Like.fm, the original version. The MVP was an applescript that published your iTunes play history to a web page. It got users by itself as soon as I put it online. There weren't many users, but greater than the zero from my last project. I took this, rather naively, as the sign of the next Facebook. My ultimate goal became to create a marginally superior version of Last.fm. To my surprise, I got accepted into YC with this idea, and from that high I ran with it.
However over time I lost confidence in and motivation towards the idea as no one saw it as novel enough (not necessarily users, but people I met in the Valley), and everyone told me to stop doing something related to music because it's too tough (personally I think all startups are tough). Because of all this I never polished or completed Like.fm enough to be even on par with Last.fm. I had slow to zero growth, and no clear exciting future for the site. Probably at least these factors left me unable to raise an additional seed round after Demo Day. Being a single founder didn't help with any of this either.
After these failures I've stopped focusing on raising money or even making money. My primary focus is on making something that people love to use that's also novel and innovative, retains users, and successfully delivers long-term value to peoples' lives.
I've never stopped experimenting on Like.fm after the failure though, and I've been gearing up for the next big launch!
I personally wouldn't make a dating site be explicit about that.
good luck with the future of like.fm
Here's a public quote from my public stream:
I've used the tool a lot, but I never really advertised it, in fear of failure I guess, so there're very few other users except for me. I still have a huge database of assorted business and entrepeneurship quotes in there though.
I would have js bookmarklets and remove need for signups initially. Make it into a sort of pastebin. Also, make it a summary tool too (for oneself and for sharing.) Allow users to enter alternate headline, summary, quote/s, ranking, judgement.
Check out quote.fm and drop me a line if you want to see my screenshots, brainstorm or see my other research into this idea.
Another side project was a flash based plugin to do teeth whitening on photos. End up implementing a decision tree approach that worked ok, but it didn't seem to really have legs as an idea.
What else... I spent an inordinate amount of time on the Netflix prize, that really amounted to nothing - although it was fun to try a lot of different approaches at a tricky scale.
Just released 'What animal?' on the App Store, that's pretty much doing nothing download wise - http://scottvallanceapps.com/app/what-animal-are-you/
I can think of various ways to, IMO, make this an interesting app:
- put the heads in the photo, and tween a movie between the two (probably fairly hard because you will have to reliably cut out the background)
- use the camera to record video, animate the animal head in sync with what the head does (ideally, adjust the voice sound; more bass for a bear, twitter for a duck, etc) (probably not too hard to do)
- make it a game: using the camera, "let's see who can make his face best like this elephant", with solo games for practice and for fun ("can you beat your record of ten faces in 30.34 seconds?) (technically simple, but it probably will be a lot of work to get the game 'right', collect funny animal photos that humans can learn to match, etc)
Lessons learned? Well I did a full run down of all the projects I could think of (that got somewhere at least) a little while ago and I did have some interesting insights. Mostly I try to invent new categories of things and fail (both the idea and the newness thereof tend to fail in case you're wondering).
The promising direction that I hadn't followed was my first ever paper, and I think thats because it was a Human Computer Interaction project. At least for this project the focus was on new ways of doing tasks that people already do with computers - so it had some built in relevance. So now I'm trying work with my own psychology and find innovation in interaction - not in the entire category of product.
The income does not cover the hosting as is! Early on I expected it would be a small earner (maybe $50/mo) but we're not there even.
On the other hand, it had a fairly positive impact on the consulting/learning side of things (ETL, data processing etc).
But thanks for the note that said! I have that migration marked in my TODO list :)
I'm currently focused on a SaaS product (profile for info), but who knows, maybe I'll get back to it a bit.
The typical conversion rate (after removing SU visits which are basically bouncers) is at 0.43%.
The earnings is around $5 for 1000 pageviews (without SU) or $3 (with SU included).
Any thoughts on improving this?
But the tweetmeme idea is good, I'll keep that in mind, thanks!
(also scanning (sub)reddit)
There are a lot of bookmakers around, like 60 decent ones and hundreds of trashy. I wrote a lot of scrapers collecting prices from them, invented an algorithm for automatic name matching (different bookies spell names of same players differently, like R. Federer is same as Roger Federer, or even Russian or Polish spelling of same name etc), so i can compare prices in different books.
