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Ask HN: What problem in your industry is a potential startup?
231 points by ThomPete on June 29, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 245 comments
Instead of always looking for ideas, lets try and ask this: What problem in your industry would be a successful startup if someone decided to solve it?

Anybody who can solve fully international import and export customs regulatory compliance will be an easy multi-billionaire.

The market size for international trade logistics is staggering...you have at least a hundred global logistics providers with market caps over $10B, and more than a handful of which are in the $>100B territory. And they have trillions in revenue combined. And they are in a capital intensive industry on low margins, and they dump tens of billions every year buying companies that can give them slightly better competitive advantages. And they ALL suck at regulatory compliance.

But here is the bigger secret: The direct monetary cost of compliance isn't the big pain. What these companies pay for is delay reduction. Customs delays can drastically affect end-to-end SLAs, have a huge impact on customer loyalty (If your shitty compliance led to my product being held in port for a month, I will never use you again), and they have massive impacts on capital utilization due to how difficult it is to plan in the face of seemingly random customs delays. For an industry that is judged on Wall Street almost purely based on capital utilization (return on capital), you can bet your ass that every single one of those companies will be throwing as much money at you as they can.

I'm at one of the few truly global trade (and compliance) management software providers, and frankly it isn't simple, it isn't cheap, and it isn't sexy. Some notes from my experiences:

- Electronic source data is often unavailable

- Each country has unique and often conflicting processes

- Every company has unique and often conflicting processes

- Every port has unique and often conflicting processes

- Deployments of truly automated solutions are easily as complex as some ERP implementations

- There are many cheap point solutions to compete with

- Compliance heads are often more comfortable increasing headcount rather than buying software

- Experienced compliance professionals are crucial to development

- Experienced compliance professionals who understand and care about software are few and far between

- Logistics and compliance professionals do not play nice

- Very driven by the regulatory environment. Nobody wants to pay for compliance until they get fined.

- You'll also be expected to interface with multiple government agencies, none of whom are overly concerned with your business success.

There's a global move to create a standardized format amongst several EU, US and Asia-Pacific companies (and govt organisations) run by the International Parcel Corporation (http://www.ipc.be).

However the format they've created is already outdated (and it's taken three years to get to initial draft). Like most large parcel companies, they are catering for slow, technologically lagging suppliers and customers.

It'll take a bleeding-edge integration partner like uShip, EasyPost or GoShippo to create a standardized format. (EDIT: Or the likes of Google who managed a similar outcome for addressing data with the Google Maps API.)

This is really a field that large government bodies need to address seeing as most governments still have a large stake in parcel shipping.

OAGIS is having some level of success as well. http://www.oagi.org/dnn2/

EDI formats still dominate though, especially in logistics and on the government side.

Yes, they were the bane of my existence.

What company, out of curiousity?

amber road

We started Flexport.com (YC W14) for exactly this reason. It's a very hard business but we've found that we're surrounded by boundless opportunity to solve important problems in every direction. Would love to connect to learn more about your experience and see if there's an opportunity to get you involved in some way. Email me: ryan@flexport.com

My father just started a consulting company relating to logistics, he has 20 years experience in high volume transport. Would you be interested in speaking with him? I can shoot him an email to see if he'd be interested in working with you.

Just a thought.

Sure, would love to meet your dad. Please intro.

How did you convince carriers to partner with you? I'm asking because I work in a different niche and see potential companies that I would do wonders if we could have a mutually beneficial relationship but no idea how to approach it. Is it like enterprise selling? Btw that is another big question of its own

A family friend runs a logistics analytics company and I'm always blown away by how complicated international shipping is. I feel like this would be an extremely complicated venture and it would not be the get rich quick scheme that VCs want and back more easily.

You'd need dedicated people to go through stuff at individual major ports, speak the language, know all the people, etc. As you rightly point out, trust is paramount, and I think trust absolutely requires people on the ground.

Not to mention that some places expect bribes if your stuff isn't going to get stuck for days.

Right on point. There have been many software providers in this space for 20 years and none are wildly successful.

Can someone explain what "logistics" is? I've always just understood it as shipping and handling, and doesn't FedEx do that? (Therefore, I assume it's not shipping and handling)

For very small businesses selling small amounts of small things, the right answer is to use FedEx and DHL.

For everybody else, FedEx/DHL is hella expensive if you want to ship a couple conexes worth of stuff.

The way freight companies are set up, you can't just pull up with a container and say "What's the rate to Albuquerque?" you have to have a whole plan that takes into account transfers, mode shifts, delays, temporary storage, customs, who can sign for it, paying every single entity involved in touching the freight, and a bunch of stuff I don't even know about.

Plainly – Getting stuff from one place to another. With international importing/exporting, it goes beyond "shipping and handling."

How does it get from the warehouse to the port? Going by ocean or air? What taxes, duties, etc. are due at customs? How does it get from the receiving port to the final destination? Who arranges each step? Who pays for these things?

Ah, okay. Why don't they just use FedEx then?

If you sold something on E-Bay to someone in China then, yes, you might just use FedEx. If you are exporting a container-load of apples that need to be refrigerated and arrive within two weeks, then there are a lot of "logistics" to figure out. FedEx may be able to do it – perhaps part of the equation – but there's likely faster and cheaper methods available. Figuring that out is logistics.

Have you seen FedEx's prices? I recently got a quote for a small packet from London to Tiblisi. From $109 + vat for the slow service.

As an example of how complex even FedEx can get, there are cases where it may make business sense to put a bunch of goods on a truck, drive n miles to a place where you'll get a better FedEx rate, and then ship from there (zone skipping).

Agreed, but it would be a difficult problem to solve. The technology part is straightforward.

Things happen like shipping containers showing up on the docks without a proper cargo manifest or other documentation errors, which of course leads to the shipment sitting in customs until it gets sorted out. This is because the humans creating those forms often have poor tools, and of course there's the usual factors like staff who are too busy, incompetent, or lazy (in an ideal world they should not be doing that job, but this is reality we're dealing with).

The obvious answer would be a shipping management system integrated with the company's supply chain software (typically, their ERP), but usually these problems are coming from OEMs, subsidiary companies, and occasionally 3PLs that have aren't part of the company's systems. Any integration with those systems is usually rudimentary at best, and it's not unusual for the "integration" to be human-based.

I could never find just the right form, so I made my own and put it out there for others: http://commercialinvoiceform.org. Turns out a lot of people were looking for something like this.

And lets not forget the various unions for the ports who seem to be one of the major problems for shipping.

So with customs as he problem to be solved, you're suggesting smuggling as a startup. SaaS.

Agree. And even more so when goods purchased with bitcoin have to pass customs.

Not my start up but http://stage3systems.com/ seems to do what you are asking or no? Are software like this common? I guess the tough part is

1. Acquiring Industry knowledge 2. Getting a sale 3. Developing the software

One-to-many supplier registration.

We manufacture ductwork products for heavy industry (sugar mills, power generation). Each company has its own supplier registration process for procurement, usually it involves entering our company's basic financial info, customer and project references list, etc. into some kind of custom Java web application.

There should be just one place that asks us to enter our DUNS number, our tax id, upload our W8BEN form, our ISO certificate, our company contacts, our references, our company financials, etc. and then mass-submit to all supplier registration forms within the industries we want to target.

This is a really simple business problem with a clear technical solution. Honestly you could just solve it by:

- WuFoo form to collect the company's information

- Excel spreadsheet to list the vendor registration portal URLs for each company, with different industries in different tabs

- Human labor to go through and find the data from WuFoo and plug it into each supplier registration webapp.

