One thing I loved about the tech world while I was growing up was that it was consistently doing more with less. Wikipedia displaced Encyclopaedia Brittanica by being both better and free. Hotmail was a clear win over AOL and Yahoo's offerings and then Gmail was faster and handled spam better while giving more at every price point (including free). Computers became both faster and cheaper. Amazon and Netflix broke down even the movie industry and ended the $70 per tape movie sale price.
The offerings on the linked page are mostly things that would be out of the budget of an American family living on a median income. I won't call out any specific examples or hurt feelings, but a random sampling of several companies of any part of the list (other than non-profits) will show a clear trend.
It's hard to say if the same was true 20 years ago and those few companies that broke out into famous successes happened to be particularly aimed towards a broad appeal, but it's clear the current trend is doing more with more.
Besides hardware, lots of the other current startups are offline services, that are taking something formerly for the super-rich and making it accessible to the upper-middle class (eg: a private driver, a personal chef, custom-tailored clothing, custom paintings). They may not be within budget for everyone but they are still following the trend of doing more with less.
"[...] formerly for the super-rich and making it accessible to the upper-middle class (eg: a private driver, a personal chef, custom-tailored clothing, custom paintings)"
Don't really buy it. Before it was only for the rich it was for everyone. You go to rural places that's how it works. The latest incarnation of modern society is, for better or worse, based on people having their own car, camera, kitchen and being able to buy the latest fashions.
This is exactly what he says here:
>Hardware always starts expensive for early adopters and gets radically cheaper as adoption scales up.
You could easily conclude from this list that it's rich peoples kids creating solutions to imaginary problems - "Oh, how could my poor feet possibly survive the arduous journey from my front door to the uber in an off the shelf pair of shoes? I need a tailor!".
I think we should give them the benefit of the doubt though since these companies are presumably a small subset of those they've invested in.
A more charitable explanation might be that since these companies are in SV then it makes sense for them to start out selling stuff to affluent customers who are not overly price sensitive.
Made-to-measure mail-order dress shirts are an idea from the 1990s AFAIK. A while back I collected some promotional offers from in-flight magazines and online and ordered a big stockpile of white made-to-measure dress shirts. With the promotional pricing it came out to less than $20 a shirt.
As with any menswear business, the main problem is customer education. Men in the US dress like slobs, do not care that they dress like slobs, and do not want to spend money on clothes (85% of apparel revenue comes from womenswear).
I would rather not dress like a slob, but barring me finding a place to make me something that actually fits (for a good price).. everything I buy will fit somewhat awkwardly, and make me look as if I'm wearing several flower sacks sewn together or somewhat awkwardly in fit in other ways.
That's the nature of capitalism. Identify a market for goods people want, and as demand goes up, figure out a way to supply it at a price people can afford. As these types of ideas iterate, the cost will continue to go down and new things will become available at the top of the price ladder.
And, despite being handmade, are not available in my size.
I've never used the product from Markhors, it was just one example I was using for my point previously. I'm more the type of guy that either wears cheap sneakers or actual bespoke shoes, not much in-between.
There are probably plenty of exceptions, as well, like Dollar Shave Club.
There are savings associated with producing a uniform building package with standard modifications, but there are also new costs associated with that kind of work - namely, those associated with the fact that the ideal customer is thinly spread geographically (due to interest and budget). This generally leads to higher costs for local work, even if that only includes finishes (the standard business plan for most prefab green home companies).
That kind of business structure has been perfected by market builders, but market builders do a volume of business that is tough to match, and usually within a small geographic area (ie - a subdivision). This allows them to drive down local contracting costs better than one-off projects.
Currently Acre is looking for builders in four markets according to their 'work-with-us' page. They are also looking for an architectural project manager as opposed to a construction project manager, which probably indicates their chosen role in project delivery. Outsourcing all construction activity is a good way to reduce risk, but not a good way to reduce costs.
I work for custom home builders, and I've done work with a company that has a marketing plan/delivery plan similar to Acre albeit on the East Coast.
Our system is built for speed and that is where we derive savings. Between our wall/roof system, MEP systems, and delivery method we can slash construction time 60%.
Happy to continue conversation on your experience.
Be nice if they could mainstream this style, but looks like they've got a ways to go.
Price is entirely depended on location, in Kansas City (our original hometown), our homes are in the upper most price tier. In the Bay Area we are at or below market rate for typical homes and significantly under for anything comparable in quality and efficiency.
In Austin and Portland (our other two focus markets for 2017) we are about at parity and a good fit for the sustainable cultures.
But alas, we are not currently a fit everywhere and for every home buyer. It's part of our vision, but just like Tesla, we have to focus on a higher end product before we can create the every-mans product.
Regarding commute, we have an option to easily and affordably add capacity to allow for 6,000 miles of EV charging with ability to go beyond. Tis the future.