Idea was that: betting on the line of one bookie using inverse prices of another bookie as a source of probabilities, run statistically over a long period of time (i.e. virtually betting on all events where price in one booke multiplied by inverse price from another one yields a profit, then recording which bets 'lost' or 'won' and aggeregating profit/loss, doing so for each vs each of the books), finding out as a result, which book 'knows' a particular sport best and worst of all (if i bet in the best of them using a line of worst for probabilities, i get maximum loss, and maximum profit vice versa). Then i wrote a script that does the execution, placing the bets.
Surprisingly, i found an investor willing to back all this in half a day, after pitching just a few of my former clients (i do custom development).
Estimates indicated a lot of profit, but it took just a week to know that there is no such thing as a 'betting market'. All of my accounts have been suspended: they seemingly track events which come into arbitrage with other books, and show down people who bet on them, which i did (except i didn't bet on both sides of the arbitrage, only one that was more likely to win).
I was quite disappointed and depressed for a month.
Fortunately, the investor didn't lose anything: he needs the resulting code for a totally different thing (no execution of bets), and quite happy with what he got, so it ended up being just one more custom development project - very fun to do.
Anyways, it didn't work, and i learned it the hard way.
1. Photagious (online photo sharing/management/slideshow site) 2004-2008. Raised angel funding @ $500k
2. Socialbib (peer to peer textbook exchange platform) 2008-2009. Side project.
3. Textbook Revolt (peer to peer textbook rental platform) 2009-2011. Side project, evolution of #2.
4. Melts My Heart (mobile photo app for mothers) 2011. Side project
5. OpenPhoto (open source photo service) 2011 - present. $25k on Kickstarter + funding from Shuttleworth Foundation. Success TBD. http://theopenphotoproject.org
http://gclimbing.com is not really a failed idea, more like a failed project. Some years ago, I administered a shared climbing blog in Austria. After some time, nobody was using it anymore (It was quite complicated to use). I wrote a new software and put it online, which is gclimbing.com - but it didn't really take off. Everybody was on facebook by that time.
I leave both projects online so I can link to them from my CV, but otherwise both are pretty much dead.
Edit: Oh, and I forgot: http://davidtanzer.net/node/82
As I said, the project is pretty much dead now. But your idea (listening for mouse up on the document) would probably solve several problems, thanks!
The one that hurts the most is an advertising analytics service (one of the first of its kind) I built over a decade ago - I was young and stupid, so there were some technical things I did wrong, but I also failed spectacularly at marketing. Looking back on it, I can see a huge amount of potential, and if I'd just done a handful of things differently, it could have made me a bunch of money.
I ended up selling it for a few thousand dollars, and the new owners didn't do anything with it.
For the longest time, I didn't really mind - side projects were at least partially a way for me to learn new techniques/languages/frameworks, and the experience generally made the effort worthwhile, even if I didn't make any money directly in the process. For the most part, I think this was fine for a while - I'm in a decent spot career-wise, and I think part of it is due to all the knowledge and experience I've gained from working on side projects.
That said, earlier this year I realized I needed to get more serious about making money directly off of these things - one of my long-term goals is having enough passive income to live semi-comfortably off of, and building websites or software seems like the best way to do this for me. Part of rectifying this situation has been identifying why I've failed so many times. Here are some reasons I came up with:
1) Not thinking an idea all the way through
2) Getting hung up on petty things, like choosing a domain name
3) Getting hung up on the design (I'm unbelievably bad at design)
4) Getting hung up on the technology choice (I've built something in probably just about every semi-common language/framework over the past few years)
5) Not being very good at marketing and not taking the time to learn or employ the services of someone who is
6) Not committing to one idea/project at a time
So, my goal for the next little bit is to sift through my ideas and find one that can hold my interest and has long-term profit potential, use technology that I'm already comfortable with, set aside money to pay for things I'm not good at (design and marketing, for example) and devote some time to building it.
- Later I built a Storify client on iPhone. By that time I had no iOS
open-sourced project and I was trying to stay in the valley and get hired by Storify (failed).
Then I built a dating app based mostly for fun and to learn a bit of Android development.
I bet @adrienmagnus still remember this one :D
My latest project was an iPad app to help me clean my Gmail Inbox:
state: free on the App-Store
2. I used to run Fabjectory, which created 3d printed statuettes of figures for SecondLife and Nintendo Wii characters, but shut it down with the demise of people who considered themselves Secondlife consultants (who were the main source of business).
The idea was that you could combine all your social media news streams (fb, twitter usw..) into one stream (just like a rss reader). It never got above a few users, and i did not have any ads or anything in place. Still use it myself though...