You could make money on a pay-per-registration model. All that would be required would be a simple portal for users to see the progress of each supplier registration application. It's basically CRUD.

Maybe some ambitious company would try to innovate by building the One supplier portal to rule them all, but for now, this is an opportunity for a quick win & a business that could be run for cash.

I'll second this, before becoming a programmer I was a mechanical engineer in piping, we have tons of inefficiencies like this still. Partly it's that the people who run these industries are comfortable to keep using fax and e-mail, but another issue is that companies often don't have access to good technical knowledge to pick the right tool or develop better ones. Huge opportunity here.

I've looked into this issue specifically for piping, as it happens. From my perspective one of the issues with 'solving' this is basically: https://xkcd.com/927/

At the place I worked we had 3 different supplier databases, each one having been introduced to replace the last, which was never fully phased out.

Definitely an issue! We try half baked things and they just stick around. On the other end of the spectrum, once something works, it's kept around forever. It's interesting, this industry seems ripe for disruption, but it hasn't happened yet. I think maybe because we think any tool will do, when in reality we need a 10X tool like any other industry. Also, your customers are people who are far less computer savvy than other groups, so UI/UX issues are paramount.

Sounds interesting. I'm not seeing who the customer would be? How would you charge for it? (Feel free to email me if you want to discuss offline in more detail)

The customer is a company, Acme, that manufactures a "widget" for power plants.

Imagine there's another company, let's call it Texas State Power Construction (TSPC), that needs a new widget to replace the old one in the plant. The engineer at the TSPC plant sends a request to the procurement manager asking for a new widget. The procurement manager then searches his or her (more often her) Supplier database for registered companies that make widgets. Procurement manager doesn't contact Acme because Acme never registered with TSPC. Acme loses out on this business opportunity.

Suppliers get in the db by registering on the enterprise-y, most likely Java, "Supplier Registration" portal linked to on the website.

Registration is a pain in the neck mostly because it's boring and nobody wants to do it. I would love to do it for every power company in the USA, but it's boring. I guess I could try to hire an employee to do it for me at $15 an hour but I would rather just pay for results.

(My company is an "Acme". We make a "widget". We would LOVE to be in the database of every "TSPC" and get more sales inquiries.

I spend $500/month on adwords and get maybe 2 leads, and they're of dubious quality. $250/lead sound too high? The last trade show I went to cost $1600 in expenses alone and I generated only two good leads. That's $800/lead.)

I have experience of doing that but for the water engineering industry. I'd assume there was some similarities in the processes. Would you be interested in a trial to see what value this generates for you?

Isn't this what Alibaba do?How different are they?

https://vendorform.com/ is trying to do this for the college store industry

How easy/hard would it be to sell this service to companies like yours? Would love to chat more about it offline (mdolon at gmail)

That's the important question for B2B companies, how long is the sales effort to close a deal on something like this? How will anyone discover this and buy it?

I can authorize $400/month for such a service today and could easily sign a letter of intent if the prices were reasonable and you only billed me after successful registrations (after initial registration is fine too; sometimes they request additional information).

@mdolon I sent an email with some of my thoughts mapped out in greater detail. Thanks for asking.

@gargarplex. I'd also love to learn more about this problem. My partner has worked extensively in securing deals with Fortune 500 companies previously. Shoot me an email henrythe9th at gmail. Thanks.

Are you looking for a way to automate the registration process on the web? Not sure if that's what you are looking for, if so I have a product that can be customized to do exactly that, can you send me a quick email in my profile?

Really glad you commented. Sent you an email; looking forward to connecting.

Big Data in the Automotive Test Industry

Ever log every single sensor output (as well as 200 more) every 50ms of a vechile over an 18 hour road test while recording audio and thermal video from 2 dozen different points? How about on fleet of 40 vehicles daily, for 2 months, in the middle of Alberta or Death Valley.

Have a good way of querying, analyzing, processing, and securing all this time series data in a way that can handle literally getting >100TB per hour? And can keep up with the expected geometric growth? (I've got a decent solution for this actually currently needs to be vetted). (Also security has to provided on a per-channel basis, not per-test, T1/T2 companies need access to their test data, but not global data).

Contact me. I'm a member of the ASAM standards committee that recently met to discuss how basically every auto-producer and tier 1 has NO CLUE how do implement this. And easily 2 dozen companies are just waiting to throw money at this problem.

Currently one doesn't exist, and the solutions that do exist manage paths to raw data blobs, not actual records/data points.

I think I work for one of those 2 dozen companies. I have exactly the same problem at the moment.

If you want to know how to capture and handle automotive test data, look into process automation systems for manufacturing industry. I used to work at petrochemical facilities in 90s as process control engineer, we not only received data from Thousands of I/O inputs (for example, from temperature, flow, pressure, vibration, rpm sensors) every second to every tenth of a second, but we processed them, made decision and sent out I/O signals to controllers (for example, flow control valves). We used combination of programmable logic controllers and distributed control systems.

Talk to companies like Honeywell (I believe they do something similar to what you are trying to do for aviation industry), ABB, Foxboro, etc. These guys have been doing this since 80s.

They do measurement, and live analysis. If there a method of storing and collating data after the fact they haven't announced it to the industry at large.

I could go on for hours about all of this, but long story short, I'm the head of product of a company that builds a data system designed exactly to handle this kind of scenarios (we provide data collection services to Pioneer to mention one).

Feel free to get in touch.

I would LOVE to chat about this for hours. In fact, I applied at Treasure Data just a few days ago for that very reason.

My email is in my profile if you'd like to chat. :) Hope to hear from you!

forgot to add a link: https://vimeo.com/122691639#at=0

Called into the company, and I suggest looking into an operator. If you press 0, you just keep repeating the same menu. Submitted an information request.

>Have a good way of querying, analyzing, processing, and securing all this time series data in a way that can handle literally getting >100TB per hour?

Is this data logging the changes or the states of your sensors? If it's the states, then I am guessing most of this is highly compressible. If it is actually 100TB of changes logged, then that's a pretty difficult problem.

CloudFlare has an approach that may scale to the levels you are looking for; rather than storing the logs, they analyze and rollup the expected responses in realtime, and store additional detail for items that appear anomalous. John Graham-Cumming performed a talk on this topic earlier this month at dotScale:


Here is the related HN thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9778986


If you have no working model of what is/is not correct how do you determine anomalous responses?

To Expand:

This method is already used in data logging compression (slightly) where one stores channel delta's/time stamps. Reconstructing the value ad-hoc when necessary. This is a good way to compress non-violalitle datasets.

I've actually watched the talk already. And while it seems to apply the problem is it doesn't. Every data point is important, because the real problem is comparing different tests, with time between tests to attempt to get an idea of how hardware ages. Or to test componenet swaping, where a known test is performed on several different items and in post processing the results are compared. To use the suggest method your storage solution requires knowledge of whats being stored.


The goal is to unify these storage solutions, and present a unified front end for querying/report generation.

> a good way of querying, analyzing, processing, and securing all this time series data

Could you expand a little more on what sort of features you would like to see in a solution? I have some relevant experience and I could see myself taking a stab at this problem

Having looked at just the raw data from OBDII on a few vehicles; data format standardization there is none. Not between car makes, models, years or versions (ie 2014 Suzuki Swift vs 2014 Suzuki Swift S) - this would require either months (or years) of reverse-engineering, or unfettered access to auto maker's internal documentation (for some I know it's minimal). (Likely require partnership with the auto industry to avoid litigation.)

