specifically, if I begin to develop a “What to do” website, how will I ever compete with a website that is being offered by a big established company like Comcast. Should I give up this idea all together since it is very possible that by the time I have a prototype ready, may have taken off and became popular?

    BTW, I am a big fan of your blog and want to congratulate you on passing the 100th startup idea milestone.

  2. Thanks, Nick! Great question – as a guy who develops websites for a “big, bad company” for a living, I know that small startups have two key advantages over the large players: agility and niche. Large companies have so many complexities to deal with (i.e. legal, geopolitical, language concerns, etc..) that often by the time the guy in charge comes up with an idea, it can take 4-6 months before it ever sees the light of day. Also, big companies are looking for big profits. They are going to go for opportunities in the $MM, which means that many niche markets are by default going to be underserved.

    As an example, if you already developed out the above idea and then Fancast came along, you could do something like focus on being much more casual, fun, snarky, etc.. in your copy (as Comcast needs to be very by-the-book), or start building a base around something timely and away from the mainstream market (i.e. focus on the 2008 election and provide recommendations of books or movies based on the candidate a user endorses)

    Just some quick thoughts – it is always good to keep the big guys in mind, though, when you’re building anything like this out. Thanks for reading!!

  3. The other aspect of a Netflix/Amazon hybrid would be a monthly book-rental service from the Amazon catalog. BookSwim is a small startup doing that. The offer Amazon’s entire catalog, and make Amazon’s recommendations while you select books for your pool.

  4. Rob – that’s an interesting idea, I’ll have to check those guys out.

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