Every time I hear about all-knowing toilets, I continue to feel it’s putting the cart way ahead of the horse.
There’s a rule in medicine: don’t order a test whose outcome doesn’t change your decision. That’s not about cost-savings, it’s about avoiding false positives that make no sense in clinical context but raise flags that must be chased down.
This sort of thing is literally promising to just continually run un-merited urinalysis left and right.
“More data” is not inherently good. Without a framework of information for interpretation of that data, it will do far more harm than good.
Honestly, the reason so little tech disruption keeps happening in the provision of medical services: no one trying to “disrupt” bothers asking what is or is not useful. There are just some ideas completely out of touch with what people need or want or have friction over, and they just refuse to die because they’re the most obvious ideas to have if you’re unfamiliar with the territory.
There is also a rule in (system) operations: don't page unless immediate action (from humans) is required. This doesn't stop us from collecting data. If there is an anomaly, then we can look back at the data if necessary.
Alternatively, there ARE things you can alert on. My brother has type 1 diabetes. He got a free urinalysis in the form of ants crawling in the toilet. I expect – but since I don't have time series data from this toilet, I can't prove – that sensors would detect and increasing amount of glucose in the urine over time.
If anonymized, this sort of data would be useful for research as well.
I agree that giving any joe schmuck access to the raw data would result in unnecessary procedures.
I don't know the actual legality. But here's what I do know from attempting to implement multiple projects within the US for clinical care and for clinical research: most providers, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies we have worked with have balked at the ability to have high resolution data fed into their medical record or research data systems. In most cases, they are worried that if they had the data, they would have to act on it were something to be concerning. And they do not want that responsibility.
Example: we were in talks to feed in near-realtime blood glucose, activity, and blood pressure measurements from patients on a clinical trial. Surely that would be useful for better sussing out the effects of a research drug than the current process (patient comes in every few months to get measured or have their log data entered or meter data downloaded)? Nope, multiple top 5 pharma companies didn't want the responsibility and liability of seeing their data that often, because what if a patient had super low or super high glucose and they later died? You had the ability to act on it but didn't.
They'd rather just not have it at all. It sounds ridiculous. And again, I don't know the actual legal/liability issues, but based on my experience with malpractice cases, I could see a viable case to be made. And there are certainly institutions out there who believe the benefit is worth the cost of that responsibility for certain use cases. But my experiences have definitely made me reconsider some of these things.
All that said, I am definitely in favor of collecting more health data (somehow), because until we have more data we won't know its utility. So far, in general it has been shown that more testing and more information often doesn't lead to better outcomes, but the cost of data is getting lower -- aside from aforementioned liability cost/fear.
I imagine getting something like this implemented at a state level in one or two key states could enable collection of large scale medical data for analysis on behalf of the public.
Edit: Question for you, given your experience do you think it might be possible to convince big pharmaceuticals to collect high fidelity data if said data was collected into wearable devices and only processed after the fact? As analogy to use a "black box" recorder approach rather than flight control systems. Though not sure how far to take that "black box" analogy.
That’s why we use them.
Isn't that a description of literally what every practicing doctors, that isn't involved in research, actually does?
And clinical trials are extremely expensive. Surely there's some utility in gathering data between the extremes of doctor-patient and clinical trial.
We use properly conducted clinical science to give us a framework for interpreting the data we see, comparing data we have to studies with appropriate external validity to allow that comparison.
And no, there isn’t, if an RCT is at all feasible. There was a great paper a few years back that reviewed various case-control studies for conditions that were ultimately explored using RCTs (eg, knee arthroscopy, internal mammary artery ligation). What they found was that the retrospective study consensus was basically a coin-flip with respect to the RCT consensus. They just don’t provide useful data - too many confounders, known and unknown, go unaddressed.
I am extremely skeptical that this is in fact an even approximate description of how medicine actually works. Maybe not what you're doing! But what almost all of the doctors I've ever seen? They're not keeping up with all of clinical science. And even if they were, lots of clinical science is not being properly conducted. Just listen to or read the gripes that the statisticians have!
My previous claim still stands; you wrote:
> I, as a lone doc, am not equipped to make heads or tails of un-randomized un-controlled piles of data.
An individual patient, provides "un-randomized un-controlled piles of data" to their doctor – or, rather, not even piles of data. There's the visual evidence available from looking at and watching a patient when they're visiting your office (or whatever). There are sounds, smells, touch too. Then there's the verbal evidence. Then there's the results of whatever tests it is you order. If that's not un-randomized and un-controlled data, I don't know what is.
There's no framework for interpreting all possible medical evidence, even for the smallest professional specialties. There are no RCT for medical expert systems; none that anyone could legally use instead of a licensed doctor.
And there are lots and lots of interventions that doctors perform that have never been adequately studied in the form of RCTs. Doctors, in the real world, exercise an incredible degree of latitude with regard to what interventions they can perform based on their own personal judgement.
(1) if I see something, I have to act on it, despite not actually having the knowledge of whether it means anything in this information-rich context. I just love things that -look- like information but that don’t actually tell me anything.
(2) we have a LOT of data suggesting that we do more harm than good when we try to intervene or investigate everything. For Pete’s sake, hospice patients outlive those who are actually pursuing life extension! Turns out every treatment has harms, and when you’re applying those harms to no benefit (because the patient is asymptomatic, or the anomalous event was never destined to progress to clinical disease), you just accrue harm that -looks- like care.
3) It is not likely to result in useful diagnosis, because catching shit pre-clinically offers little indication of what will or won’t become clinical. We see this in helical CT: a lot of people became “cancer patients” when helical CT came out, before we realized a LOT of growths recede forever without intervention - we just hadn’t seen them before, on the less sensitive tech.
If I see the data I have to act on it to cover my (American) ass, and I know I will do net harm to my patients. Thanks but no thanks. Do your due diligence: collect the data, analyze it, stick it in a properly randomized prospective study to see if you just trawled your way into an overfitted model, and prove that the intervention for it does more good than harm. THEN I’ll be delighted to use that specific data to pursue that specific intervention. Don’t just measure everything, throw it at my wall like hot spaghetti, and expect me to turn it into dinner.