If you pulled that together and offered it in a usable format.. Wow.

Do you have such data that I can have a look at

I'm currently working on VC backed solution to this problem and I'd love to chat in order to get your thoughts and requirements. PM me and we'll chat!

I'll throw an email at info@koalitycode.com

You have no contact listed...

we're having similar issues in aerospace. time series data out the wazoo.

I used to deal with radar data on roughly this order of magnitude, which had to be synced to the output of other sensors.

I really miss the challenges of real-time signal and data processing. I really want back into it.

Video data from multiple cameras FTW.

So I'm listening to this Radiolab episode [0] about drones with cameras that can solve crime (traffic and other societal ills) and it occurs to me that with everyone soon to be walking around with DSLR-quality smartphones, couldn't we triangulate all this video/ audio data and provide substantially better resolution to daily life? Think of it as continuous Meerkat/ Periscope localized around an event in four dimensions.

[0] http://www.radiolab.org/story/eye-sky/

I was involved in a project conceptualizing real-time video streams from smartphones and synchronizing, adjusting/correcting quality before having it be presentable... in real-time!

Think of a soccer stadium, with fans taking "video" of the game. All the feeds would be gathered, synchronized, quality adjusted and put online for anyone to view, from any angle.

Yeah ... there is a ton of research out there on multi-sensor fusion; super-resolution & synthetic viewpoint reconstruction.

Even the buzzword-du-jour is getting involved[0].

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cizgVZ8rjKA&feature=youtu.be

Formula 1 does some interesting things here...that sport is all about data now..in real time.

I couldn't see a way to contact you. I was about to email you some ideas but looking at your angel.co page it seems like you'd already know how to do this?

I just updated this.

I know the technical side/requirements, and the people. My business skills and design are lacking. Also a whole front end for interfacing/formating/report generation needs to be created.

Knowing what certifications are required and optional for a given physical product and how much it is going to cost to get said product certified for sale in a given country (like FCC, CE, CCC, etc) and how much optional certifications cost (UL, ETL, etc).

Right now the process is pretty much that you (or someone you pay) have to do a ton of reading and become an expert in import/export and RF law for any given country which you wish to sell or distribute a physical product in. Then you have to get written quotes from a few vendors who you find that actually do said testing and generally the test houses are just test houses, they don't necessarily know the laws of each country they just know how to run the tests and issue you a report, which can take weeks, at best (or you just go to the local place and it costs what it costs). But you have to know what tests to ask for.

There should just be a simple one-stop online form that you fill in your product's information and get an instant quote back with each country in the world and what's required for your product along with instant quotes (price and lead time) for each of those certifications. Then, you can check box all the certifications you want right now (likely with discounts if you pick more than one, so a live-updating pricing matrix will be useful here, and a live world map highlighting countries which you can sell in) and pay via credit card for the certifications themselves. You get in return a mailing label to ship your prototype device to the testing company along with instructions on how the testing company uses your device so they can test it.

The actual testing can be contracted out to 3rd parties. This could just be a broker, but it would have to be a broker that knows the rules of the world and can express those rules in a straight forward way along with instant pricing. The prices don't need to be the best prices, they just need to be straight forward and competitive.

As an engineer & founder going through this process right now for our product https://www.pantelligent.com/ , I understand the pain acutely. (We'll be doing a blog post about our experiences; just waiting for the testing & certification to wrap up.) It feels a bit like incorporation lawyers before https://www.clerky.com/ existed -- something that should be a fairly standardized process for 10^2 dollars rather than a mostly custom process for 10^4 dollars.

However, my experience with the test house has been different: (1) they actually do provide the knowledge and experience with regards to your specific product and needs, (2) it takes a bunch of conversation and bi-directional education to get the manufacturer and the test house on the same page, and (3) it's still fairly unique to each product. For example, we had to build custom firmware and custom hardware just for the testing process. (Remember, this isn't dealing with an efficient marketplace; this is dealing with multi-country government regulations that are designed by big companies to erect barriers to entry for smaller competitors.) And the volumes and willingness-to-pay from small hardware startups are low, and the test houses make most of their money from bigger companies that do more product variations, more iterations, etc., which requires relationship building, rather than a one-stop online form.

So, while I'd really like your version to exist as a customer, unfortunately I don't believe it's a match for what most of the hardware testing market looks like.

In my experience, the hard part isn't contracting for testing to be done (so long as you know what tests you need, hence chicken and egg so providing what tests are usually needed is key), it's solving the problems which present themselves during testing. Just getting the right tests quoted for 80% of products out there can fit into a page or two of drop-downs and check boxes. Most things fit into some reasonable categories, but maybe another service this broker could provide would be that if you select something that could open a can of worms (like if you are making a radio transmitter in a non-ISM band) that it presents a big yellow warning with tons of info on the traps you're about to fall into.

Obviously the broker I describe can't know everything about your product and market segment and customers and said laws that would apply, but 80% of the time, there's nothing unique to a product from a regulatory point of view, someone already has a product which falls under very similar guidelines. For example, if you don't have a radio transmitter, the types of tests you have to do for FCC are pretty straight forward. And if you do have a radio transmitter in an ISM band, again the tests are pretty cookie cutter. And if you aren't AC mains connected and don't have any voltages above X VDC then UL low voltage testing is easy. Lots of products would fall into these categories.

It's when you venture out into niche market segments with radio transmitters that you really need to know what you're doing and not rely on a test house or broker (besides, your company is liable no matter how much info the test house or broker can provide you with).

Yeah, if you're making a cell phone or fancy internet of things radio device, this isn't a necessarily a service for you. But if you're taking an arduino-like prototype and turning it into a real product or making a new USB charger or a keyboard or computer input device or ..., then it could fit quite well I think.

Having dealt with health problems this past year, I would love to see somebody write something that simplifies the voodoo going on between health care providers and insurance companies. Even though they both have online portals these days, trying to reconcile and make sense of the two systems is infuriating.

Related to this, I was listening to an NPR program recently that tackled the question: If your pet's doctor can give you a list of pricing options before you decide on treatment, why can't your own doctor do that for you?

The answer was that our doctors are disconnected from the costs of treatment because they can't be expected to know every possible charge for every different insurance plan (what the patient would have to pay for procedures, medicine, support staff [anesthesiologists who are out of network, for example], devices [pacemakers, wrist splints, artificial hips, etc.], lab fees, etc.). So why not something that can bring that information to them?

This would be a benefit not just to consumers but to insurance companies as well, and that's where the money would be.

Feel free to cut me in on the action.

Directionally correct but slightly off. Vets don't memorize all that either; they also use EMRs.

The difference is in insurance: 1. You pay directly for your pet's care. Your vet gets the money. No in-between to obscurify the money. 2. You pay insurance for your own care, and your doctor bills your insurance. Your doctor's EMR might know the insurance cost, but that cost can still change. And there are lots of middlemen in billing processing in healthcare, so it's not an accurate representation of reimbursement anyway.

There are quite a few startups trying to remedy this in various ways. Most of them focus on data transparency; they try to aggregate and publicly list all the direct pay costs for different doctors. The problem with that remains the same: most people don't have the precedent in their head of paying for healthcare, so they don't want to pay direct.

Not impossible to fix. Someone certainly will. Probably orthogonally, like how Slack is unbundling email. But the tech barrier is small compared to the social barrier.

Would be pretty sweet if someone was able to map out all insurance costs though, even to 90% consistency. Hooo boy that would be sweet.