Keep posted next year for our tech that stretches beyond our own walls.
We'll work at the higher end for a bit, which can accelerate our growth and allow us to make some leaps with our product and tech.
We'll then be able to come down market and offer home that are much more accessible and honestly have much more positive impact on families and the environment.
Putting a new carb and a dash mat on a 70's Oldsmobile will not justify the embodied energy argument. Melt that sucker down and build a Tesla that lasts 3x longer, can be powered by the sun and is better for you in the meantime.
Our homes are also much healthier for the owners, with proper ventilation, filtering, and low/no voc materials.
Under that assumption, I would have a hard time justifying tearing down an existing home to build a Zero Energy home, as opposed to just implementing those easy efficiency wins and investing the money saved in other environmentally friendly pursuits - perhaps even helping a friend to finance similar changes to their home. Or, letting someone else buy the already built home and build somewhere I don't have to tear down an existing structure.
Of course not everyone would think this way, and people are free to do what they wish with their money, but it's how I weigh the options.
We're not the solution to the entire problem, but I entirely confident that we are a fantastic value for our customers and the most efficient home available at this price/performance.
More affordable, no. In my recent travels to NYC and SF, I was always able to get a hotel room via HotelTonight or Hotwire cheaper than an AirBnB unit. I know its not always an apples-to-apples comparison but even for just a private room (not an entire home), an AirBnB in SF is $100+/night.
All that to say, I think you're wrong.
 I randomly checked Dec 18-20 in SF. Hotwire has a 4-star room for $91/night. Most AirBnB private rooms are the same or higher.
Private room airbnb is probably not the best deal.
source: traveling for 1.5 years using airbnb, hotels, hostels.
For your suggested dates of Dec 18-20 I found literally dozens of AirBnBs for <$80/night.  All I can conclude is that you're straight up lying. It's trivially easier to find AirBnBs which are cheaper than hotels.
Take that for what its worth. If I'm objectively wrong or a liar to you, cool.
The average hotel room in SF costs hundreds of dollars a night.  So the average hotel is much more expensive than the average AirBnB.
Likewise, I showed countless examples of AirBnBs which have a lower price than the cheapest hotel you could find.
If both the average and the minimum for AirBnB is much lower than for hotels, we can safely conclude that AirBnB is substantially cheaper.
As a frequent traveler, I know that to be a fact. I would love if hotels were cheaper than AirBnB (I prefer them), but it's objectively not true.
Is that a typo? When were movies ever $70?
Source: I worked for a small video store in the early 90s.
Isn't that just rental prices vs consumer prices. It's a tort to by the consumer copy and rent it out so large companies could never get away with that instead they bought a more expensive copy that is basically the tape with license to rent it??
Turns out it's more complicated than that: https://entertainment-industry.knoji.com/the-history-of-the-... & http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=692441.
Would be interested in similar info with global comparison, eg how was the situation different in UK, Germany, etc..
The only "typo" is crediting Amazon and Netflix with the price reductions: movies were commonly $20 long before those two showed up. No, what killed the $100 movie were people going "$100 to own _Weekend at Bernie's_? Oh, hell no!" Remember, we lived quite fulfilled lives before we were allowed to "own" our own copies of movies, we weren't missing anything.
Oh, and rental stores that popped up shortly after. From my POV at the time, owning the VHS tape was reserved for the rental stores who would profit from it and the overly-privileged. The rest of us just rented at $10 a pop. Want to see it again? Go rent it again.
EDIT: somewhat related to pricing: would have to look it up to be sure, but I recall blank VHS tapes going for >$20 when they first came out.
None of the problems that most of these companies are solving are tech problems. Their secret sauce is not the tech, but the examples you gave the secret sauce WAS the tech.
Uber is an example of something that started in the high end (black cars only).
Airbnb, Instapainting.com (disclaimer: my company) are examples of companies that broke into mid-market products by using technology to reduce costs and compete with significantly lower pricing.
Its much easier to start at a higher price point and lower volume with a small team. Hotmail and Wikipedia are businesses that scale much better because they don't handle physical goods.
If anything I use it as a list of things I am best without. Karma be damned but I just LOL at that page
The one exception would be giving a preloaded credit card to someone who otherwise doesn't have access to one (ex: a niece/nephew that's far away) and only if there are no fees associated with initially loading it. I think AmEx has some kind of cyber monday promotion for that today. If you have to pay anything more than $0 then forget about it though.
All that aside, Markhor looks interesting. I don't recall seeing them on HN (guess it's less "tech" than most YC companies) but the loafers look nice. Anybody here have any experience with them? Always on the look out for a better pair of shoes...
The problem is that cash often feels like not giving a gift at all. If you exchange fifty-dollar bills with a sibling, it feels pointless. Gift cards can alleviate that feeling. If you give your sibling an iTunes gift card it doesn't feel like nothing was exchanged even if they give you one back.