-my blunt anonymous opinion, since it was asked for
So as someone that would be liable to act on this data, I understand and sympathize that receiving this data would be an unfair burden on you. But what about the rest of us? We're being treated by people that we are expected to trust that actively refuse to learn whether they're actually helping. That seems pretty unfair to the rest of us.
And no, we aren’t actively refusing to learn if we are helping. We want the data collected in a meaningfully structured way that actually answers the question of whether it’s helping. Garbage In/Garbage Out doesn’t answer that question.
You say it’s unfair, but go reread my post. My concern is that my arm gets twisted into doing things that are -bad for you-, not bad for -me-. Whether you like the reasoning or it’s conclusion, nothing in it is about being unfair to you. It’s about trying to do my absolute best to live up to my ethical responsibility to optimize your health outcomes. The only part of it that’s defensive is the part where I don’t ignore test results, because it will get me sued out of medical practice in the rare occasion they’re true positives. And I would like for that not to be the case, but there we are.
I don't disagree. I was claiming that both patients and doctors are caught in this trap, i.e. doctors are legally liable for not offering, or recommending, treatment that isn't warranted.
A false positive from a medical test is much more costly, both in money for a doctor (or doctor's staff member's) time, and anxiety for the patient.
That said, your brother's case makes some sense. It's targeted, and I imagine the action you want to take after getting an alert would be pretty well defined.
I'm glad people are saying this. I'm in a constant fight at work with people who want "more data." What ends up happening most of the time is it's ignored or people do not interpret it correctly because they don't have the ability or context to do it (doing stats wrong for instance).
"Using experts in a variety of fields as test subjects, experimental psychologists
have examined the relationship between the amount of information
available to the experts, the accuracy of judgments they make
based on this information, and the experts’ confidence in the accuracy of
"Key findings from this research are:
• Once an experienced analyst has the minimum information necessary
to make an informed judgment, obtaining additional information
generally does not improve the accuracy of his or her
estimates. Additional information does, however, lead the analyst
to become more confident in the judgment, to the point of overconfidence.
• Experienced analysts have an imperfect understanding of what
information they actually use in making judgments. They are
unaware of the extent to which their judgments are determined
by a few dominant factors, rather than by the systematic integration
of all available information. Analysts actually use much less
of the available information than they think they do."
Which implies they do not know which part of the data is most important. No?
disclaimer: didn't click link/read chapter
AI is not going to "think" like humans. It is not going to be better or worse, just "different". And all experience so far show that the more data the better are the decisions made by AI.
And the experience doesn't show more data is better, it shows that an excess of features leads to overfitting.
People are proposing smart whatever now, and handeaving its value proposition as -eventually- feeding into ML which will -eventually- have benefits to patients.
I don’t think there is disagreement that data + ML is useful, but the value for increasing data because of AI assistance isn’t meaningful in the absence of that AI. Hospitals and insurers have huge data sets available: build a halfway decent AI first, and then argue for the value-add of the data.
Except any department in any hospital or insurer that welcomes you to do research can make that de-identified data available to you with a simple contract.
How do you think college freshmen get in the door to work on research with physicians?
No, it’s not public, but it’s trivially accessible.
But I did. No, I use the word “trivial” knowingly.
The data for insurers is in the form of Billings (which come with Diagnosis codes!), which follows a federally-standardized format (check out the Medicare website) and you can get a sample of 5% of Medicare subscribers’ data off the Medicare site without any hoops to jump through.
I want to say, “if you actually know what to do with it, PM me and we can talk details,” but the fact that you don’t already know about this sort of low-hanging fruit suggests you’re from outside the hc sector looking in.
Reach out, we can talk about what you’re thinking.
Put another way, at the extreme, you can have more and more data but unless you have the right data and are able to interpret it correctly, more data will only blind and confuse.
There is definitely an issue of under-diagnosis for many diseases. More data may not help initially but once we are over the critical mass in the amount of data and sophistication of ML algorithms trained on it, it will get over the hump.
The difference is that you actually hear about the Diagnosis X That Was Missed, but you never hear about That Simple Blood Test That Should Never Have Been Drawn but that Showed Positive for a Marker Common In Disease But Also Found in the General Population so They Needed a Biopsy to Rule Out, and Spent Hundreds or Thousands if Dollars and Lost Several Days of Work For Nothing At All. The latter is much, much, more common.
The “miss” is usually due to missing something in the modern deluge of data coupled to inadequate appointment time/resources, not lack of data availability.
For a real life example: heard about a patient die the other day. Reviewing his records with a student afterwards I saw his potassium had been climbing in his last two panels (though it hadn’t yet gotten high enough to be a red flag), and he didn’t get the blood gas that should have been done as per protocol. Thing is, the data was there, the rules were there, but someone with enough time to meaningfully review it was not. Would more piles of detritus data to sift through made that more likely, or less?
I also remain an ML skeptic for the time being. ML analysis of patient data is a big sophisticated version of retrospective analysis, which for purely statistical reasons is highly, highly unreliable.
A couple months ago I spent a good number of hours over a couple week at local hospital waiting for a close friend's mum to recover from a stroke. I could be mistaken but the only "data analysis" I noticed was taking place in the heads of the doctors and nurses.
The same goes for the physical therapy facility. That is, no one - not even the insurance company - was using similar cases as a guide. Yes, at a high general level they were. But using real data didn't seem to be on their radar.
This void made family decision making stressful and difficult.
Patients are not part of the decision making process, and therefore not privy to the analysis, unless there is a decision to be made that requires their input (eg, two reasonable roads forward that depend on their preferences, or on their risk-tolerance.)
The process is made opaque to patients intentionally.
Nothing like that. No continuity between docs or floors/wards. Just everyone kinda making it up as they go.
It just struck me as another reason why outcomes aren't optimized, and costs, relatively, inflating.
I'm not suggesting doctors are replaceable. But the doppelganger approach to (big) data seems to be ideal.