Hey, friend just sent me a link to your comment. So two things: 1. we (Prime) are still in beta but happy to extend an invite your way if it helps—it'd allow you to connect all your patient portals and have the data synced in one place; 2. maybe more relevant to OP and HN at large, we released a new tool this morning called Patient Portal Finder: http://useprime.com/blog/2015/06/29/introducing-the-patient-... (sounds like you probably don't need this but just in case)

I'll stick around the comments too but email me tyler@useprime.com anytime if I can help with this madness. Been through it way too many times myself.

Thanks a bunch - that looks interesting! my Doc wasn't in there but i'll keep an eye out.

I second this.

I was diagnosed with a melanoma a couple of years ago.

Luckily early stage but had to deal with several hospitals and dermatologists who just doesn't talk with each other, add to that the complexity of insurance-agencies and the fact that I have more than a thousand of those little bastards and you begin to see the potential for mistakes and the stress that might incur on a lot of people.

Whoever could solve this would be someone I would pay money.

Can you go into more detail about the pain points? I imagine there are lots of readers who have been blessed to not have major medical issues on their own insurance yet and might not be familiar with the process. I know that when we had our last baby we received mountains of paperwork in the mail, but since my wife used to work as a claims adjuster she dealt with all of the issues. (We ended up getting overbilled by $3k.)

Well the biggest problem seems to be that the billing from the health provider doesn't sync up with insurance. So you'll get a bill like "you owe $1,295" but there's absolutely no way to reconcile this with the services you received. You can call your provider and they'll try to provide you with a detailed invoice (maybe if you're lucky). If you argue long enough with both then eventually you might get somebody to make some type of adjustment but even still it's random. At the end of the day you might wind up paying $500 just because you figure that's as good as it's going to get!

This is probably a difficult problem to solve, but one thing that might be possible is just a way to look up the bill and translate the insurance "codes" that are meaningless to normal people and require looking up in various medical or insurance sites. Like code 123456 means you had your blood drawn. Or code 67890 means they ran some test, etc. It takes forever to look this stuff up.

@waldoh can't reply to you - you've been hellbanned. anyway, the codes are obviously not meaningless in general. As I wrote, they are meaningless to "normal people" meaning the patients. Having an app that just showed you the line items, with the explanation next to it would be a huge improvement.

You're also talking about going to see the Dr for a cold or something. When you've had a major surgery and months of follow-up procedures with pages and pages of line items on your bill, hundreds of codes, disputes with things you think you have already paid, bills that don't match up with what insurance says, etc... then you'll understand what I'm talking about.

OpenCare here in Toronto is working on this.

Advertizing - Everyone is trying to get more and more information about the users without their permission by building free services or hacking it with cookies etc. So users can be better targeted with useless ads.

On the other side, its very hard to find good products online since the search results are full of SEO optimized junk.

If only there was a way to combine these two together. e.g Users could enter what they are looking for in an app and they only get very targeted advertising from business big or small inside that app. Matchmaking algorithms help make the initial connection. Think of a combination of Magic and Tinder.

I get recruiter spam pitches for ad-tech companies trying to build what you're describing every single day. they all go out of business within a year. I don't think anybody actually wants this product. I think it just sounds good (to VC's anyway) on paper.

Some of them are lucky enough to get acquired by bigger ad-tech companies; I was interviewed at one of those and it was funny because they looked like they were ramping up in revenue (over 30% growth year over year) and then bam acquired. Might as well have gone out of business since only the few founders got equity.

> Might as well have gone out of business since only the few founders got equity.

I think that's the actual business model for these companies. there's a reason I don't accept those pitches.

> "better targeted with useless ads."

That made me laugh.

> "SEO optimized junk" This did too.

>"only get very targeted advertising from business big or small"

Wait, did I misunderstand your first points?

Seriously, is this post a joke or were you serious? I cannot tell.

I totally get what the op is saying. I get a ridiculous number of adds in my email. I never click on them. But I don't actually mind knowing about deals and product offerings. I wouldn't mind having an app where all these offerings are sorted intelligently in some easy to see manner.

OP is complaining about companies gathering data to better target you with relevant ads and in the same breath is complaining that his ads aren't targeted enough.

You can't have it both ways. I would say that a good portion of the ads I see are surprisingly relevant, but I might be biased because as a marketer, the people targeting me are the best marketers out there.

For EU mainly, US had some alternatives like these, but they seemed to be shut down due to legal issues.

A place where I, or anyone trying to contact me, can send snail mail to. These then get scanned and forwarded to mail mailbox and/or dropbox and/or stored online with an OCR PDF.

This would allow me to a) send my bills, invoices there b) able to move house more easily without having to keep track of address changes.

In Finland the local Post's service is quite popular: http://www.posti.fi/private/servicesonline/netposti/index.ht... My mailbox is usually filled only with ads.

This has caused during that snailmail delivery will be only 1-2 times a week, when it now is every workingday.

I've been using Swiss Post Box for years for this. Does exactly what you asked for and gives me an address in Switzerland, Germany and Italy.

This exists in Germany: https://www.dropscan.de

That's really cool! Are there alternatives for other countries?

EarthClass Mail does that.

Looks like they have more than a few unhappy customers: http://www.yelp.com/biz/earth-class-mail-san-francisco-2

What about a P.O. Box and a TaskRabbit?

How about advertising for small businesses? With the death of local newspapers and phone books, I'm not sure what effective ways to advertise are.

Facebook doesn't seem to work too well, and adwords felt like a black hole. And besides these methods seem to require experienced consultants to run an effective campaign.

The problem is, why would you build a startup for a business that can't afford to pay you for the value you create.

I have seen dozens of business start off this way and than eventually become enterprise only platforms or worse, programmatic advertising providers marking up CPMs by ridiculous ripoff margins.

(see: boost media, dispop, etc...)

I think Google Adwords express has been created for this use case: http://www.google.com/intl/en/adwords/express/

Thanks for the comment. We feel that this problem is especially pertinent in the field of ecommerce - the folks who run small to midsized ecommerce stores on Shopify, Magento etc.

That's why we built Hits Analytics (http://hitsanalytics.com) specifically to tackle this problem. All you need to do is set the budget and pick a segment of product(s) you wish to promote, and we will automatically create and track Facebook ad campaigns for them (we do the "heavylifting" of optimizing the campaign behind the scenes based on the conversions we are tracking)

I think Gary Vaynerchuk can give you some help:


This is a very interesting and real problem IMHO that SMBs are facing especially the mom and pop size shops.

I know Amazon tried to solve it but failed, I guess a few of those deal sites too are trying. Right now the only true contender i guess is something like graigslist?

That's the thing. Facebook and Google CAN work, but you hit the nail on the head: 'And besides these methods seem to require experienced consultants to run an effective campaign'.

Integrated settlement / closing software for Title companies.

The market leaders right now are God awful. Market leaders include Adeptive (Resware software), ISGN (Gators software), and Ramquest (Closing Market software).

Their platforms usually include a desktop app (not really necessary), in most corporations accessed via Citrix, or installed locally (host of issues with versioning), and an accompanying database and web application. The web app usually offers a very limited view into orders, and some limited ability to place orders and is customer facing. The desktop app is usually internal to the title company.

The amount of money spent supporting these applications is staggering. In one company I know, it's ~$3mil a year in application support alone. That cost alone would make a strong case for switching to something more intuitive. The worst part, however, is that they're also extremely glitchy. When someone misses a closing because of this software, it's a huge deal. That's somebody in a hotel somewhere, and a very unhappy bank.