Gifts are also an opportunity to give someone something they wouldn't typically buy for themselves. Ideally that would be a thoughtful gift but if you can't think of one, cash is likely to end up in the "general fund", while a gift card to a restaurant or a massage or a bookstore will be used for its intended purpose (with some risk of it being lost or sold on some card resale site).
I'm aware that this is pretty low on the list of problems you'd hate to have but it's there nonetheless. Let's say a relative has heard me talk about some Arduino project I'm messing with or something to do with building a computer. They don't know much about either of those things but they know I like "techie" stuff and gadgets so they get me a gift card from Best Buy, as that is the only electronics store they're really aware of.
Now I've got a $100 gift card to a store that either doesn't sell any of the things I'd want to buy or charges a hefty markup over what I'd normally be willing to pay. Sure, I could sell the gift card to some bargain hunter for $95. They'd get $5 off, I'd get most of the value to spend elsewhere...
...but that's a hassle and not at all what the gift-giver would want to necessitate anyway. The other major option is to just suck it up and either buy something I don't really want/need out of the available Best Buy catalog or maybe buy that $100 item that I would've just found for $70 at Microcenter or Newegg.
I think you nailed it when you pointed out issues of perception and tradition. Giving cash to someone other than an aging/retired parent or a young child comes off as odd. It's almost like you didn't care enough to think of a gift that they would actually enjoy or shows that you know them. I just think gift cards are about the same in that regard, only less desirable or useful.
In some circumstances, that's actually an advantage, and works as a positive for the recipient.
When I was in college, money was tight. Had to be very careful with every dollar. When relatives would give me money for holidays, it would just go into the general fund and had to be treated with the same care as the rest of it. That money was certainly appreciated and made my life easier, but not a lot of fun was had with it.
But when I'd get gift cards to Amazon or Best Buy or Borders, suddenly it was a license to go crazy. To recklessly buy electronics, books, and luxuries I couldn't otherwise justify. It wasn't just a gift of money. It was a gift of money without worries attached.
It's often a lot easier to know someone well enough to know which store gift card is something they'd be likely to use by choice than to get a more specific gift right.
The UK has a national book tokens scheme, essentially gift cards that are accepted at almost all book shops (national chains and independents). This was a common prize for winning a competition at school, or similar. http://www.nationalbooktokens.com/
Maybe a knickknack or a tchotchke, just not "things we would each go ahead and buy if we wanted them".
But gift cards themselves suck. They are strictly worse than cash. If you want to be thoughtful but give them something more useful, give them cash with a card that says, "I thought you might enjoy spending this on ___."
Sometimes you can buy the right kind of cards in the places you normally buy greetings cards. Search "money enclosed greetings card".
Apologies for the terrible collage: http://imgur.com/UoFEy80
Appreciate you buying our shoes and sharing the experience. The shoes indeed look great on you.
And I'm not from the US, but the idea of school-age kids not having their own cards sounds a little funny to me.
As for prepaid Visas, they're a relatively recent thing, and generally less known.
Must be a huge pain in the ass. With modern electronic only debit cards it's really easy to give your kids cards and makes managing money within the family so much easier.
Kid texts you after school and says they need $5 to go out with friends? Sure, pull up your phone app and instantly put $5 to their card. It's almost impossible to cleanly replicate this with cash.
>As for prepaid Visas, they're a relatively recent thing, and generally less known.
Sure, but at this point they're just as available as "normal" gift cards.
Certainly this could be helpful in an emergency but what's wrong with encouraging your children to budget and plan ahead, rather than expecting instant gratification whenever they want it?
In any case, I think cards and online banking give you useful tools that can make it much easier for your kid to learn budgeting and to track their spending.
Sure, but they haven't entered the public consciousness in the same way yet.
Those come with expirations, a variety of fee structures, etc.
Googling 'site:styleforum.net "markhor"' only finds one hit, and sites like reddit are equally empty.
Does this company actually exist? They've supposedly been around for a few years now but haven't really been discussed anywhere.
Our current target customers are more on the lifestyle sites like GearPetrol and Racked.
Let me know if you have any question, I am sidra (at) themarkhor.com
At least with cash, I could theoretically put it in a special envelope that is exclusively for fun expenses.
Also, cash-equivalent gifts are a great way to tell your friends and family "I value our relationship at exactly $x/year." You can so easily compare it to previous years, and with what they typically give to you.
But the worst gift of all is lottery scratch-off tickets. Here, I spent exactly $X to give you an amount of cash that is very likely to be between $0 and $X, but is probably just $0 or $1.
> At least with cash, I could theoretically put it in a special envelope that is exclusively for fun expenses.