I understand. That’s part of what is intentionally opaque. We don’t speak like that to anyone but other medical professionals. There’s a lot of Dunning-Kruger in what people think of their ability to parse hc information. As someone who grew up with serious chronic disease, I’ve been on both sides of this fence. It’s not something you really “get” until you’ve had to care for patients.
> costs inflating
Several Health Econ studies have shown that about 70% of hc costs are driven by new technologies (implants, procedures, patented meds.) It has nothing to do with how docs communicate with one another.
And how we communicate is also opaque to patients. Not intentionally, it’s just not a conversation for patients, any more than any two technicians in a software company talking/arguing technical details are having a convo meant for the ears of customers.
The way it should have worked: based on previous labeled examples, computer system should have noticed the uptrend in potassium and flag this client for blood gas, and then make classification based on available and _additional_ data.
To rephrase: algos intelligent enough to be useful in the manner you imagine are a long way off from existing, but data deluge that harms patient care is -already here-. Don’t worsen the deluge until you improve the ability to digest and present it.
That EMR “decision aids” aren’t anywhere near sophisticated enough to tell the difference in the myriad of situations we have is why docs fight so hard against those automated “flags.” We get piles of them, all the time. QI people call it alarm fatigue, they know it’s a thing, and yet... they do it anyway, because it sounds (like in your post) like the obvious thing to flag.
It’s not that AI is inherently incapable of getting there. It’s that when it does is a long way off. Medicine looks a lot simpler from the outside.
Unfortunately the rule doesn't apply in this case. Your "smart" toilet is not trying to diagnose problems. It is trying to infer which ads you will click on the most, to make money for a surveillance company. A toilet that has a handful of true positives, a huge number of false ones, and doesn't kill too many people is pure win: surveillance and pharma both make money, and it's very hard for a consumer to tell if he never had X disease, or if buying the medicine prevented his X disease.
You can get more complex offerings that do perform some more complicated tests if you really want to.
The 'bath room' itself is also typically a single, self contained unit, often in some kind of mold, and including the shower, accoutrements, and bath in a full space designed to get wet and save/share the clean water in the bath.
The 'bath room' usually has a waterproof, electronic control panel which allows you to set timers for filling the bath, set an ambient temperature to keep it at, set the preferred level of water, set different default temperatures for the shower and bath, and typically also access all these features from other places like the kitchen where a companion panel is installed. This is typical of your average house - I just described my wife's parents' place, which was built 10 years ago.
The whole design thing is completely solved there, and why that approach has not been adopted across the U.S. and Europe by now is completely beyond me.
But the killer thing there would be to bring the Japanese approach to the US and Europe and plug in some better smart access features. Or go to Japan and plug them in there, where the infrastructure and demand is already in place [well, Google is probably on it already but...]
There's an episode of Star Trek: Voyager about this. Seven of Nine absorbs months worth of data (way more than a human could actually process) from the ship's computer, and "discovers" that both half of the ship plans on mutinying and that the Captain wasn't actually trying to get them home. Both of which were false.
* Diet balancig? (Hey, eat more cucumbers)
* Calories? (IANAD)
* Also more serendipiteous opportunities we can't foresee now
(at the doctor's)
t = 0 - Doc - I would need a urine analysis
t = 60s - User - Here you are.
* Huge privacy concerns (Hey, you are fired! btw, you also have cancer)
As someone in the industry I do of course have a wishlist, but, you know.
As to clean: a self cleaning toilet and a roomba living in the corner is a huge step away from treating your toilet as an always-on medical lab.
I think Reliable, cheap, user friendly medical diagnostics would be a game changer, but of course the data analytics to make good use would be different than how current, one-off, medical testing is treated.
> raise flags that must be chased down
If a red flag must be chased down, doesn't that mean it changes your decision?
As a marketer who's always been interested in tech startups and that has dealt with many engineers, those ideas scream "engineering." The problem is finding startup ideas from an engineering point of view has in my experience been the best way to find a solution in search of a problem.
"AI for Communicating with Dogs": sounds like a "hop on the AI bandwagon idea". I don't believe the idea in itself is silly at all (getting people to empathise with animals is probably a net good), but presenting it that way is a guaranteed way of not being taken seriously, and, more importantly, a guaranteed way of limiting your options when trying to solve the actual problem. Why does it HAVE TO be done with AI?
"Smart Bathroom": Why? Why not start from the desired outcome? We're going to collect more data to do what?
Etc. etc. Most of those ideas (there are a few exceptions) are driven by a product/widget-centric vision that doesn't seem to have any deeper justification.
OP did say it’s an experiment :x
To the average marketer, some HN threads are absolutely mind-boggling. Not too long ago, someone posted a thread essentially saying that he had freshly graduated from a top school and assembled a team of brilliant people, but they couldn't find anything to do with all their talent.
How is that possible?
Y Combinator's motto is "Make something people want."
Well? What are startups waiting for?
Mostly, they've again drunk a bit too much Kool Aid here — the "get out of the building" and "customer development" type. These are both good things to do — but if your original impetus is stupid (business-wise), you'll only converge towards mediocre outcomes.
In fact, it's very easy to come up with things that people want. Because people have always wanted the same things, and probably always will. Everything the market provides is there to satisfy basic, universal human needs .
Fundamental needs and desires are the magma on which the tectonic plates that define product categories and product are moving. They're the deepest drivers of product adoption.
Current product categories and products are just a byproduct of those needs meeting technological and economic limitations.
Find out how you can satisfy some fundamental need better by leveraging technological changes, and you'll have a good startup idea.
Or so I believe.
Honestly, if there was a way to attach a gas chromatograph to toilet, i’d totally buy it. It’d be nice to be warned of high mercury or lead intake. Also, if there was a way to assess the state of your gut (micro-biome, digestion issues) in real time it would be a big win. So much of my life is dictated by diet (migraines, physical performance, mood), that having additional data points to correlate with, and potentially find causations, could potentially increase my quality of life.
This post is actually a bit of an experiment. We're trying to find better ways to get prospective startup founders (which includes many of us in the HN community) in contact with problems that really ought to be solved. We have lots of different ideas for ways to do that, but a list of ideas seemed like an easy one to try out first. Please let me know if you can think of a better/different way of accomplishing this goal!
