Much of it still seems relevant and proved over the ensuing 5 years to be quite prescient. I'd love to hear what new ideas/themes have emerged in the time since this was written.
Find a big problem (it just happens that dating is one) and fix it. Don't plan on getting in YC (or any other incubator) or being successful simply because you picked something off one of pg's lists. I'd say the most important qualities of an entrepreneur is to be in tune with these problems without getting any sort of external guidance. It's not a good thing when someone comes on HN and posts a post-mortem about their YC experience beginning by citing an RFS or one of pg's "idea" essays. Personally, I think that some RFSs from 2009 (http://ycombinator.com/rfs.html) are downright silly -- 5 and 3 in particular. Moral of the story: find something you're passionate about -- a problem, a niche, etc. -- and build something to fix it. If it happens to fit into one of the RFSs or pg's ideas, oh well, good for you I guess.
Trust me, I wasn't planning to request a list of startup ideas from him so that I could pick one of them out of a hat and apply to YC with it. :-)
Everthing old is new again... and some ideas that seem old haven't actually been completed yet. Other ideas seem to fail, but only because they are "before their time".
With that in mind, I'd suggest going back and reading the writings of people like Doug Enbelbart, Ted Nelson and other computing pioneers (and not just computing pioneers, really, but any great thinkers. How about Nicola Tesla, for example?) and look for places where they proposed amazing things years or decades ago, that still don't exist, or don't exist as fully as they could. On that same basic note, go back in time and re-read some old issues of Infoworld, Computer World, Information Week, Business 2.0, Red Herring, Fast Company or Wired from the late 90's or early 2000's and mine for "before their time" ideas that might be ripe for a second shot.
Hanging around hackerspaces is also a great way to gain exposure to a constant stream of interesting ideas and approaches.
Right now, our system is pretty much how you describe it, where the financial institution only gets the basic information of who and how much. And if you want more detail, the retailer provides it.
So I guess you're looking for a service that centralizes that info into the same place as your other financial details?
Full disclosure: Our demo and Altair BASIC was a way to develop native iPhone apps in the cloud, from a tablet or other device. We wanted to expand to Android apps, and eventually be a general cloud compile/debug/run service.
Personally, I think it's a dumb RFS to begin with. From a professional standpoint, I couldn't handle developing on anything else but two 24+ inch monitors (if not three) and a mechanical keyboard.
Not that I couldn't do it on a laptop or tablet, it just makes me about 300x more productive -- and that's what matters.
It should be possible to code on a tablet because thats the device most kids will have access to as their first computer.
My first (and most people on HN) computer I turned it on and the OS simply waited for me to give it an instruction.
That is important in lots of ways, not just in the IPO in two years ways.
I think that in the future it might be possible that developing on a tablet might just mean hooking your tablet or other sub $300 device up to two 24+ inch monitors. Think developing iPhone apps from a $25 Raspberry Pi, thanks to the cloud :-)
Well when I type on a on a 10 inch tab - two thoughts cross my head A) This is not working B) This could work given a bit more size and refinement.
So I would not discount tablets as dev devices. Perhaps not as a hardcore workstation, but as a starbucks dev station sure - soon.
Why not - If I can smoothly transfer touch typing skills then thats a pretty big win.
> huge waste of space on an already small screen.
Hence my comment about slightly larger screen. I can almost touch type on a 10 inch...bit more and it could work. The capacitative aspect might even work better than a physical keyboard for "touch" typing.
A bit more size and refinement, a nice keyboard, and a stand gets you a 11-12" laptop.
No it doesn't. No hinge & typing space is also display space under some conditions e.g. browsing.
Full disclosure: Our demo and Altair BASIC was a way to develop native iPhone apps in the cloud. We wanted to expand to Android apps, and eventually be a general cloud compile/debug/run service.
"What's the best way to make a web site if you're a real estate agent, or a restaurant, or a lawyer? There still don't seem to be canonical answers. "
There is a huge opportunity here not for a site builder so much as a way for those types of businesses (and other businesses) to keep their site current and fresh once it is built. None of the existing options work that well with this demographic. Either to juvenile or to many features and options and a learning curve. Fix that and the world will beat a path to your door.
Start small with this. Solve the issue of how I know what the specials are from the local sushi takeout restaurant that I visit a several times per month. Then move to other restaurants. Make it dead simple for the busy owner to get me that info. Even if it means simply shooting a picture of the special board and getting it to a single page site that you host in the cloud.