Deposit check while simultaneously take out the same amount in cash and put it in your wallet / envelope / hidden pocket; problem solved. If you don't have enough cash on hand to do the "conversion", then maybe you should consider spending it on utilities and expenses.
> Also, cash-equivalent gifts are a great way to tell your friends and family "I value our relationship at exactly $x/year."
While I understand your sentiment, and culture background also plays into it, I wouldn't frame it that way. It is a gift: you're not entitled to it, and it is the giver's prerogative to choose what to give. At worst, you could fault the giver for not being thoughtful, but at least they thought enough to give you something when they could also give you nothing. Moreover, the value / expense of the gift is a poor indicator of the strength or "value" of my relationship with the giver IMO.
> But the worst gift of all is lottery scratch-off tickets.
Agreed. And in the (extremely) unlikely event that you actually win big, fighting over who "owns" the ticket would be inevitable...
We've found we appreciate the gifts more because they are something we know with certainty that we'll use. There is still room to "surprise" with what is picked from the list. And in addition, you can pick similar items to items on the list to still throw that bit of "I thought you'd appreciate this too" in there.
It seems more likely that cash became unpopular independently. And for good reason! Trading cash during holidays really ruins the fun!
Perhaps the retail industry was just responding to demand - the market may just want gift cards!
>As for gift cards — well, let’s just say there is good reason that they are known within the retail industry as a stored-value product: they store their value very well, and often permanently. The financial-services research firm TowerGroup estimates that of the $80 billion spent on gift cards in 2006, roughly $8 billion will never be redeemed — “a bigger impact on consumers,” Tower notes, “than the combined total of both debit- and credit-card fraud.” A survey by Marketing Workshop Inc. found that only 30 percent of recipients use a gift card within a month of receiving it, while Consumer Reports estimates that 19 percent of the people who received a gift card in 2005 never used it.
Yes, 10% sounds about right for un-redeemed gift cards. But tell me, how often do you wear your xmas sweater? Have you ever gotten a gadget from a well-meaning uncle that just seemed stupidly dangerous and worthless?
Gift cards aren't inherently a bad gift. Bad gifts are. If someone gives me a Victoria's Secret GC and I am not in the kind of relationship where I would buy my SO lingerie, then it is not going to get redeemed (and I will forget about it by the time I would have an opportunity to). Whereas, if someone got me a GC for Amazon Kindle or Steam I would use that pretty gosh darned fast.
And obviously a store is going to push the GC. Even if it is a 20 buck card and you buy something for 19.99 they turn a profit. And more likely you'll spend 25 or 30
There are lots of factors here, but I think it basically boils down to, as adults we generally get what we need/want during the course of the year. So gift giving is really the art of giving things people hadn't thought of, but still would like. That's a tall order!
In recent years I've tried searching for "experience" gifts, which I believe to have more value. Nights out to exciting dinners, fun shows, events, etc. But the sites that serve those needs (Groupon et. al) are really rather scummy. All the businesses on there tend to be poorly reviewed; just using those sites to push polished turds of a deal.
I look all the time for gift guides and helpful sites and always come up empty handed. The lists on Amazon mainly push Amazon's products, which are garbage, or really common/useless stuff (there's no-one in my life who needs a kitchen stand mixer; they all already have one). I've read idea threads on Reddit, and those mostly boil down to "Man, all I want for Christmas is a pair of shoes. I'm really poor." followed up by a bunch of helpful Redditors. Not that that is a bad thing, but it's useless as a gift recommendation.
Before the deluge of rhetoric replies: yes, rampant consumerism, corporate marketing holidays, donate in someone's name, etc, etc. I happen to enjoy giving gifts, and would love to give more meaningful, personalized gifts (like those experience gifts I mention). I'm just really bad at it. And regardless of that rhetoric, can you honestly tell me that you would pass up an opportunity to build a successful "gift guide" service? I can't even imagine how lucrative something like that would end up being.
The best gift guide would also probably be one that gets to the core of what you are lacking -- you might want a specific book, for example, but what you're looking for is how to learn a language, and that specific book didn't really matter (unless it was the best one to help you learn). This is really hard to do though, unless you are Santa.
My big gripe is the sites that get mostly there. They ask questions about the intended recipient, like age, gender, and tastes. At the end of it, though, the recommendations are really bland. I don't mind sorting through a list of possible gifts, with only a few good results. But the results I get are the kind of generic "gifts" you see on the end-caps of Kohl's during holiday season. As I mentioned, people generally already have what they need. Gifting often comes down to finding something the person wouldn't have otherwise thought about. So it's necessary to show unique options. Again, the accuracy doesn't need to be terribly high. If I only find one good option amongst 40, that's fine. Instead I get 200+ kitchen stand mixers...
If you like the outdoors you can get county / state / national parks annual passes. I enjoy and use the heck out of my park passes. They're fairly cheap (well, not the national). Of course people who hate the outdoors, well...
