I have a lot of big ideas.
Here are a few I liked a lot, but for various reasons no longer actively work on... at least for now.
During my Alexa Startup phase, I was super excited about building something for the upcoming Voice Assistant revolution. The two biggest use cases I saw were:
- Carlexa — Controlling your car radio via voice commands.
- WristLexa — Having a voice-powered wrist device that you could use to control your Alexa.
I spent a lot of time learning about Amazon, Google, and Apple’s Voice User Interface (voice assistant) ecosystem. I met with the head of investments for the Alexa Fund, started the Alexa SF Meetup group, and even got early acceptance into a hardware accelerator in China. I was pretty close to going all in.
My concept was such: a small device that plugs into the car lighter, with a permanently-activated microphone, and could control directions, music, as well as handle all phone calls /messaging. And as a fun bonus, it would feature the ability to randomly talk with other people on the road when you were bored (this evolved into Chit Chat).
Unfortunately, Amazon Alexa devices can not integrate with an iPhone, nor can they integrate with Google Maps. I found some creative work arounds (setting up multiple servers on the device for Alexa plus your phone), but they caused a poor user experience that I wasn’t comfortable getting behind. In the end, the technology just wasn’t ready – but it was super fun to develop all the same.
Wristlexa would allow you to wear a Fitbit-like device with a permanently-activated microphone that you could use to command your other devices. This would solve the problem of having to scream across your room to control your Alexa, not to mention it's also pretty cool to be able to talk into your wrist and see things happening – Dick Tracy all the way!
I thought of some innovative tech to accelerate this idea (flicking your wrist open instead of using a wake word), but in the end, there is absolutely no barrier of entry for Apple, Google, Amazon, or anyone else integrating this technology into their future watch products. Also, for a hardware product to succeed it needs monthly recurring revenue, and I couldn’t figure out what I could create to A) lock people in and B) provide a service they paid for monthly that couldn’t be found elsewhere.
To this day, I still love the idea of a voice-controlled wrist device and hope it gets made soon, because I really want one!
Venture Pitch was a global Series A pitch competition that I wanted to do immediately after AngelHack. The concept would be to invite the best 10 series A fundraising startups in each major startup city to pitch for the chance to go to a regional finals – and if they win that, a global finals event held in San Francisco.
In total, we’d have 30 cities (300 startups) and allow the top 2 startups at each event to move on to the next round. It would have been a very similar business model to my AngelHack, although I think it would have been even simpler to run at almost no cost. What I loved about this is it had the potential to create a global platform for good Series A talent to be found all around the world and showcase to Silicon Valley investors. Where AngelHack specialized in finding pre-seed talent, Venture Pitch intended to discover post-seed funded talent, which would have been really exciting for everyone involved.
I pitched it to 500 startups and AngelList but couldn't get the traction needed to move it forward. I still believe this startup community idea is loaded with potential and would be more than happy to advise a company into doing this in the future. Here’s a screenshot of my email...
Chit Chat would allow you to anonymously and randomly start phone conversations with others. Kind of like Chat Roulette, but for voice — no video.
The idea behind Chit Chat was to allow people to have random conversations about things on their mind without having to worry about being judged. You can chat with people in your city, nation, or worldwide – and if you have a good conversation with someone, then you have the option of saving each other so you can talk again.
And to ensure a positive user experience, strong TOS would force any bad actors to be booted from the network. Ideally, I’d see this being used by people in their cars, stuck in traffic during their commutes, who want to discuss what's going on, either out of boredom or for help This could be used as a fun social tool to make new friends, or even as a therapeutic form of connecting with others during periods of isolation.
Wireframes were created and a friend went off to South America to learn how to code in React, so we could build a prototype, but that's as far as we got for now. I still love this idea and hope it gets built, but I have so much other stuff on my plate that it’ll likely be on the back burner for a good while.
Community is a better way for wealthy individuals to fund projects they’re interested in. It’s a platform for voting on and funding community betterment projects – as opposed to current options, which are to give money to organizations or the government that don’t seem to be fixing things.
Most rich people I know want to do good things. They want to give their money back to see the things they care about improve. But very few of them trust the City, or most non-profits, to make things happen or to use their money wisely. So they hold their money on the sidelines, waiting for someone to approach them with a good idea.
This is a long-term project because current trends indicate the income divide that exists is only going to get wider with time, and there needs to be better options for wealthy individuals to fund altruistic projects. This one is definitely in the "work-in-progress" category...
Travel Assist would automate travel booking recommendations for travelers based on the events/trips they add to their calendar. It would essentially automate the business travel booking process.
The way it works is, Travel Assist gains access to your email and your calendar. With that, it looks at your historic purchases of hotels and flights and makes a profile of how you like to travel: how early you like to arrive, what types of hotels you stay at, what time of day you like to fly, how close you prefer to stay to conferences, what amenities are in common, and so on. The more history we have access to in your email, and the more work events we can see correlated to it on your calendar, the better.
This was a fun project, something my good friend Arun and I conceived when we were living in Singapore and he was a VC for Air Asia. But while fun to think about, we struggled to find a team to build it out in a timely manner. When it came time to initiate the funding process, I decided to move back to San Francisco and join an up-and-coming VR company.
This is my favorite startup idea that I wish I could build. I spent 3 months working on it in 2014, but hit a stop-gap because Facebook changed their API permissions and this app no longer functions with the new rules Facebook put in place. I’ll get to the technical challenges and setbacks later, first let me tell you about what got me so excited...
Imagine it’s Friday night and you want to find out what all your friends are up to, or you're just looking for something fun to do. NEXT would solve that problem by pulling data from all the events on Facebook that your friends are going to and showcase them in a beautiful design – in addition to giving you detailed information about everyone at that event, such as:
- the average age of attendees
- whether the ratio skews more to men or women
- singles vs couples
- which companies people work at
- what colleges they go to / went to
NEXT would solve the question of “what should I do next?” and “what should I expect from this event?”Additionally, NEXT would also build geo-fences around each event to keep track of who's arrived at the party, and send you push notifications when your friends start to arrive. Because I think we can all agree that being the first one to show up at a party where you don't know anyone can be a little awkward!
In showcasing the demographic information of events, NEXT would enable you to customize your plans according to your wishes. Some nights you want to go out and network with people for work, some nights you want to meet singles ready to mingle, while other nights you want to find people from your alma mater and relive the glory days. Either way, NEXT is the only place in the world that could show that to you, in real-time, wherever you are.
Perhaps most helpfully, NEXT would show you events that you’re currently not invited to. It’s not that you’re not welcome at those events, its simply that someone didn’t invite you within Facebook's complicated Event invite form. NEXT would fix this by showcasing you every event in your network, prioritized by what most of your friends are going to first, the times they are happening – all with specific filter options to let you find exactly what you’re looking for. With NEXT, you would literally have dozens of options every night you go out – and reaching out to friends at those events would just be an instant message away.
So what happened with NEXT? Well, in 2014, Facebook changed their API settings, so that now you can no longer see anything your friends or others are doing, unless they have the app downloaded also. Thus, making it nearly impossible to get information on people at events and what events your friends are signed up for. NEXT could still work with massive user growth, so I’m not fully giving up on it, but it’s moved to my back burner for the time being.