As to why we're doing this -- more great startups is good news for YC, even if they don't immediately apply to our program. We'd much rather spend our time trying to grow the ecosystem as a whole and maybe capture a small part of that than trying to immediately monetize everything we build.
The top 5 problems in my city are more on the level of affordable housing, homelessness, drug use, over-incarceration and mental healthcare. I can't help but feel like we have enough gadgets and data, and there are enough products to buy out there for every single income level. As long as we are only solving small problems and doing arbitrage or rent-taking it feels like making a better society is the last thing on anyone's mind.
It's a win-win, you don't feel like you are gambling if you loose because at least your money is going to a good cause, and if you do win well you still put money towards a good cause. As well you are building an incentiveised safety net for some of the most at risk people.
However, YC says that the idea doesn't really affect the outcome of a startup. It just is an indicator if the founders can have good ideas. In that case, giving out ideas and having people start companies based on that gives you zero information about if that startup is going to be successful.
The customers could give grants to developers/entrepreneurs to work on a solution to the problem, sort of like the SBIR process. You'd need some sort of grant proposal vetting system -- perhaps the donors could individually approve whichever grants they want their money going towards, and if multiple grants are approved by a sufficient quorum of donors to meet their minimum funding threshold, then you could have multiple teams working on the same problem.
There would be a lot of details to work out, but this is starting to sound like yet another startup idea.
A common theme I hear when talking to end users or key opinion leaders is that they don't want to divulge their ideas at risk of it being poached. They may be excellent ideas, or forward thinking individuals, but grow concerned about IP/giving away ideas, etc. On the flip side, they often don't have the time or resources to tackle all their ideas (if any) so things don't get done. I speak in particular from a healthcare perspective.
In your mind, how would you convince such users to participate in brainstorming more freely?
That said, I would also say that "ideas" never get funded...only teams/founders get funded. The idea you start with is rarely the idea that makes a business work.
Meanwhile, a good founder/team can take practically any flawed idea ...within reason... and make it work as a business.
This culture of course has a powerful pro-economic side effect -- ideas that are shared have a chance to grow, evolve, be challenged and fork, ultimately coming out stronger and better-developed.
To answer your concrete question on how to persuade someone with a different background to open up about their ideas -- maybe share this blog post with them? A little bit of social validation that other successful people are willing to share their ideas can't hurt. :)
That's definitely not my experience. "End users" and people without extensive startup expertise hold their ideas close, but the genuinely experienced founders and experts I know share freely.
If you really want to get crazy, the resulting list could be integrated into your application process -- "We're team A, with a proposal to solve Problem X, but also have ideas for problems Y and Z."
Assuming a reader has a usable idea(s) - a best-case scenario but the only one worth providing information for - what would you like them to do to present it, how can they feel safe doing so, and what happens after they do and you like it.
What is the problem that a "social network for kids" is solving, for example?
I think it'd be much more useful to, frankly, disregard what other similar founders think might be a martketable idea and to instead find professionals in a variety of high capital spend industries and interview them about problems they face.
I applaud the concept of sharing ideas for entrepreneurs to tackle.
However, this list of ideas is dangerously bad, with nearly all of them suffering from either monetization challenges or huge execution issues. Anyone that sets out to solve these as-is will end up wasting a great deal of time, effort, and resources.
It's generally bad form to approach a startup idea from the perspective of "wouldn't it be great if XYZ existed?" Startup ideas aren't simply about identifying a problem to be solved - they are about identifying problems with achievable solutions that will make money. That's a lot harder to identify.
Having founders or investors speculate about "what would be cool" in a problem domain that they don't have much experience in is inevitably going to result in ideas that underestimate transactional costs or the shape of the problem itself.
A better approach might be to create a product similar to HN (or extension thereof), where users can post problems identified and/or solutions proposed, and discuss the issues thoroughly, as well as vote up problem/solution pairs that seem like good ideas.
This communal discussion should, with a broad enough user base, quickly sieve the problem/solution pairs that are feasible from the ones that are not.
Look at any of the technical subreddits - typically domain experts end up being near the top comments naturally, because they lay out substantive comments.
Reddit "flair" is a solution as well. Ideally a platform like this would be able to connect to a LinkedIn profile, and display some relevant info from said profile.
There are lots of non-technical domains that could benefit from the application of technology and if we only going around fixing problems we run into, we are going to miss out on some great ideas.
Might I suggest that rather than thinking about this as "I want to build a company that ___" and then trying to fill in the blank, it would be better to think about what inefficiencies exist in the world that could be improved or eliminated by the creation of a fresh solution. This is really what startups are doing. Without a core inefficiency, there is no need to build a startup.
I actually started an Ask: HN thread a while back asking. "What problems in your industry could be a potential startup?"
what I learned from it ended up in this essay:
One of the most interesting things is how hard it is for "us" to focus on the problem and not immediately jump to the solution.
Today I always ask for problems rather than ideas it's much more useful and allow many more people to participate.
I have some experience in this space. I run a startup idea repository and newsletter.
In my experience, people really want to be put in touch with their first paying customer. As a rule, the more you can help assess the demand for each idea, the better.
I have some ideas on how YCombinator could do this at scale, and start founders in a more advantageous position, if that's of interest.
Ought is a loaded term there in my opinion because it depends on who you ask and what your goals are. A VC and a philanthropist are going to have wildly different answers.
80000 hours  has the goal of identifying the most pressing problems in the world  and then connecting people with jobs around those.
That should be your starting point.
Justin Kan's idea for buyer's remorse insurance on fine art really drives home that you're on point. It should speak volumes that YC is publishing the idea that "fine art purchasing sure is a difficult problem" with a straight face. Let’s put half the valley on that pressing issue.
Think about how that went down: oh, hey, Kyle. Great timing on your e-mail! I just bought a Manet and hate it on my wall; I have just the idea for your blog post.
If you buy an engagement ring and the proposal gets rejected, you get stuck with a depreciating asset which is hard to sell for anything, let alone for what you buy.
Still too high-net-worth for you? Insurance for used-car problems that you don't have to buy from the used car dealer that sells you the car. There's an inherent conflict of interest in a dealer selling you a car and then selling you the hedge against problems with that car.
