Monthly Archives: September 2008

Y Combinator Challenge #26 – Better Video Chat

For more information about the Y Combinator Challenge, check out this post first.

26. Better video chat. Skype and Tokbox are just the beginning. There’s going to be a lot of evolution in this area, especially on mobile devices.

When this one first came at me, the first thing I did was start to think of features.  I cycled through feature after feature, and had a nice long post all ready to go.  But then those guys over at 37 Signals had to come along and give a speech (based on the write-up I read) that made me reconsider the whole approach. 

My Idea – ZeroChat

Why ZeroChat?  Because it has absolutely no features.  None.  Zero.  It’s like the days when the phone came out and it was just a big dial with a horn strapped to it, and it did only one thing – make calls.  Same thing here, just a ridiculously simple, yet extremely fast and robust, application that takes a live video signal and and audio signal from one person and broadcasts it to another person (and vice versa). 

The other added bonus of this approach is that it frees up the team to focus on the really important stuff like compatibility across a huge range of devices and platforms, and better speed and reliability than any of the competition.  And if you can do it all while still managing to only work 30 hours a week – more power to you.  🙂

Happy Friday to all – any thoughts on this one? 

Y Combinator Challenge #25 – Craigslist Competitor

For more information about the Y Combinator Challenge, check out this post first.

25. A Craigslist competitor. Craiglist is ambivalent about being a business. This is both a strength and a weakness. If you focus on the areas where it’s a weakness, you may find there are better ways to solve some of the problems Craigslist solves.

OK, I’ll admit it.  This one had me stumped – and that lame jet lag excuse wasn’t going to work two days in a row.  Lucky for me, I happened to meet a professional idea incubator today on campus, and she was gracious enough to help me out with this one.  So if any of you guys take this idea and make millions from it, you owe both Anne and I a drink the next time you’re in Seattle.  🙂

Beating Craig at his own game is not an easy task.  However, there are few things that could potentially give him a run for his money (or lack thereof).  One issue with Craigslist is the lack of trust.  I mean, there’s really no way of knowing when you go to pick up your slightly-used George Foreman grill from the guy across town if he’s going to answer the door showing off his brand new chainsaw and hockey mask.  Given the choice, I’d rather spend a few extra bucks and buy it from my friend’s co-worker’s sister’s uncle instead.  Or at the very least, from someone who may have the online handle “JasonFri13”, but has a decent rating and several positive reviews from past buyers. 

However, just slapping a social network onto a Craigslist clone and wrapping it with some pretty boxes with rounded corners isn’t going to keep the esteemed Mr. Newmark up at night.  Classified sites, like dating or job sites, face the classic chicken-and-egg problem.  Buyers need sellers, and vice versa.  Luckily, in this market, you’ve actually got a number of well-funded allies with a critical mass of potential users who are desperately trying to solve this exact same problem – the major daily newspaper conglomerates.  To seed this thing, all you’d have to do is partner with the tree killers to offer their customers simultaneous publishing to both the trusted, online site and to the declining-but-still-popular print classifieds.  Slap a social network on that, and now you’re getting somewhere.

Thanks to everyone for the nice welcome back, I kinda thought that maybe y’all would forget about me.  🙂  Any thoughts on this on?  As always, post ’em in the comments below!

Y Combinator Challenge #24 – A Buffer Against Bad Customer Service

For more information about the Y Combinator Challenge, check out this post first.

24. A buffer against bad customer service. A lot of companies (to say nothing of government agencies) have appalling customer service. “Please stay on the line. Your call is important to us.” Doesn’t it make you cringe just to read that? Sometimes the UIs presented to customers are even deliberately difficult; some airlines deliberately make it hard to buy tickets using miles, for example. Maybe if you built a more user-friendly wrapper around common bad customer service experiences, people would pay to use it. Passport expediters are an encouraging example.

KevinBeerI’m back!  The trip was amazing, thanks for asking.  Now, back to business.  Only seven more ideas to go.

For today’s idea, I’m again taking inspiration from my lovely and talented wife.  Personally, I’m horrible at dealing with customer service people, but my wife is ridiculously great at it.  I don’t know how she does it, but she’ll get on the phone and within minutes we’ll have crazy discounts on our cable or phone bills, instant returns with no extra fees, etc, etc.. 

So today’s idea, my thought is to use a model similar to the insurance industry, where people can delegate their problems to a trusted agent who can deal with problems on their behalf.  Users could purchase a customer service policy (i.e. up to 5 incidents for $25/month) and would be assigned a person who they could contact in case of any customer service needs.  Users would then have the option to call or Email their agent whenever they needed something taken care of, provide any necessary details, and the agent would take care of it on their behalf. 

Not the best idea in the world, I’ll admit it – but cut me a little slack today, I’m jetlagged!  I love that excuse.  If you have any thoughts on this one, post ’em in the comments below.