Some of them suffer from insanely limited UI's, application design that is prone to database blocks, and various bugs such as accounting data updates not being wrapped in transactions and failing to update 2 tables when needed (so you get 'half' of a payment and your ledgers are out of sync).

In practice, here's all these boil down to: It's a task list (provides user with a list of tasks to complete) that has some attached functionality to help you do the task, and is customizable. The reason most are desktop apps is because the most used functionality is document preparation, which seems to be universally done in Microsoft word using templates by all these companies. They're also horribly dated.

If this could be a web app, work well, and port data over from the current market leaders into your schema, you would not have to work hard to convince title companies to switch.

I'd love to talk to you about this. Is there an easy way to contact you?

Drop me a line at plonn1999 at gmail dot com.

Can you please send me an email (click my profile link).

We need a DBA in a box.

I'm setting up a brand new postgres solution to replace an existing highly-tuned MSSQL solution, and the pain points are all down to differing performance profiles. I have an SeoKeywordsProfile query that takes 3.5 seconds in MSSQL, and >12 hrs on postgres. Clearly there's an index that would solve my problem, but the query is 3 pages of SQL with no whitespace!

There's https://github.com/cohenjo/pg_idx_advisor, but it only works on one specific release of postgres and not on any other.

I'd like something that could just monitor my database for a fixed period of time and tell me what indexes aren't being used, what indexes ought to be used, and make any other suggestions that might help (partition this table, vacuum that table, etc).

Run an explain on that three page query, with analyze after some changes so you don't have to wait 12 hours. Put it into http://explain.depesz.com/ to see it in a prettier format, especially with analyze.

Set up pgBadger https://github.com/dalibo/pgbadger and see https://wiki.postgresql.org/wiki/Index_Maintenance for more information about your indexes.

> Put it into http://explain.depesz.com/ to see it in a prettier format

I tried that.... http://explain.depesz.com/s/22H5

The problem is, I'm unsure how to read this. I can explain, but I can't explain analyze, since it's too slow. Can you make heads or tails of it?

Since I know neither the schema nor the query you're running, I can only give you so much. You can look at costs to narrow in on a few spots.

Lines 30-32 indicate that you are pulling a lot of data from buyclicks and transactions. This makes up a huge portion of the cost of this query. Lines 33-40 are very similar. Looks like you are probably pulling more data than you need, and you'll see a lot of improvement if you can reduce these two spots. Fixing those two parts will make all the nested loops and hash joins that use this data a lot faster.

Looks like there are several sequential scans (Seq Scan) that you could likely improve with a quick index on the relevant columns. You seem to be filtering for similar things on ad_codes in a main query and a subquery, which probably could be refactored out. These are small optimizations compared to the first.

My email is in my profile if you want to talk about this more.

I guess stuff like this:

Hash Join (cost=78,396.37..2,150,742.13 rows=24,442,180 width=40) (actual rows= loops=) Hash Cond: (buyclicks.offer_id = offers.id)

if you can filter down number of rows in these cases or maybe only return columns present in the index and/or add an index where required you will speed up. Watch out it doesn't affect insert/update too much though if you add an index. You have created fk indexes right?

Thanks for the tip. I'm not so worried about insert/update, since this is a reporting database and the only inserts are done by backgrounded processes.

Yes, we have fk indexes.

I don't see how we can filter down the number of rows, since the purpose of the outer query is to get a count of how many buyclicks there were for each offer. But I'll see if I can create a covering index that reduces the join cost.

Thanks again!

I want somebody to take on PTC and Rational and do for ALM what git did for VCS.

More than that ... I want somebody to make an open and hackable ALM platform that I can build my own tools on top of.

The product should be license-free (ideally but not necessarily FLOSS), so I can put it on my CI servers and VMs without worrying about license files and license administration. (Flat-fee site licenses would be OK, but anything that stops me from freely cloning VM build-machine images is a big no-no).

I want diff-able plain-text-backed requirements management, defect tracking, and project planning, with everything (or its hash) co-versioned alongside the source, so I can use my VCS to provide a coherent, branch-able, change-oriented view of project state and project history.

I want the text-based backing files to be a simple, accessible format like JSON or YAML, so I can write quick hack-tastic Python scripts to build my own development analytics and reporting tools.

I want all this because I am fed up with having to do it myself ... and because I would rather spend my time writing tools to analyze classifier performance and tune algorithm parameters without having to do so much book-keeping with difficult-to-automate requirements management and configuration management tools.

WTF do those acronyms mean? #ALM #PTC #FLOSS

I've only heard of the last one, free libre open-source software

I have a theory that there are a lot of interesting and successful businesses that could be build on insights that people have gathered over the years.

For example, I would love to talk to a series of very experienced (read older people) people working in various industries what they consider the biggest problems they have to deal with. People who are on the verge of retiring.

This is why I asked the question this way, so far some really good problems to tackle.

This is not an industry I am in per se but it is a problem me and my family is facing every year.

Finding trustworthy travel destinations for families that don't like all inclusive but prefer smaller boutique hotels that are family friendly.

Despite all the online travel sites that are out there its still often hit and miss how great the places we go are.

FYI in my opinion there are only a few travel sites.

sure theres plenty of hotel or airfare or rental or 'town of xyz events calendar' sites but no one solving the entire problem.

I've yet to find an end to end trip planning site, especially one that is family oriented.

Exactly. Places like TripAdvisor simply isn't going to cut it. I have a friend who tried to tackle the problem a couple of times but still haven't succeeded.

My guess is that the solution is something simple, something that isn't algorithmic but rather a platform for travel agents who can listen to and understand the individual needs.

Why are smaller boutiques family friendlier? I assumed the big all-inclusive resorts were more family friendly because you can just let the kids roam around in a contained environment.

LOL. I just paid for an all inclusive which came out to be an additional $25/day/person over the hotel room rate. The food was shit but the drinks were okay and unlimlite. And thus we found out that all-inclusive can mean different things.

I would say the Atlantis, Bahamas resort does a good all-inclusive. It has activities for kids and adults. The resort I stayed in Malta was clearly for young adults. The kid and I were practically chased out the pool once the sun set.

They aren't normally thats the point :)

We are looking for those that are but without the tediousness of the all inclusive crowd.

I like these sorts of ideas because they come down to trust. One thought I had was to begin curating lists of the best airbnb/homeaway listings to help people find places to stay if they are overwhelmed by the sheer number of available listings.

Any suggestions on family friendly places you've found?

What you are looking for is simply called very expensive hotels :)

Hehe if it only was that simple. :)

I have stayed on many expensive hotels but that is not what we are looking for. We are looking for hotels that are family friendly so other families go there but without it being a family hotel.

We will pay whatever it cost but it's not so easy to find that the balance.

This is on the high end, but have you checked out the relatively new "destination clubs" like Inspirato or Exclusive Resorts? Family-friendly and extremely vetted, to the point of having on-site personnel in most locations. We're a member of Inspirato, and it's been great. Private residences and hotels.

Would you mind posting more information about your experience? I'm interested.

High end is fine. I will have a look thanks.

A meta-problem for many startups: selling to SMBs at scale at a reasonable cost.

Lots of small businesses can unlock significant value with better software, and could be convinced to pay for it. But the upfront cost of acquiring those customers is too high to make it worthwhile.

If you could offer a highly-curated marketplace, you could spend the customer acquisition cost once and sell to them over and over again, so they're buying all their IT through you, trusting you to vet the products and get over their risk-aversion. You could sell bundled solutions that are guaranteed to interoperate out of the box, lowering per-transaction integration costs.