1. A sms polling site that I ended up selling flippa for less than I'd like to admit.
2. A component that made authorize.net easy for .net developers. Over the years, I made quite a bit of money off of it, but stripe released, I decided to sell the site and component off to someone for about one month's revenue.
Was going to launch:
Users can could create editable drafts of their works, publish to the lyricpost/haikufriday online communities and pre-schedule posts to post to their facebook accounts. Bloggers could also visit the communities and schedule lyrics/haiku they wanted to post to their facebook page. I still use lyricpost as a tool to work on and save my lyrics/songs in progress but I can't publish anything to the community. I thought starting with the lyrics would be an interesting way to discover music.
Ultimately I learned the value of doing the research before writing ALL the code. My subsequent project on the same domain was thrown together in a few weekends and evenings, was buggy as hell and put out with the intention of killing it if people didn't like it.
I mostly lost interest, because a surprising amount of esoteric languages just doesn't do anything interesting. Uhh, so you are using a stack for values. Oh, and your stack manipulation words a bit different from other stack manipulation words. Big deal. Oh, you are just encoding your program pointer in a weird fashion. Also a big deal.
Those which are actually different then just end up batshit insane, and impossible to capture in one bag. Also this set of esoteric languages is plagued by woeful underspecification, or ambiguous specifications, which make an implementation even more impossible.
Gave up on getting a good book database.
Just curious - why not utilize Amazon's book database, since that is likely how you'd make your money anyway (via referral fees)?
I started using Amazon, but when I started thinking about adding badges and it would need the book database to be very specific about authors/genres/titles, (which Amazon's wasn't) I realized it was way out of my league.
Built as a dating site for redditors...got off to a bad start because it required reddit credentials..never bothered taking time to fix it. Maybe one of these days..
Didn't end up building this since it would be hard to make money off of it (as far as i can tell)...and i already have other projects on my spare time ><. I still think the concept is cool
The core is an xslt that we use almost daily, we did a quite old-style web site which is still running with almost no users, but unfortunately we have absolutely no time to redesign/maintain it.
If anyone wish to contribute, we'll be happy to release code and share ideas.
The site is here, although my webhost seems to be acting up at the moment. http://grainofsalt.info/
1. Happy21stBirthday.com - I thought it would be a great gifting site for fun & light-hearted gifts for 21st birthdays, but couldn't get enough traction. If any1 has better ideas to utilize this domain, plz share.
2. Rebutl.com - a video debate site (similar to ESPN's 'Around the Horn') where users could debate about various subject matters and get prizes/rewards after viewers voted for the winner.
It turns out selling to doctors is fucking hard. Their attitude towards salespeople is to treat them like pharm reps and make them buy you lunch and then wait 2+ hours. No thanks.
I sell products now. I will never go back to selling anything that isn't a product.
2005: Fo.gg: Calendar and scheduling tool with a focus on time-zone usability, aimed at international travellers.
2009: Enjoble.com: SaaS for embedding job postings by topics to any site.
2010: Stellient.com: P2P real-time networking platform.
2011: Seenery.com: AirBnB for sightseeing tours.
Most of these failed because I couldn't build a good team, or the one I had fell apart. I'm working on another project now with a great partner, hopefully this will work out this time.
A while back I had to go into the city and didn't know how many coins I needed for parking. I thought I took enough until I saw it was $4.5 an hour. I considered creating a website/app package where users could see where they're going and the parking details associated i.e. ticket parking, free until 8pm, clearway zone etc.
I sadly lack the time and more importantly the technical know how to do it though.
It failed when it comes to user adaptation, conversion, monetization etc but is definitely a success when you only look at churn. 1.75% unsubscribed over the course of about six months.
Basically Q&A to find out where to buy stuff. It's coasting along without much traction and I can't get enough people to answer without having to reward them with coupons and such.
Seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I'm not so convinced this is a big enough of a problem to solve.
It's a head to head NFC game. Proof of concept. Had some initial interest, but didn't take it to the next level.
Just a side project, that I thought some people would find useful.
Judging by the stats, no one finds it useful (or not enough to come back)
Still, it's served as a decent tech demo to demonstrate what I can do.
See the video at: http//:www.heystartup.com
It's a site that I thought would be very useful to find things to do based on the events your Facebook friends were attending. I still use it myself from time to time, but I've moved on to businesses I can outright charge to customers.
didn't make much money as I would like it to be
Third one first: you're young enough to not feel guilty about not taking enough risk. First one: you're not taking enough risk. Second one: you know who you are.
Or is that the same as not taking enough risks?