There are several food delivery services I've used with mixed results. "highly processed meat and cheeze like product in a box" are kinda weird. Fruit delivery is absurdly expensive but everyone loves it. Right out of a 00s sitcom I ordered my MiL the "fruit of the month club" and she enjoyed it. Food delivery is not cheap. I'll send my mom a crate of peaches every Christmas and its like $5 per peach. But they certainly are delicious. Junk food / candy delivery is cheap. Booze delivery impacts about a zillion weird state laws and the recipient sometimes has to sign and show ID and its a circus, also relatively few people seriously drink. If you can deliver it in person or illegally ship it yourself, a hundred dollar bottle of scotch lasts me about a year at my usual consumption rate, and at the usual markup a service would probably charge $500.
With the decline in public parks and public play there is a growth in private parks and private play and there's a local water park complete with water slides and all that, my kids love that especially nice and warm in the winter and usually doesn't cost that much. Grandma used to buy her grandkids an afternoon pass to the waterpark and it was always fun. Go directly to the park to buy a certificate there's no need for the middlemen. Likewise the local suburban mall hasn't had a video game arcade in maybe 30 years now but there's chuck e cheeze and D+B and stone fire pizza company and places like that.
For truly inspiring toys like this one (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/withpiper/piper-a-minec...) you still have to hit Kickstarter or search the Web. Why is that?
Unfortunately there is this strange attractor that sucks everyone who trys it into "I wanna make kids version of 80/20 because 80/20 is both cool and insanely expensive" leading to "heres my custom aluminum extrusion of immense expense that works with nothing out there, but now I know why 80/20 is incredibly expensive" leading to "remember those guys?"
It's not particularly cheap - probably costs ~$300 to get a decent sized kit or a smaller kit with enough spare parts to experiment.
All of the mechanical parts are machined reasonably well and fit together in a large number of useful configurations - I really like them for rapid mechanical prototyping.
The electronics are basically arduinos with beginner-friendly connectors - haven't used them myself but have generally heard good things about them.
I was going to say Capsela is great too, but did some quick searching and found it's been sold and discontinued :(
The market for people who want STEM play things, don't know what to buy, and can't tell crap from gold, has to be incredibly small
Also, a large number of Christmas toys are bought by grandparents,where the above problem is even more prevalent.
I was saying that there may be a huge market for STEM toys, but the savvy consumers aren't included in that market (already well-served by the normal STEM stuff) and unsavvy customers will just by the stupid crap that says "STEM" on the label.
The people commenting here are not your customers.
For every 1 person posting a snarky comment, there are 100+ simply browsing the gift guide. A few are saying "Hey, that's neat!", and a few are making purchases today or in the near future, either for themselves or as gifts. It's their behavior that you should worry about.
If you think you can make something people want, then please focus on that. Don't let your non-customers discourage you.
(Disclosure: co-founder of https://www.pantelligent.com/ -- one of the products on the gift list.)
Now, if those aren't complaints and you are perfectly happy only targeting people who want The Next New Thing, go for it. Otherwise? Take the complaints with a grain of salt, but still take them.
"Merry Christmas! I bought you a house!"
$400k for 1200 sq. ft is nuts.
We did our fist home at $145K for 1200 sqft and can offer than again late next year. Margins are too slim to grow at that rate, re:Tesla.
The $1 million properties in the bay have structures on them that are worth maybe $150-200k tops, whereas the rest of the value is in land.
A high land:structure value ratio is not uncommon for the US coasts, in high demand areas (especially that have older houses, built in the 20s and 30s that will need significant renovations to be brought up to a safe living standard)
That's why it's outrageous. If you're considering paying 400k just for the structure, that means you already own a piece of land worth at least $800k where to put it. So we're talking about being a millionaire to be able to afford something like that. So let's be honest for a second and not pretend like you're not targeting the top 1-1.5% demographic here.
I noticed you're a founder for the company.
Construction is a perfectly competitive market. It shouldn't have economic profits, which means it should be paying your costs and salaries and that's it. I'm not sure what was the rationale for your getting into the business, but the modern prefabs are a dime a dozen and the thing they all get wrong is affordability. If you don't think I can go to another state and bring 4 construction workers to build the same type of structure for $200k, sourcing my own materials and paying them salary, you're just deluding yourself.
I wouldn't be surprised to learn that companies like that go bankrupt by the dozens, because they all miscalculate the economics of the market.
But I do wish you good luck in your business.
Bare minimum for non tract construction is about $250/sqft or 3x the rates in the middle of the country. For high performance homes, $600+ /sqft is not uncommon.
Construction is not perfectly competitive, especially here in the bay. Guys (builders/trades people) pick their rates because demand on them is so high. Regulation, permitting and crazy processes mean the barrier to entry are higher than ever before. It's not fixable with day labor and a spunky attitude.