Appdirect.com is working on something similar. From my experience with cloud marketplaces there is still a high cost to support onboarding unsophisticated SMBs post-sale - this includes initial setup / integration, migrating from legacy platforms, end-user training, etc.

SMBs are price sensitive, so charging what it costs you to deliver this will decrease adoption and subsidizing this cost can take too long to recoup.

A good example of this is Office 365. Let's say your profit margins are $2/user/month and you spend 3 hours onboarding a new 10 seat customer at a cost to you of $1/minute on the phone. It will take you 9 months to recoup your onboarding cost ($180 in cost / $20/profit/month).

Self service adoption can be possible depending on the product if there is no need for integration or legacy data migration, however products that require these activities see a high rate of drop off in the self-service channel because SMBs often times aren't sophisticated enough to solve these challenges themselves, don't use the service and churn out after a couple of months.

Additionally, if the customer has a poor onboarding experience with the first product they've purchased you lose their trust and it makes it very hard to cross sell and upsell other services.

It sounds like a Health Exchange, but for SMB. While the Health Exchange isn't curated, it functions as a marketplace.

I'm curious how curation would work.

Can someone please build a good IoT solution for the home. For example, my sump pump backup battery beeps incessantly when it runs out of distilled water, sometimes in the middle of the night. I just want to have an app on my phone or laptop, showing me status/integrity of all my home devices, turn them on/off, etc.

Trustworthy "clued up" onsite engineer callouts. One of the hard things to do is manage hardware that is in the field. Quite a few companies have awesomely great ideas but need in-field engineers to go and fix / replace / repair.

If something is going to be plugged into the wall, it will be badly fitted, upside down, unplugged by the night cleaners for her Hoover and when you are on the phone to the engineer he won't know his arse from his elbow.

Get good young people in a dozen countries - give them decent wages, half decent travel options and a training and upgrade path.

Outsourcing small digital tasks. In Europe, no service like Amazon's Mechanical Turk exists. And MT does not accept customers from outside the US.

MTurk itself is not perfect and could use many improvements. Amazon has been absent from the project itself for a long time and provides minimal support and there is a lot of criticism over them changing their fee structure in a few weeks that may or may not lead to a decrease in tasks and/or pay. https://requester.mturk.com/pricing

There are a couple of alternatives: https://microworkers.com/ and http://www.shorttask.com/

What are some examples of digital tasks you'd like to outsource? Do any of them require access to your personal information?

Check out crowdflower.com

Logistics in India. If you solve this, Flipkart, Snapdeal and everyone else will buy your services. The reason for this varying state tax laws and shitty bureaucrat

Better count bribes in there too. Not trying to be smug, but this is the world we live in.

Varying taxes issue is also something in the US. Wouldn't it be possible to solve it by creating a giant spreadsheet and just mapping it all out and then turning that into a service?

If you're just talking taxes, then probably; if you're talking about logistics in general, then a spreadsheet isn't going to work.

Yeah I was talking taxes purely.

Some kind of trust system or network to allow assured, secure outsourcing for large financial institutions which would in turn mean lots of little start ups doing lots of little things well. Currently large banks, funds etc spend huge amounts doing back/middle office processes internally, or best case by outsourcing to similarly inefficient very large service companies. Costs are way too high. Financial experts with MBAs spend hours emailing each other spreadsheets instead of conducting their core business. The industry needs stronger mediation than that provided by simple contract law/service standards to enable outsourcing and general break up of supply chain that they are missing out on.

In my industry creating digital solutions for the construction sector is really a problem that constructor have to be more profitable. Construction is a sector that hadn’t changed so much in more than a 100 years, we still use steel, concrete and others to build things, and hire worker to do most of the activities related to that. So it will be interesting to see startup disrupting the sector with * Online blueprints * Budgeting tools * Materials marketplaces * Logistics tools * Machinery renting * Marketplace for workers * New sustainable materials. * Shared Economy solutions for the sector * Crowdsourcing solutions for the sector

Thanks for sharing and the construction industry is definitely dated. However, as an outsider, it's hard to know where to begin or even to dive in. Do you have some examples of the strongest painpoints or the lowest hanging fruits?


I'm a musician. If you could offer a reliable way for people who want to book talent to do so, and for musicians to get paid a reasonable rate, then you could perhaps get a slice of the pie.

The problem is that the pie is so small and there are so few of them, it would be tough to make any money.

But musicians hate selling performances, and venues hate buying and managing talent.

> But musicians hate selling performances, and venues hate buying and managing talent.

Ah, so that tends to explain the parasitic phenomenon known as Ticketmaster.

Naw, it's more like an explanation for why the quality of music is so bad when you go to a bar and there is a live cover band.

GigMasters? I used this to find a musician for my wedding.

Well, they work okay for one off events, but use case I have in mind is the 40 or so wineries in the county where I live; about half or more hire folks to come play music on a Saturday or Sunday.

If they'd all just subscribe to a service, then they wouldn't have to dicker with a bunch of musicians and have their tasting room GMs deal with booking folks.

The same thing could apply to all the little bars and restaurants here; they have a reoccuring need to hire talent, but they usually have some staff member who doesn't want to be doing it (and isn't getting paid much) buying talent, so it's a pain in the butt for musicians and the bars get inconsistent products.

But at that end of the market, the budgets are so small that it'd be tough to take much out to work as a service.

Yes, I know several bands that do decent businesses booking weddings and other events through GigMasters.

I am working on something where users will be given revenue from whatever I earn due to their efforts.

But problem I am facing is my users are from all over the world and every country has different taxation law. And there is no proper service to pay my users except paypal (whose credibility is getting worse day by day).

I did a startup like this once... Unfortunately, I discovered that most people weren't motivated by money the way I assumed they were.

This is a question of scale. a few bucks for writing ehow articles or squidoo lenses, not many people motivated or interested, but $1000 week driving for Uber, and suddenly you have a business.

Youtube! Its worlds one of the biggest revenue sharing portal. And it is successful.

Youtube is driven much more by social incentive and the need to express oneself...the revshare is not the primary driver.

Thats because you can both have fun and become successful at the same time.


The thing I am targeting is going to be used by normal internet users who dont know what bitcoin is. So cant work.

I enjoyed your brief yet subtle satire there.

Requirements traceability. Linking your SRS, code, tests, metrics together into an organized information tree.

Also, find a way to generate passive income for FOSS developers and crowdsource FOSS projects and turn them into decent products (proper doc, saas api, maintenance/support etc.) .

3 off-the-cuff: Ordering and Provisioning of large telecom product catalogs, converting BMC Remedy apps to modern stacks and reliable fast address validation. In IT telecom, where you dig, you find.

Have you looked at SmartyStreets for address verification (US only, I believe)? https://smartystreets.com/

Not affiliated with them, but was a happy customer when I worked at a real estate company recently.

My uncle used to work for a major EE conglomerate selling telephone systems to countries. Are you talking on a scale like this, or something else?


Large catalog where every screw is of different shape and requires a different tool to be put into a different wall in a different town so to speak.

Cross-channel attribution in digital media.

Many companies (including Google, etc.) are making healthy progress here, but nobody has managed to really tell me the incremental value of my display efforts, the value of a view-through, whether bidding on that brand term really made a difference, etc.

Right now the tools out there can give you different lenses to view data through (static/custom attribution models), or take a stab at finding a data-driven, dynamic attribution model.

However the outputs all seem to be pretty underwhelming and do not typically spit out actionable insights like "Increasing spend on X, Y and Z placements should give an incremental revenue lift of $$$$."