I watched a Charlie Rose interview this week with a famous comic writer who was proud to work in comics, as opposed to painting. His logic was that average people feel dumb and that they are "missing something" if they look at a painting and "don't get it". When you look at a comic and you "don't get it", you are more likely to think the comic is trash and that there is nothing "to get". Similarly, I think the pretentiousness of art gallery sales people is a pressure tactic to get you to buy something you don't really value. I don't think insurance-after-the-fact solves the incentive mismatch for fine art.
Of course, there are also lots of problems that need to be solved but that aren't a good fit for a for-profit business. Those ones can be harder to tackle, but we do try -- that's why YC also funds non-profits.
Counterpoint-- this should not be built. Kids already have a social network, it's called the playground at school. Having children engage with their friends outside of school time is a fine goal, but there are plenty of existing after-school activities that encourage this interaction. These activities also don't put the undue stress of having to decipher typed language, nuance, and other online-only pressures that adults can barely deal with, much less children.
Get your kids into scouts. Get them into a team sport. Get them into dance. Get them into after-school STEAM activities. Whatever those activities are, that's up to their preferences, but most importantly they are out and engaging with their peers face to face. That "3pm - 6pm" window of time is important for children to play, and having them spend even a portion of that time hitting a like button or whatever other social network validation activities seems extremely disingenuous to me.
My Counter-Counterpoint is to first consider the following: (a) most kids are using normal social networks like Snapchat and Instagram in jr. high school (age 12+ in the US), (b) children see their parents and older kids using social networks and want to emulate them, (c) a lot of parents are either too busy or too lazy to do what you suggest and that's why so many children are handed a device at way too young an age, (d) helicopter parenting makes c. even worse.
So, given that, I say this should be built–if, for no other reason, than to encourage responsible and empathetic use of social media. Maybe it has time limits and is purposely non-addictive. Maybe it encourages IRL interactions at the park and helps parents coordinate that. Maybe it detects cruel comments and teaches them why its not ok. Maybe it guides kids through outdoor games and educational activities.
I like what you're suggesting but I'm more of the mindset "this is inevitable so i hope someone takes the moral/responsible route with it"
Also, a side note for those that don't have kids and aren't aware, a very large swath of elementary school children in the US already have Google accounts through their school or school district.
Edit: some words
IMO a safe children’s social network is a bit of an oxymoron. You’re never going to make something safe, unless it’s a closed system!
I don't agree with your oxymoron statement. First, social networks aren't inherently unsafe. Plus, I don't think they are "open" or "closed" in a binary sense. Every system–real or online–with humans is going to have bad actors. You just need varying levels of ID, auth, filtering, etc.
I wasn't really involved with Club Penguin because I didn't have kids using it during the heyday, but my understanding is that they grew it to be pretty big without any major safety issues .
I think this whole notion of "completely closed and safe" is what gave rise to the helicopter parenting I mentioned above. That's not a good thing.
I might have misunderstood but you’re suggesting an actually safe, well-designed social network for kids right?
Agreed, systems aren’t open and closed in a binary sense. But social networks only thrive when the channels for self-expression are flexible, available and lots of people are using them. With kids however, safety is No.1 and as long as the channels are open, it’s impossible to safeguard against dodgy content and (worse) users. Really determined people will always find ways to get around a system, and the more ‘open’ the system is (for example private messages and chat functionalities) the higher the risks. That’s what I meant by “oxymoron.”
Club Penguin is interesting, because imo it’s an example of a fairly closed social network. Kids can only interact via the available set of responses, like emoticons and coins. (At least that’s what it was like more than five years ago when I watched my younger siblings play.) So there’s no way to type in anything, all profiles are avatar-based and they have pretty fierce moderators. It’s very well designed actually. But to use it as a way to educate kids of social media in general, maybe not, just because the major social networks like Facebook etc are designed too differently (i.e. more open.) That’s why I’m an advocate of internet safety education - because you’re right, it’s impossible to shield them!
The only way I can think of implementing a safe social network for kids is within the school itself. Okay you’re with your classmates all the time, but the social network can be more of a democratic educational platform, where kids can access content and discuss topics anytime. In the U.K., there’s a few like that already, though it’s still a bit primitive (Frog I hear is quite buggy.)
Social networks are addictive because if they aren't, they fail and cease to be adopted at scale. Somehow we seem to be OK with this happening to ourselves. It is only when it happens to our innocent children that we start to revolt.
Commercial social media are refined to the equivalent of advertisement cocaine. They are also a con man's wet dream (I refer you to numerous articles about Facebook frauds). It's even more than that, because it's the only drug which changes shape to more effectively get you. You have to be constantly vigilant and watch for new manipulation methods.
Parents watch over children not just because they like them, but because children are not capable of consistently making informed, rational decisions and weighting pros and cons.
I think parents themselves are not adult enough to deal with Facebook and avoid being manipulated or cheated. I think the world hasn't caught up with addictiveness of social media yet. Other drugs are already limited, for example by age. Netherlands doesn't limit access to drugs very much, instead it focuses on informational campaigns and rehab centers, with pretty good results. FB gives people something core to human nature - social contact, so addicts will defend it to the death. Age requirement wouldn't fly, so Netherlands-style approach is the only option left. At least until FB successfully lobbies to ban them or sues for defamation.
The dangers posed by social media are not inherently new, but fraudsters in meatspace have a harder time being completely anonymous, there are witnesses everywhere, your personal profile is not written on your back, and offenders risk local ostracism. FB is more like a private nightclub than real world with laws, courts and police. FB makes it easy to be a creep remotely and anonymously.
I hear this criticism a lot and to me it strikes a similar tone as the 1972 documentary Future Shock. Effectively that the pace of change is too rapid and humans cannot adjust. Its a compelling argument on its face, but its been falsified over much of history.
This makes it ok somehow?
> Somehow we seem to be OK with this happening to ourselves. It is only when it happens to our innocent children that we start to revolt.