That said, our current line is the Tesla Model S of homes, late next year we'll be able to offer our Model C range for a much broader market.
Thanks for the well wishes!
Of course, there's nothing wrong with that, but eerily spot on.
All the influencers I've seen with it (like Casey Neistat) use it to commute pretty long distances! Their biggest benefit is, you can quickly travel from point a and b, especially in a conjested city, on something that you can carry under your arm or in a backpack. No need for bikes, public transit or cars.
Wheely's Cafe is probably the most interesting gift there to me. It appears to be a franchise-in-a-box. I wonder if there's one in Seattle! Probably an ideal gift for an 18 year old with a work ethic and lack of academic passion.
I look at this list and I see problems that never needed solving, middlemen -- sorry, curators -- reselling cheap Chinese crap, and a cult of jamming Bluetooth and USB into just about anything that holds still long enough because IoT.
There is no magic, "man I wish I'd thought of that" moment here, just a few "that makes sense" products in a sea of Valley bullshit.
Perhaps YC was always like this, but they hadn't presented that information in such an easy-to-consume list before.
There are plenty of yc companies tackling interesting problems - you just wouldn't find them on a holiday list. For example:
Triplebyte - trying to take a data driven approach to make recruiting for more scientific
Gitlab - building cool open source software to host your code
Higherme - building customized education software to help kids learn math and science
Priceconomics - they have some of the most interesting content coming out of tech (opposite of huffpo/buzzfeed/etc)
Zapier - ifttt for the enterprise / lots of cool tools for companies
Mixpanel - power modern analytics for companies
I think it's unfair to judge all of yc based on a holiday shopping list which by its definition should cater to our consumerist desires. The most interesting companies shouldn't be on this list since most wouldn't have a product that is bought by consumers.
However every dollar spent on "candle of the month club" and every hour spent working on it is a dollar and an hour that can't be applied to exponential returns from actual tech companies.
Perhaps there's something sneaky or non-intuitive about "candle of the month club" such that they're operating a redundant array of inexpensive candles, or they have a containerization or virtualization strategy for candle wick storage, or their database is prototyping quantum secured financial data, and the candles are just placeholders to test real technologies and workflows. Probably not, but I'd like to hope so.
Also bogus is drawing conclusions about companies' long-term strategy ("problems that never needed solving") from a holiday gift guide.
Just because some of us aren't big on consumer goods is no reason to throw out basic logic!
But I think those of us that lived through tech in the late 90's have a right to be a little suspicious, for example, of the long term business strategy of a company whose sole business model appears to be sending someone three glasses of wine a month surrounded by overbearing packaging.
I'm sure someone will come along and inform me that it's all a ruse to generate the worlds best wine AI and disrupt our palates with algorithms or something but I remain fairly certain said business is about as technologically advanced as Pets.com, with a similar prognosis.
I realize there are many YC companies missing from this list, and from the consumer goods and services industry in general. But if this [ahem] curated list leads to the kind of generalizations I made, the list itself may share some blame for that.
If appeals to "basic logic" and wait-for-the-pivot are YC's best shot at getting me excited about the 2016 YC Holiday Season as presented by YC, then by all means carry on.
That's patently untrue. You commented on YC.
I get it, filling up your car is a chore, if your time is super valuable... whatever. It's hard to fill the YC portfolio every year with only companies working on "big problems", I'm sure. But it really does feel like "Valley bullshit". I hope it was pitched as "disrupting the archaic gasoline distribution system - we're going to do to fossil fuels what Amazon did for books & movies".
(I will have a good laugh if this dismissive comment is pulled up years from now as an example of "another negative Hacker News post about a now-hugely successful company")
Honestly you could probably run something like that without any capital expense at all by just collecting monthly premiums and advertising "$1000 if we can't charge your EV in an hour" and then never paying out due to fine print or paying out $1000 in service gift certificates. If you sell enough plans then you could consider maybe building the truck for real.
I wonder what a 500 HP generator at full battery charging blast sounds like in a residential neighborhood at 2am. Probably similar to a freight train. That alone might be entertaining.
That's one of the most succinct examples of a certain patently unethical SV style way of thinking about business I've ever seen. Perhaps Parker Conrad's got the bandwidth to be a cofounder.
I mean, I know it was posted tongue in cheek, but taking money from people and then leaving them stranded is, you know, wrong.
Many EV owners would object to having their car being charged by a dirty diesel generator. Plus, if we are hauling a giant generator, what about a giant battery pack? Someone will have to do the math on that.
As well as a "rescue" vehicle, it could be very useful as a temporary "mobile quick charger" when traveling to underserved spots (say, you want to cross Nevada on EV). Schedule a time and place, meet your "tanker", refuel and keep going.
Too late Silicon Valley! Go growth hack something else!