Companies have tried, and for the most part failed. If anyone thinks they have the solution I've been waiting for, please don't hesitate to respond. But as a starter, your offering should do more than the free version of Google Analytics.

I have a product in beta right now that was created to solve this problem for my own agency and now I'm bringing it to market as SAAS - https://www.getbridgeanalytics.com . I don't list the actionable insights you describe on the splash page features but that is what is being built behind the scenes. Its in very early beta but I'd love to have you join if you are interested. Let me know at mike@getbridgeanalytics.com

Data Warehouse optimization.

What? A tool that helps discover inefficiencies in Hive/Presto/Dremel query/pipeline/scripts.

Why? It is so much easier to just add new machines to your cluster, than to optimize your code and fix inefficiencies. But the latter option typically results in millions of $$$s in savings.

what is a data warehouse?

An HOA for my single family house. Or at least a reserve study.

I have owned a single family house in the states for five years. Just put a new roof on. Big expense. Used to live in a condo where a reserve study had been done, and every month a portion of the dues were allocated to large upcoming expenses. They recently replaced the roof of a 100 unit building and paid for it out of reserves (no assessment).

Would dearly love to have someone come in and do a reserve study of my house, give me a figure for how much I should be saving every month. Possible add ons include property management services (lawn care, etc).

Real estate title/escrow API for California (then USA, then world)

Currently most title/escrow companies are local brick and mortar shops, largely due to slight regional differences in how the process works and who pays what (these differences are mostly historical artifacts that we don't want to mess with) [0].

At Open Listings [1] we're building the slickest real estate offer/transaction platform in the industry but it involves a fair amount of offline coordination with other agents, inspectors, banks, and title/escrow companies. Essentially, we're building an API on top of a lot of human interactions and an interface for our clients and agents to drive that API. We'd love to be able to plug into a preferred escrow service to do the title transfer and replace one slow, expensive interaction with an API call.

[0]: http://www.firstam.com/assets/title/ca/respa-reform-tools/wh... [1]: https://www.openlistings.co/

No doubt the entire title insurance industry could likely be turned over though the laws would make this very difficult.

I noticed that OpenListings is looking to try to disrupt on the buy side of real estate transactions. Curious why you wouldn't try to do something on the sell side where I think there is massive room to change things and it's pretty darn formulaic.

My guess is that they started with buyers because buyers typically are less wedded to an agent. Most agents start out on the buy side because significant numbers of buyers have no loyalties, and because buyers "pay nothing" for the services of an agent (as opposed to the sellers, who pay 5-6%), so customer acquisition is easier. (Of course, buyers do end up paying, it is just wrapped into a 30 year monthly payment.)

All this only applies to the US market,not sure about international RE. Source: I worked for a brokerage for years.

Which laws?

Regarding buyers: we heard a lot of frustration from savvy buyers... people either didn't see the point of their Redfin agent or wanted a simple way to go direct with the seller. The idea of making it less expensive to become a homeowner also really resonated with us.

Id love for title/escrow companies to go away. They charge a few thousand dollars and provide very little in return. The problem is, the seller picks the title company, but the buyer pays.

Bicycle storage systems (indoor vertical space? outdoor enclosures?)

Bicycle security.

Foldable / Transportable Bicycles.

whats the problem?

Lots of city apartments don't have bicycle storage. Lots of bikes in cities get stolen when left outside.

I've been seeing these around neighborhoods in London - small half oval bicycle storage lockers the size of a street parking space that can hold 10 bikes (can't recall the name at the moment).

Hmmm, random thoughts (based on our work at http://www.secfirst.org):

1. Build a bitcoin based, secure methodology for money transfer between individual/institutional NGO donors and end-users (cutting out a lot of NGO middle men and/or Western Union style folks)

2. Build a simple, deployable, open source system for low income countries where SMS is still used to find information on stuff like farmers wanting to know prices at new markets.

3. Micro-services to help young NGOs get setup. -Find individual/institutional donors which match the NGOs theme -Help with regulatory process -Help with introductions to donors -Write applications -Admin tasks - website, brochures etc

4. Build a secure, Open Source platform for low-income country government management systems. (With modules, for example: Need a simple health management system? - here ya go...need a simple method of managing education results? - here ya...need a simple method of managing voter registration? - here ya go etc etc)

5. Build a system, ranking etc for measuring digital security risk (on a close to real time basis) on a country-by-country basis. The sort of thing already used on a physical basis for stuff like kidnap and terrorism...So I could travel to XYZ country and see that last week there ABC number of censorship incidents, ABC number of reporting fishing attempts using 123 exploits etc. This is only the first stage, the REALLY hard part is then linking it to tools, behaviour change and processes to mitigate these risks...(We are trying to hack together something a little in a very very simple version in our app, Umbrella but dam is it hard.)...

6. Make PGP so simple my grandma can do it (HERE, TAKE MY MONEY!!! :)

While I appreciate your ideas the point with this thread was to find problems not come up with solutions. Maybe I am reading them wrong but they sound like (great) ideas, but are they actual problems?

For instance do my grandma really care about cryptography?

By turning it around and ask for the problems I am hoping for a more open ended list where the solutions aren't given already.

Ooops...my bad

No worries I understand the urge. I have it myself.

i currently work in the healthcare industry and am constantly amazed at how outdated anything we use is... this is the single largest industry in the US, it has money falling out of its pockets and is used to paying exorbitantly for everything. You could really pick any pain point in Healthcare and build a decent sized revenue stream with the right sales team in place.

Having attempted to do exactly that, I have gotten a little wiser about just why the existing software is so bad, and why it's hard to supplant. Writing better software isn't the hard part.

As you alluded to, it all comes down to the difficulty of selling to them. No matter the size of the customer, they all seem to take two years to make up their minds to buy. That is pretty harsh on a scrappy startup. To grow quickly, you need to pour a very significant pile of money into an enterprise salesforce two years before you actually want to start making money.

That also leads inexorably to the conclusion that small customers aren't worth the hassle, so you need to target the behemoths who can spend enough money to justify their acquisition cost. And the behemoths are so scarred by years of disastrous IT projects that they are deeply risk-averse.

I also think the industry remains in denial about the strategic value of software, so you don't actually get paid what you're worth. They all know they need software, but they see it more as a necessary chore than an opportunity to revolutionize their business.

My hope is that a real technology company directly enters the healthcare market and starts kicking butt by building their healthcare services around great software from the ground up. That would shake the incumbents out of their denial.

Hospitals/Big Healthcare need to be sure the vendor will be around for a decade or three. It is very hard for a startup to offer this assurance in a believable manner. It will take someone like Google to tackle this.

Right, part of their problem is that they're demanding the wrong thing. Instead of demanding a high degree of stability from one vendor, they should be demanding open standards and real interoperability, so their eggs aren't all in one obsolete basket.

Wrong. This is like saying we should demand only a small degree of reliability from airplane wings, but we should make them easily replaceable.

I don't think their insurers would like that. When medical records start getting lost/exposed because of small outages or vendor changes, the Feds will come down very hard.

I didn't want to imply software that's not stable. I was replying to the point about wanting a big stable company to purchase from.

Isn't it a little bit generic? Could you please make some significant examples?