I think you're begging the question on the first point. As for the second, not only is there mounting evidence that giving kids smartphones and constant social network tools is having deleterious effects on their mental health, there are a whole slew of things that I'm ok with adults having a choice about that nobody should be ok with kids having access to.
That should never be built... and yet, somehow, we just know it will.
How Lego Built a Social Network for Kids That's Not Creepy
You could also require parents to identify themselves, I guess, similar to how some financial/banking apps do? Not fool proof, but would raise the barrier for predators to enter.
Why is it important? I hated all those things as a kid.
Cerebral monitoring devices implanted at birth would be a much more effective solution.
EDIT: ah, now I see (A)rt
If Facebook seems draconian, this would be an opportunity to build something better from first principles. It's a positive plan, not malicious.
I'm not sure Facebook has the ability to pursue this even if they tried. They have too much political inertia for people to trust them with a kids-focused Facebook. That means all someone needs to do is build this, then refuse to sell. Checkmate.
It won't be easy, but two decades is a long time. And that's the timeline to slay a giant.
Most non-techie people I ask have no idea that Instagram and WhatsApp are Facebook properties. Even Messenger is being disassociated from the Facebook brand. I don't know if it's a deliberate strattegy to keep the bad reputation contained but I don't see a reason they couldn't attempt that if they were to ever build a kids network.
If we define valuable as "profitable, productive companies" then I very much agree that there are plenty of niches out there.
However, if we are talking about startups that can actually grow big by Silicon Valley standards, I have personally come to the opposite conclusion. Ideas with the potential to become big are very much THE scarce resource.
I used to think that things like capital and teams are scarce, but it turns out there are a lot of sharp hard-working people with access to cash. By contrast, ideas that can grow to a billion dollar outcome are very few. I remember Andy Rachleff saying a decade ago that each year 10-15 companies are started that will eventually grow to become billion-dollar outcomes. My impression is that this pattern has held.
What does change all the time is where the opportunities are. Some industries mature, thus potentially closing for new opportunities, at least for a while, e.g. until a tech breakthrough. The good news is that new markets develop all the time, and the cycle repeats.
P.S. Thanks for putting this together and sharing with the community. I hope some dots get connected meaningfully.
They're also almost inherently unknowable. Look back at the history of almost any large, successful SV company. Google was a search company taking on AltaVista. Facebook let Harvard students put up personal pages, taking on MySpace. Amazon sold books, taking on Borders. All of their founders got negative responses at early attempts at VC funding from "experts" who had no idea of what they were looking at, because small companies, by definition, make small products, and usually in markets with some competition by strong incumbents. Would Google have become as big as they did without Gmail, YouTube, Maps, Android? Would Facebook have become as big as they did without Messenger, Events, public pages for businesses and celebrities? Would Amazon have become as big as they did without AWS and Marketplace/FBA?
Execution, not the founding idea, is what turns start-ups into giants.
Highlights - Jetskis in SF, Escorts in NY
A few industries I’ve researched this way:
* Porta potties
* Dumpster rental
* Bail bonds
There are millions of legitimate businesses out there that have hardly been touched by tech.
Myopic to say the least.
YC, here I come!
Our team at LampLampshadeRepair.io will see you there!
This has been done. Amyris , among those that survived the effort, and JBEI from a quasi-academic approach .
From first principles, it just is not a good business proposition to compete to synthesize from scratch one of the very cheapest of commodities. Fuels, by volume, are one of the least expensive chemicals one can buy. The biological technology exists, but competing against a few hundred million year's energetic headstart is just not economically viable (unless oil goes above a few hundred a barrel). The same technology can produce fragrances, medicines, dyes, etc, all which go for hundreds of dollars a liter, or one could produce ethanol which goes for less than a hundred dollars a barrel. And so that's why companies like Zymergen tend to not produce fuels, even though they easily could.
"The first ever Roman fire brigade of which we have any substantial history was created by Marcus Licinius Crassus. He was born into a wealthy Roman family around the year 115 BC, and acquired an enormous fortune through (in the words of Plutarch) "fire and rapine." One of his most lucrative schemes took advantage of the fact that Rome had no fire department. Crassus filled this void by creating his own brigade—500 men strong—which rushed to burning buildings at the first cry of alarm. Upon arriving at the scene, however, the fire fighters did nothing while their employer bargained over the price of their services with the distressed property owner. If Crassus could not negotiate a satisfactory price, his men simply let the structure burn to the ground, after which he offered to purchase it for a fraction of its value."
Also, as this was featured as a Reddit TIL, here are a few interesting comments: https://imgur.com/a/Fhuc5
I imagine that a firefighting startup would not actually replace the operations of fire departments, they would simply sell products to fire departments.
One example of that is Active911: https://www.active911.com/ They sell a product that allows notifications to be pushed through multiple communication methods, and allows coordination of first response.
Yeah, I think they want a 'greaser' company that will help smooth out governmental workings, FF deployments, and other stuff. Building drones is hardware, and hardware is bad at 'scaling.' Especially, since this kind of hardware is so 'critical' and probably need a lot of testing.
(Not affiliated, just heard of them in the Omega Tau podcast, which by the way I strongly recommend!)
It's not clear to me that they have any actual insight into how said drones might help, or how firefighting is done at the moment.
Improving fire code is more likely to have a bigger impact. This is basically all about money though.
This is borderline satire. You don't need some crazy new idea to do a startup. You need to execute well on something people want, and if you're out looking for ideas, your best bet is probably to enter an existing market and cater to a subset of it better than others are doing.
EDIT: I would also be happy to do this startup if YC adds me to the next batch; already offered to do one for the “Social Network for Children”:
The average person can understand way more than you are giving credit.
And anyway, if the average person can't understand some communication, than it's something completely out the league of current AIs. It's the one thing we are good at.
I beg to differ. The average human isn't autistic, but there is still significant value in using AI to tell us what we are doing wrong (and wrap the product up so it doesn't make us fell like crap while we are doing it).
Behavior modification bots would be incredibly useful for helping people see their own shortcomings (cognitive science research shows us that we frequently see the flaws in others but are systematically blind to our own).
Beyond that, as defined by the spec for the startup, I have no reason to believe AI built for this would not be able to do the same for this task.