Now in the food service space, you could easily auto-generate an update based on the POS inventory. The problem there is many restaurants use a system like Micros, which has data access, but refuses to open it up to third-party vendors. If Micros ever wised up and opened an app store where customers could install approved and signed apps, the person who bridges inventory to web will cash in and retire early.
First let me say that your comments are dead on from my experience (and I'm even talking outside and before the internet dealing with small business in general as well as the people you mention.)
I don't think it's inept I think small business people are "shiny ball" driven and they react to things (deadlines, fines, customers, tax filings, supplies running out) they are used to going at their own pace and as a result have a hard time having the discipline to do things like this on any type of regular basis.
Perhaps the way to handle this is more or less some kind of mechanical turk.
If you tell the realtor "guy from India will be calling every 10am Tuesday" that creates the shiny ball that forces him (like taxes that are due) to get his house in order. Just a thought. I know when I was in a different business we did something similar and had decent results. We also did everything we could to make it easy for someone.
Obv. your time is worth more. But perhaps there is someone who could do the "teeth pulling" at a lower rate.
After all with video chat and all of that it's not a non-starter.
"getting it to a single page site that you host in the cloud."
you mean, like a website?
There are a million canonical answers to building a web site for a real estate agent, everything from Pinterest to a simple Wordpress with a domain centric theme.
I'll make the bold claim that we haven't yet seen this "morph" in media. The blog concept is now staid yet Buzzfeed is the most innovative publisher we have. And they are just re-branding the advertorial as "native advertising."
The only changes I've seen lately are larger and more diverse media to accompany text. Not a substantially new product as far as I can tell.
The big change is that we don't get our science from OMNI, our glimpses of new cars from popular mechanics or our poll forecasting from CNN. We get specific stories from subject matter experts who can communicate without oversimplifying into nonsense and who have a true need to deliver truth above advertising or team-affiliation concerns.
(As if they deliver nonsense, or are transparently-in-the-bag for a monied interest, they'll be quickly sidelined and ignored.)
Strong disagree. I am not sure I would call the New Yorker the most innovative and yet buzzfeed has nothing comparable to strongbox. Vice? Quartz? Medium?
Its possible that I am letting my opinion of Buzzfeed's "content" cloud my judgement of their innovation. What do you think BF is doing that is innovative?
Vice is pretty innovative around web content but no new formats that I know of and a typical "stringer" model with high editorial touch. Quartz is visually different (super slick JS based webapp) but the underlying news is the same that you get elsewhere.
The strength of traditional news is partly cultural, but also due to the nature of its content as being curated and vetted by some (hopefully) informed party prior to publication. Whatever is there, can very generally be expected to be of a higher quality than any random given 'social news' post on the same subject. The drawback, of course, is that the only news available is that which the source determines is 'newsworthy,' which is a very subjective and questionable standard.
Conversely, the strength of 'social news' sources such as Reddit is in their inherent chaos. The crowd decides what floats to the top, with no real vetting process or curation except within the most strictly moderated subcommunities. This ensures that the most socially relevant topics get 'published' to the front page and into the public eye, but those stories have little to no quality control. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of the "Eternal September," there has been an established trend wherein as the size of a loosely controlled network grows, the quality and content increasingly caters to the lowest common denominator, driving the more invested (and usually the more intellectual) users out, and eroding the value of the network. This has been seen over and over on Reddit, as the mainstream subreddits get overrun with a colossal stream of new users, and any niche interests get sidelined and marginalized.
I would propose a hybrid approach. Why not create a news source - whatever category you decide to label it - that publishes content that is vetted for quality (bias, sensationalism, thoroughness, etc.) but not subject area; in other words, where the articles are all good, and any subject is fair game? Layered on this could be some categorized and 'social' voting algorithm, much like Reddit with subreddits, and users could subscribe to those channels which they cared most strongly for, thereby creating their own high quality news source.
This is just a thought I had today. It's obviously not fully baked yet. What do you think?
Interestingly, this can easily be turned around: cherry pick applicants, make it invite-only, or make it exclusive in any other way. When 50 "cool kids" are in, the rest will be lining up.
Does the email replacement sound like a support ticket system to anyone else?
Paul Graham and Steve Jobs weren't magical people... they are/were people who addressed the needs of the masses. Start looking at things that annoy you and figure out a way to fix them. That is way to better society.