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Matt Cutts gives you a free startup idea (google.com)
92 points by alphadog on Sept 5, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 32 comments

Except I think startups are collectively figuring out that creating a company solely around an API plugin isn't a very solid business plan.

And for power users only too! Pretty sure power users are less likely to be willing to pay for a service, because they're so used to finding free alternatives to paid stuff.

No, power users are your best customers when you present a clear value proposition. Casual users don't ever see the need so they don't ever bother paying.

A friend of mine operated a pledging type service for donations, and he said in a conversation that less technologically sophisticated users definitely had higher willingness to pay. What's your evidence?

I define a power user as someone with technological sophistication. For example, one of the features Matt Cutts mentions is filtering your mail using regular expressions. That requires technological sophistication.

Being more comfortable with computers, technologically sophisticated users are more likely to google around to find free or cheap alternatives to a product they see. Thus, companies in a market with technologically sophisticated users compete more on the basis of price and less on the basis of advertising than other companies. This makes it harder for these companies to make a profit.

It's true that technologically sophisticated users will be more likely to see the merits in Matt Cutts' startup idea. But that's a defect, not a feature.

Not sure that applies here. Even if Gmail discountinued OAuth support, you could just fall back to IMAP.

As the ecosystem around Twitter has discovered, the platform owners will sooner copy a good feature than buy it if it's cheap enough to build. It's not about OAuth or IMAP, it's about some GOOG PM copying the featureset and putting it in the MRD for the next release.

[edit: a famous bit of company-is-a-feature carnage for reference: STAC vs. Microsoft: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stac_Electronics ]

Which makes me wonder why Matt can't get this championed internally or for someone's 20% project?

I think that depends on how sophisticated a service is. I agree that applying some regular expressions to emails is not enough to make any other company buy you instead of building it themselves. But that holds for almost anything a startup can do.

Startups need to solve difficult problems or they are nothing more than marketing firms trying to create a hype around hot air. Filtering email intelligently, including automatic anonymization of sensitive parts within the email, can be a difficult problem to solve, and I think there are many types of email integration that a startup could tackle based on the approach Matt suggests.

Twitter has actually made 4 acquisitions. Perhaps they were talent acquisitions but the still apply. I suspect that they have a buy/build strategy of some kind - i.e. could we build this product faster than the people who built it? If not, we want them on our team.

I think the worry is more that Google will offer the same service, for free, built into GMail.

Like when Twitter acquired Tweetie and gave it away for free?

It doesn't seem like it's terribly impacted the other players, at least that's my perception. (could be wrong - someone with hard stats pls correct me)

My point being: that fear alone while is a rational one, should not be the only criteria to definitively say that an idea should not be pursued b/c it guarantees that you will fail in your startup

Not like that. That's buying the leading competitor and putting your brand on their product. It's still competing on a pretty even playing field with all the others. What people here are talking about is bundling a clone of your product in with the main product. When Microsoft made IE a part of Windows, it killed Netscape and basically the entire market of for-profit browsers forever. When Apple knocked off Karelia's Watson and included it with the system, it killed that product. Ditto with Konfabulator, which was destroyed by Dashboard.

The danger is that when your app can be absorbed into something more popular. They don't compete with you — they just destroy the market for what you do.

With this kind of positive feedback, maybe I'll post more in the future.

Everyone's too busy frantically implementing this, wanting to be the first :)

I wasn't aware that gmail had an API that would allow me to parse mail like he wants. Is it supposed to be a greasmonkey script+server side stuff>?

Their OAuth for IMAP/SMTP should be all you need: http://code.google.com/apis/gmail/oauth/

I learn something new every day. Thanks for that!

intra-webapp communication : HTML :: inter-webapp communication : GMAIL ?

Seems like a neat idea, but I'd rather that functionality be handled by gmail rather than a 3rd party.

It sounds like it should be handled by Gmail in their OAuth access implementation. As described in the post, it sounds kind of scary that by giving access to Gmail, you give access to all your account with no granularity whatsoever.

Gmail could do that by pairing the OAuth access with a set of permissions which would basically be the filters Matt describes. The way other services (Facebook comes to mind) are doing it basically.

agree, as much as I love the idea, theres no way I want to allow anyone other than google to have access to my email. They would essentially be able to mine.. all my bills, expenses, and income, all my contacts and plans.. etc pretty much have access to my entire life.. yes I know google does, but giving it to google is much better than giving it to some startup who may not be around a year from now, and decide to sell all this data to the highest bidder, and who knows where else that will go.

I think we're in Diaspora territory again, where I want to own the data and allow access to you via my own criteria.

I've been baulking at Firefox 4's "sync" today because the data is on their server with their key. A bit 1990's me thinks.

There's no way I'm trusting my email, or anyone else's, to another third party.

I imagine I manage this like most folk, I forward gmail to my server and procmail from there. Works great.

I think you either define "most" differently than I do or you may benefit from speaking to nontechnical people about their computer usage. Keywords that may be appropriate: the Google Hotmail.

Firefox Sync encrypts the data locally, and you can run your own server. There's actually a simplified one for running on your own home server (as opposed to the large Mozilla infrastructure).

In addition, the server and all infrastructure, are completely open source. Mozilla doesn't really build anything that it can't open source.

this should probably just get paired with an email parser, as in you setup a filter, and tell it what piece of data to look for, and that's the only data that's made available.

i dunno about others, but I wouldn't want some third party site to get the full email with my name/address for example.

How much money does procmail make?

Maybe I didn't understand something, but it seems to me that companies like Blippy would have to change something in their code to link with your server instead of Gmail. If it's the case, it would be hard to get everyone to adopt this system.

Or if it's not the case, could someone explain to me how linking the startup server with other companies would work? (Unfortunately, I'm not very familiar with the technologies mentioned in the article.)

I have the oauth stuff already working in my app (different app, using php and ruby). I can help get this done (or a similar idea) very quickly. Get in touch with me if interested (email in profile).

Not sure if its a great business plan, but its something that I have been looking around for quite sometime now. Very useful idea!

*waiting 6 months for all of the 'review my startup' threads

You'd hope someone could have an MVP up within a week or two!

Otherinbox is on this track. They can create calendar entries automatically from emails.

I stopped using them because I didn't like the opt-out style of filtering, but the technology is cool.

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