EHR, payroll, on-call management, paging, messaging, MDM, billing, mobile computing, HR, interfaces... pick ANY thing really, as almost everything will need to be hipaa compliant.

the healthcare system i work for has 650+ applications we support, I was hired as a developer yet we do very little development here. Hospitals like the idea of a vendor they can call and make fix anything, because its very costly to have SMEs for every single piece of software we use. many of them requires us to send our staff our for training yearly.

example: one vendor sells us diagnostic imaging software, but require us to buy a "certified" video card if we want their support... its just an old 90's nvidia card they rebrand and charge us $1500 each for.

Epic and Cerner are probably the largest EHRs. Epic revenues were 1.56B in 2013. While Cerner did 2.66B in 2013.

also, a lot of healthcare spending is government subsidized, which makes it even more lucrative.

http://www.healthcare-informatics.com/hci100/healthcare-info... this illustrates the money moving around in healthcare

Healthcare: Pretty much all EHR systems suck.

Recently I've been trying to find people to do IT tasks, but we're not at the full-time IT level, we're still a small business.

Stuff like:

- Setting up a RAID0 dev ubuntu box and transferring my data to it - Setting up a VPN to EC2 for both our office (using our router that does VPN) and our personal machines (for when we're away from the office) - Diagnosing office internet issues

There are usually local companies that do IT services if you live in or near any major city. Check with other people you know or check Yelp for references and reviews.

Yes, my parents ran a small biz and had an IT guy who was a contractor who took care of their NetWare server, backup setup, etc. He was always busy!

I don't think taskrabbit do that any more. They've changed their model to focus on certain categories rather than you just posting jobs you want done.

Ping me, happy to consult for reasonable levels of work.

Email in profile.

A friend of mine in property management thinks having a way for HOA members to vote online would be a useful service.

https://easyvoting.co/ is a solution that tackles this.

i built that a few years ago. also manages rent payments, minutes, adjustments, etc.

Make customers stickier. Get them to try a product for more than 12 seconds (average web attention span).

What's the source of the 12 second data?

Microsoft measures this every few years. Last time I think it went down to 9 seconds.

You need Cash/Caste to succeed as an Entrepreneur in India;


Automatic Speech Recognition solution, a rival to Google's system.

I appreciate your idea, but what is the problem you think this would solve?

We are an manually powered audio transcription service. We convert spoken audio files to text via a four step process which guarantees minimum 98% accuracy. Our customers are mostly researchers, journalists, videographers, podcasters etc.

Right now, our transcribers manually do the typing. If we have a ASR based system, which produces even a 80% accurate transcript of the audio, we can improve our efficiency manifold.

We have a lot of data, audio files and their corresponding transcript. That data can be used to train a DNN based system. A software solution or framework which can do that would be ideal for us so that we can keep feeding in the data and continuously improve our model.

ASR will not help improve efficiency unless you don't care about the mistakes made by ASR (for example, close captioning of real-time audio). Why? Because transcribers will need to listen to audio again to be able to correct the mistakes made by ASR. Basically, once ASR listening to audio and then transcriber listening the audio again to correct mistakes made by ASR. Also, you will increase you cost as you will need costly "editors" to correct the ASR mistakes instead of cheaper "transcribers" to transcribe, reviewing and transcribing requires different skill set.

At one time I invested in a medical transcription business that experimented with voice-to-text technologies but couldn't generate any additional efficiency in transcription by using technology. What worked in improving efficiency was the transcriber's knowledge of medical terminology and medical field, matching the same transcriber with the same speaker as transcriber became acclimated with the nuances and tones of the speaker, and letting transcriber handle only certain type of transcription.

Transcription is a manual operation and Toyota Way is a good way to maximize efficiency.

I'll counter that ASR does improve the efficiency. The biggest player in Medical Transcription is Nuance. It's main product is a ASR! The MT industry has moved on from all human process in the last decade. The ASR accuracy in MT is currently around 90%. The rest of the work is done by human editors.

Our goal with ASR is not replace the typists, but to assist them. On an average typing takes 4X the duration of actual time. An 80% accurate ASR may reduce it to 2X, which in turn should translate to faster turnaround and improved throughput.

End-to-end speech recognition with deep recurrent neural networks is currently the state of the art.

See https://github.com/pannous/caffe-speech-recognition (still under development)

Interesting and thanks for your elaboration

A startup that has a product that gives developers startup ideas ?

BUT the ideas are easy. The problem is market testing each idea to see what works.

ProductHunt is going in the right direction - but unfortunately the products are already built with little or no market testing so I predict a high failure rate.

KickStarter is a nice way to see if there is some market demand, but also a high failure rate (55%) by people who lack the experience to execute.

Or one that find problems for businesses to be built on.

or just browse complaint sites. There is a company in New Jersey that browses amazon reviews for feature requests and creates those updated products in china and sells them on amazon. They do hundreds of millions a year in sales.

Glad someone could make that work. I tried it with RentACoder a few years ago (scanning the "need a coder" lists for product ideas), but the requests had very little in common besides only wanting to pay bargain-basement prices.

What were the issues you encountered? I know a few people who developed side projects by reading through oDesk and elance jobs. I read them time to time to stimulate brain to come up some relevant features to my own projects.

Definitely you will need to have patience to find ones that catch your fancy. Also no one job going to give you idea, but when you read a lot of them, you start to see patterns and might develop linkage that will make interest project for you.

It was over 5 years ago. There really weren't any issues. I just didn't see any common threads that were interesting. Could very well be the type of projects I looked at.

Do you have more information on that company? Fascinating.

See my comment below... Here is a quote from the fast company article about them..

"He has an entire team of people who read reviews on Amazon, looking for moments when people say, "I wish this speaker were rechargeable." Pikarski then makes a rechargeable version. "


That is really fascinating. The guy seems to understanding marketing to a level to not try and place his products in retail shelves as people tend to judge based on looks rather than features.

I did spend one Sunday afternoon reading up reviews on apple app store. while there were some pretty interesting ideas, I saw one huge issue - the search on app store is unreliable. One, there could be an app implementing the said "idea" or "feature" but somehow not readily visible. Second, no way to really dig and learn about your competitors. Third, the same search might hurt the app chances.

That is really interesting. I love that. Whats the name of that company?

http://camarketing.com/ They also license brands(i.e. recently acquired skymall)

Here is a blogpost I wrote about them. http://www.davidmelamed.com/2013/11/22/what-customers-really...

Here is a Fast Company feature about them http://www.fastcompany.com/3021229/chaim-pikarski-the-amazon...

Now if only something like that existed for B2B products and services :)

"Malicious Binaries"

can you elaborate?

The above may have been tongue in cheek, alluding to the many startups seeking to classify software as malicious or benign. At the theoretical limit, it is difficult to say what a program will do. But that has not prevented many from selling products to that effect, some of which have been successful to a degree. If the comment was in fact serious, then the problem is "securing computation". Can you tell by looking at a program in its binary format whether it would do you harm to run it or not? Can you ensure that a given program has not been taken over by malicious input? How can you detect malicious activity by software? How do you create a baseline for "normal"?

I think he's referring to the continuing SourceForge fiasco.

It is a shameless plug for the non-existent startup that creates computers with ternary architectures for the benefit of all beings...and of course would render malicious binaries obsolete.


Are you out of ideas? How did this make it to the front page?

I am guessing because people would love to see what kind of problems are out there to potentially solve.

I know I would, thats why I asked the question that way :)

I guess people that is interested into the answer to this question upvoted.

Possibly because ideas are not as valuable as problems-to-be-solved.

Yes, I am, I was going to make this thread myself actually.

Because it's the best Ask HN in a looong time, that's why.

How to solve SAT in exponential time?

By solving 2-SAT in exponential time and generalizing :)

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