Is the market the average person though or the person willing to spend several hundred dollars on tech for their pet?
My guess is the latter would mostly consist of people who have spent decades in close contact with pets and are able to reliably read the body language of a dog with rather extreme accuracy and nuance.
If you've never owned a dog they're rather difficult to read. If you've been around them as long as you've been around people you can almost immediately discern a lot of information about them based on a glance.
It really is incredible what they are capable of at such a young age.
Other parents tell me all the time about how their kids are getting frustrated because the can't communicate verbally - I really don't know why signing for babies isn't more popular.
However, it's been the exact opposite, signing has only reduced frustration, taught the benefits of communication, and encouraged spoken language.
I wish the focus were on treatment and compassion rather than awareness. What I fear happening, and think we have already started taking steps towards, is normalizing mental illness to the point of carte blanche acceptance. I had depression for many years and still have my bad days, but I don't want to live/work in a society where you can use mental illness for excuses. The focus should always be on getting help and coping as best as you can.
What should become destigmatized is saying "I have condition X" or "I'm getting treatment for condition X and it's really helping", not "I did Y because I have condition X, my b".
I also think that while mental illness should be destigmatized, it's still ultimately a private matter. People should feel like they can get help and receive support, but there are a lot of good reasons to not share with family/friends/coworkers about your mental illness. If I had ever told my parents about being depressed they would have lost thousands of hours of sleep worrying about me, and would spend a lot of effort trying to help even though they really couldn't. I also don't want my boss or coworkers to know simply because I don't want to be held to a different standard / treated differently from others, nor do I want any failure of mine to perform or meet commitments to have the (implicit) excuse of mental illness.
Accommodation is often quite possible and is a net gain for everyone involved. Yes you don't want the guy piloting the airplane to have hallucinations, but forcing someone with social anxiety into a cramped loud office when there's no need should be doable.
The main reason for not sharing is because of the stigma involved. As for coworkers holding you to a different standard, well after any period of time, most coworkers know what you are like, despite any labels that are used.
My thought on the matter is to use the words Neuro-typical and ! neuro-typical.
I feel that a fair amount of what is called mental illness is actually just part of the spectrum of how a human mind can work. I think we lose a lot of human potential because most large organizations try to get all their "resources" to function together in pretty much the same way.
If the time was taken to understand the optimum conditions for individual types of mental functioning there would be a large increase of productivity and satisfaction in the workplace.
I think many people don't get the help they need partly because they feel embarrassed (as well as other reasons). I think that's what the stigma has caused. There's a negative connotation around talking to a professional about things going on in your life or mind. Often times, jokes are made about "shrinks" and such, which I think only exacerbate the situation.
And I'd like to comment on your last paragraph. While I think it's fair and up to the individual to keep whatever they want in their life private, I also think in many cases talking about it out in the open, in environment that not only supports it, but where it also feels normal to discuss it, is the ultimate wish.
I'm of the opinion that I think most everyone would benefit from talking to someone good* about things that are going on in their lives. While there's a spectrum to mental illness and health, I'd like for society to get to a place where discussing those kinds of things is as normal as discussing a movie you just saw.
To get to that point, I think the stigma around mental health will need to change. Talking about something like a breakup with someone is a common experience. If you tell someone you've broken up with your partner, then people don't judge you in the way they judge you for improving your mental health by, say, seeking professional help. In fact, with regard to the breakup, many people offer to listen to you or to make time for you - to help you.
That doesn't seem to normally be the case with mental illness or health (and yet I think it's all related). And I hope that changes.
And I think one of the best ways for that to happen is to have more-and-more high-profile people talking about it out in the open - even just challenges they've faced personally - from something like a breakup to extreme mental illness.
I wish for this partly because I think it will make people more empathetic and understanding toward each other, which I think will make the world a better place.
*Like teachers, not everyone (professional or not) is good at it, nor the right fit.
Sprinkler systems for indoor fires are not that uncommon now. Why aren't there sprinkler/fire retardant systems for the perimeter/external part of a house?
In a wildfire, I can't imagine a better way to fight the fire from spreading through a neighborhood than a system that auto-deploys when it senses smoke on the periphery of a house/neighborhood, instantly killing the flames. A top-down approach to fire-fighting is expensive and in a raging fire, not so effective from what we've seen so far. Perhaps, we need to adopt a more distributed approach (ie individual homes and localities protect themselves).
Of course, it would have to have broad adoption, but I bet if it's proven to work well, some homeowners would just install it on their property, especially if the property is close to areas more prone to wildfires.
You could probably even get a discount on your homeowners policy.
If anyone wants to brainstorm this, do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fire is a natural part of the ecosystem, and by controlling when and how it burns, we help keep it in check instead of it turning into mega fires.
Here is an article to get you started, https://www.npca.org/articles/819-fight-fire-with-funding-an...
There are. Google "external bushfire sprinkler systems" and look at anything from a .com.au domain. These systems are as much a startup as HVAC (i.e. not really), but they still rely on software control, because owners need reassurance that the sprinklers will activate automatically even if they have already evacuated.
Detecting the appropriate activation circumstances is a high-stakes decision to hand off to a machine, and thus a potential goldmine for anybody who gets it right.
Is the issue with fire-retardant wood/framing materials that it is too expensive, toxic, or doesn't help once a certain temperature is reached ?
 http://www.pressdemocrat.com/business/7559762-181/hewlett-pa... (see picture 3)
In Australia, ember attack is responsible for 90% of the houses lost to bushfires. If you can prevent flying embers from igniting a house, you eliminate most of the risk to the building.
They are pressurised using a diesel generator, and each sprinkler head consumes 6 to 20 litres per minute (a typical installation will include 20-30 sprinkler heads) from an independent water supply (not mains - you can rely on that failing in a fire).
A bushfire front will typically pass within five to ten minutes, because as you pointed out, they are fast-moving. This limits the amount of radiant heat a sprinkler system has to cope with.
While fire suppression systems don't seem to me like a good startup model (more of a small-to-medium business), there are good software opportunities for automated and remote-triggered sprinkler activation (because people still evacuate hours earlier, and need a way to turn on the sprinkler system remotely).