I think you had a good idea with the on-demand EV charging, but I would imagine they'd have a truck with a high-capacity battery (like Tesla's Powerwall) which could be charged via solar panels.
...but would actually be charged via grid power or internal combustion engine generator 99% of the time.
Perhaps I(we?) should adjust our expectations? From the point of view of "funding smart people" and letting they pivot until they find a market, I see nothing wrong with any of the above. If they are indeed selling "chinese crap" and being middle man adding no value, the market will say so.
I spent a large chunk of today looking for gifts and trust me almost everything under 1xxx$ is like what you've described.
And quite honestly, I'd guess many of the companies on that list might actually my struggling to be at the "Silicon Valley cool-kids table" because of what they're doing :P
There was one listed on there that I'm familiar with, boosted boards. After seeing the Casey Neistat videos of him flying around nyc on one it looked fun but the subreddit for electric skateboards showed it comes with a lot of problems for a $1500 toy. I'm sure soon it will be a great reliable product at a lower entry point though.
I mean, I bet that literally zero Michelin-starred meals have been prepared with this device. And the phrase "Michelin" or "Michelin-starred" is trademarked and has a clear meaning. If I was a marketer for this company I would feel uncomfortable using a phrase like that.
With that aside, it's odd to see so many YC companies on this list with the same faddish business models of "send some stuff to you every month you don't get to pick the stuff but trust us" and "do something that's already pretty simple in your kitchen or home but now using an overcomplicated device with machine learning and wifi"
The former model isn't really a technology empowered business model at all, it's really a buying or deals club driven by marketing. And the latter is ostensibly technology but it doesn't seem to have really any of the accelerative effect on efficiency that real genuine networked software based businesses have.
Seeing all of them in one place like this, backed by YC, is pretty disheartening.
A quick google shows: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/10/michelin-restaura... - A Michelin starred restaurant, which uses a Sous Vide. They are generally quite expensive to by for home use.
I won't comment on the rest, but I'd agree that the list doesn't exactly fill me with wow.
I mean I suppose I could, but it makes me sound like an idiot. It's also plainly factually untrue. No Michelin reviewer will ever see my meal, no meal I make will receive a Michelin star. It's literal nonsense.
And Sous Vide has been around awhile and totally solid units can be had for about $100. I remain confused about what value-add YC and/or this company is bringing to the space.
People who are selling, say, chef's knives absolutely say that kind of thing. It's kind of silly but not obviously more so than any other marketing puffery.
i.e. If this was a type of device that no-one would use/was using in high-end restaurants then it's clearly a ridiculous statement. But Sous Vides are.
And I'm sure that there are providers of bowls, pans, knives and other kitchen miscellanea that are marketed to the public as 'professional grade', even if they won't make your food taste better. That's advertising :-)
As to why this is a 'start-up', not sure, not a huge amount to disrupt.
The skill of the person wielding the tool matters way more than the tool.
The former model has become a “fad” because of technological progress in e.g. logistics and predictive analytics. The wording “send some stuff to you every month you don’t get to pick the stuff but trust us” belies the fact that this is actually a very difficult problem with a very interesting solution. If some instance of this model succeeds it will be because it managed to create a service that improves lives at _essentially zero cognitive cost_. To cultivate and then engage with certain preferences takes some amount of time and energy and to be able to offload those costs to software is, at the very least, interesting.
The latter model is only uninteresting under the assumption that the products will never work in the sense you mentioned (efficiency improvement). I’m not sure there’s any reason to assume that “smart”, “connected” products won’t improve substantially in the relatively near future. I also think there’s plenty of simple tasks that could be automated in a meaningfully useful way. For example, cooking rice.
More generally, building a profitable, sustainable organization of human beings is intrinsically useful and interesting. This last part is less a reply to your post and more a response to a cynical (in my opinion) tone throughout this discussion.
I do understand this view, and I share it to some extent. It's easy to be cynical and it's hard to try to make things work. I understand that far more now in my old age than I did back in the fuckedcompany.com days, for example.
With that said, I think people who espouse this view can be a little oblivious to the downsides of frivolous investment bubbles in tech. If you take a million dollars of investment and do something like take cases of wine, open the bottles and pour it into little glass size vials, and mail it to people for a couple months before realizing that service is not really useful to anyone, then that's a real life tragedy.
Asset bubbles are bad and have real life consequences.
Those million dollars belong to someone, often someone's retirement fund or similar. That million dollars can help people. It can help them directly, by giving to those in need, or more relevantly, it can support business ideas that aren't frivolous, people who aren't privileged graduates of prestigious colleges or connected to hot incubators.
Maybe a system that is funding that idea but leaving so many prospective entrepreneurs and ideas completely out of the system, is somewhat broken. Maybe we're allowed to notice it and find it problematic if we want to.
Maybe we can say hey this is disappointing because it is.