Even with all the fire retardant sprayed onto massive wildfires from the sky, we're unable to stop them. Why wouldn't a different approach work?
If you read about the Napa fires, some neighborhoods in Santa Rosa were entirely burned to the ground not because of a wall of gushing fire, but because some embers from further away landed on dried up brush and leaves and started the fire in that area.
Forest fires are never put out with water--you just can't get enough water where it's needed. Instead, you use small amounts of air-dropped water and fire breaks to steer the fire where you want it to go and let it run out of fuel.
I think public libraries should start to serve this role. My local library (Calgary) has started to build up a collection of musical instruments that can be borrowed . I'm sure there are other examples out there. I can see libraries expanding into tool libraries (drill, saw, hammer etc).
0 - https://calgarylibrary.ca/borrow-a-musical-instrument/
Lend/borrow from people around you.
Lending libraries are great but not every city commits resources to support them or they restrict access to the citizens (eg: Oakland,SF,Alameda,etc cannot borrow from Berkeley tool lending library).
We’re still very young but would love your support! ️
Web — https://selfless.io
iOS — https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/selfless-love-something.-giv...
Android — https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.selfless
Your contact link doesn't seem to work
Libraries work for books because they offer a large selection of items you may only use once, or just browse over. But (inexpensive) tools? You wouldn't rent a dictionary for example...?
Tools aren't like a dictionary because there is no digital/online replacement for a saw.
When I rent a tool from the tool library, it puts me under a lot of stress to finish the job before I have to take the tool back. Furthermore, some tools are hard to pick up from the library without a truck.
If you don't have a car, forget it.
The other thing about tools as well is that in order to use them, you have to know how. If you don't own the tool, chances are pretty good you won't know what the heck you're doing.
After saying all that out loud your idea starts to sound pretty good. There needs to be a community center where you can learn how to use these tools, and borrow them when you need them. The library sounds like the perfect place. If only we could easily add low-friction on-demand services to that equation.
I believe most public libraries are free to join nowadays. It would be great for low SES people to have access to tools.
We still have a long ways to go, but I think there's a good chance we'll prove you wrong :)
We work with sales people daily and getting their inventory to our customers. They love that we are bringing them new business. As for brand guidelines, we're in constant communication so this isn't much of an issue.
If that's true that's great but it's the opposite experience of what I've experienced with large media companies. They pretty jealously guard their inventory and hate the idea of transparent pricing. That's great if you haven't experienced it yet, but I suspect you will at some point. Best of luck to you regardless. I'm rooting for you.
As for AdQuick (and Fliphound for that matter), it seems like you're just another middleman. There is no bidding. Am I missing something?
Now that ad prices have more sanity and relative value across mediums, now may be the time to do this.
I see this as an idea that will happen, it is just a matter of when.
I'd start buy building a big data model to value billboard space. Estimate the eyeballs using traffic data, size, visual competition, etc. Sell the analysis, broker space, and then in 5-10 years you could build the Adwords model and eventually own the whole damn industry. You could also sell the company to an Ad Agency at any point.
It has legs, you just need serious commitment from an owner of inventory (physical boards), which are controlled by 3 or 4 organisations.
 2008 Toronto Star article on Prof. Alex Mihailidis - https://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2008/09/01/u_of...
Many many informations about one's health are found in feces, and yet collecting them to give them to a lab is, well, repugnant. If we could somehow have a sensor in the toilet that would scan them every day, that would be invaluable (and probably save lives).
Well, in real life, it’s hard to find a truly complementary cofounder - let alone a team - even if one has a great network. It’s not just talent, it’s other things like personality traits and leadership styles. The greatest ones like Jobs/Wozniak only comes once in a while, and that’s thanks to luck. So why not frame this as an actual problem statement? For example, for problem x, what’s the ideal makeup of the team to solve it? How do we find brilliant and passionate individuals and bring them together? How do we sustain that team energy and commitment to the vision?
So maybe, that’s something for startup incubators to think about. Basically a sort of recruitment, Avengers style.
Does invoice factoring not exist in the US? It's a fairly run of the mill concept in the UK, and it's nothing like debt collection.
I can only assume that they are looking for some sort of automated turk that would call and call and call until the check is cut. Like a nag bot.
And/or, instead of high factor costs, my guess is they want this <1% of the receivable amount.
I assume what they do is show you data you already have but maybe don't appreciate fully, e.g. if BigCo pays you on average 30 days late you can see that before you embark on some new project. Cool, but not necessarily getting me paid faster. Helping me avoid risk perhaps.
Maybe I missed it but if you know more, maybe you can give some examples of how they solve this? Genuinely interested since I too have this problem on occasion.
Collections in the B2B world is more broadly defined as the process of reminding your customers to pay you, not so much the breaking knees part. Most companies over $15MM in revenue have at least one person doing this.
We see the collections process as the final step in a good customer experience… so we’ve built a product that combines the best parts of sales CRM and customer engagement tools. Our website showcases our active products (Forecasting, Forex, & Analytics), but we’re currently in Beta with the Collections tool and would love to show you it and get your feedback.
Feel free to reach out to me directly: carlos[at]tesorio.com
That said, I think the fact that some folks misuse factoring in some industries doesn't mean it cannot be correctly used by many folks in other industries, even alongside other capital sources. Lowering the expense could be one way to innovate. Reducing the chagrin factor could be another.
FWIW, I have been at several >$15MM tech companies and in most cases worked directly with the CFO and team, and I don't recall having a FTE doing collections in any of them; sure it was a problem on occasion. The bigger problem was the routine elongation of the receivables cycle. We got paid in full 99.99% of the time - but slowly. We didn't need collections, we just wanted cash faster. Even at >$15MM...in fact more so!
Reminding them wasn't the problem in my experiences - though I'm sure there are many who have this problem - they deliberately engineered delay into their system. They were rewarded to delay. I have been on the other side of that table, doing the exact same thing admittedly, so I know.
Would love to chat 1:1 too, just keeping the ideation here on the thread in the spirit of the OP's goal.