I guess our disagreement is that I'm not ready to label the wine delivery company as frivolous. It provides, of course, a purely luxury product, but I'm not sure that providing (or investing in) a purely luxury product is ethically or morally deficient or frivolous. If you add in that YC funds many extremely risky companies with highly humanitarian, philanthropic, etc goals, I think it becomes even more difficult to look at specific investments and say "what a shame."
A silly but profitable project can fund basic research that would be too expensive on its own; but a project that's neither particularly valuable in its own right, nor able to fund others, isn't good for very much.
(Old-style luxury goods also provide work for artisans and keep traditional knowledge alive, but I'm not convinced that that element is present here either.)
I think "YC says investment X is +EV, I say it's -EV" is usually an uninteresting statement unless it's made outside of the context of ROI and profitability. I know the HN crowd is well-informed and knowledgeable, which is why the forums are so interesting, but an extremely small number of us are qualified to critique YC's investments in terms of financial ROI.
So my initial response was w.r.t the sentiment that these companies are frivolous, regardless of whether they're profitable. If you're correct, then I must have missed CPLX's point.
Further, I am very very tempted by the whisky subscription deal; I'm just not enough of a whisky drinker to bite the bullet.
The person who would feel really uncomfortable is (or should be, anyway) their lawyer. "Prepare Michelin-starred meals!" makes it sound like the product has been endorsed by Michelin, which puts a big fat target on them for a lawsuit from Michelin if it hasn't.
The other disturbing thing is how many of these gadgets are IP enabled. I really hope YC has some kind of IoT advisor who insists upon security at a low level.
I tend not to post as many moderation scoldings in YC-related threads, but that was such a bad HN comment that I'll break the pattern for it.
Edit: you rewrote your comment to make it (somewhat) more substantive and less snarky. In principle that's fine, but it would have been more respectful to preserve the original context for the reader.
e.g. google could have been dismissed as just a search engine but it turned out eventually to be exactly what a lot of people wanted.
Sounds like a fault of the forum [as well] ...
As it is, there is nothing of value on this list. Most of these are absolute rubbish. But most outstandingly rubbish is Vidcode. It claims to teach code to teens/tweens, but speaking as one myself, this looks like the same kind of condescending, manipulative, "we be down with the kids, yo" crap that attracts teens the same way that a man covered in shit attracts high society.
Look, if you're going to try to attract teens, or any group, to coding, don't try to look hip, or trendy. Treat them like they're regular people (not just a bunch of cretins that you have to stick sparkles in front of every five seconds to keep their attention), give them real tools, and allow them to attain the knowledge to build what they want to build. That's what works.
And how do I know that it works? Because that's what I got, when I decided I wanted to learn programming. That's what countless kids got in the 80s, where children would, through self-motivation, learn assembler, and type in opcodes by hand.
And maybe those people are the minority. In fact, they almost definitely are. But you'll never get the majority, because the majority doesn't care. Making things that look like they're designed to appeal to an insipid stereotype won't change that.
I'll cut you some slack for that reason, but you need to (re-)read https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and nip that internet rant thing in the bud ("the same way that a man covered in shit attracts high society"?) if you want to continue commenting here.
And there's no need to cut me slack for my age (although it's nice of you to do so): I broke the rules, and I'm responsible for my actions. Just like any other member of HN.
Twice in three years is too many times to have to say this to you.
bows head in shame
That trend has reversed. Dramatically. I suspect your comment has something to do with it.
As for why I wrote GP in the first place, it's an important part of qwerty's code of internet interactions (yes, I have a private code of internet behavior: so do you, most likely, whether or not you've formalized it. And yes, I made up that name on the spot. It sounds pretentious, but it needed a name so I could reference it, and all the others souded equally pretentious. So there you go):
"If you were wrong (whether in your argument, or in your manner), then take the appropriate action, whether that be an apology or a concession. Do so graciously: There is no shame in being wrong. There is shame in refusing to admit it, or accepting it poorly.
They're words to live by. And you can trust me on that, because I've lived by them (or tried to), and it pays off.
Was I irritated about a product aimed at my demographic, and how dramatically it missed the mark? Yes. But that doesn't excuse my expression of that anger.
I'm 27 which I guess counts as an adult but I certainly clearly remember that everything explicitly marketed towards kids or other varieties of "dummy" always felt forced and condescending to me when I was younger.
But no doubt a big part of why I got downed so much is because dang reprimanded me (and rightfully so!). If the admins have something, anything bad to say about it, most people don't want to say anything good.
The explanation of why it can't run on a phone and why it needs a new currency is a little unconvincing.
"asteria can connect with any bot, command any service" But it can't run on a phone, why?
Certainly "its an open alexa/siri/now" sounds very interesting.
I kind of like it but I don't know that it's calling my name quite yet.