I often have ideas for products which I wish existed but do not want to create myself. The reason I do not want to create them myself is not because I think they are bad. It is because I appreciate the intensity and duration of effort that goes into building a successful startup, and I am not going commit myself to doing that until I know I absolutely have to. So long as I am not going to build these products myself, the next best thing I can do is to share the ideas so that others may steal them. Perhaps I might have the ability to advise these people along the way and eventually invest once I have more money and am able to do so. By this logic, I may begin more frequently posting some ideas on the blog with titles as exemplified by this post beginning with the phrase, “Request for Startup:”.
Today, I would like to put out a request for a harmless vape, like a JUUL but without the crippling addiction to nicotine that comes with it. Some products related to this idea do exist from oxygen inhalers to aromatherapy vaporizers, the latter of which I have tried, but I am somewhat unsatisfied with the existing options. I am glad these products exist and they are better than nothing but they are not popular like JUUL or like smoking cigarettes and that is primarily because they are not cool. Perhaps it is true that a product like this simply can’t be cool and never will be, but I am not so sure.
The reason I want this idea to exist is because I would use it and because I believe others would too. There is a pleasure in smoking that those who have never tried it may not appreciate, but I think it comes as much from the act of smoking itself as from the actual substance being smoked. That is not to say that the substance has no impact on the experience (of course it does), but I think if someone can create something potent enough to create a nice head-rush or occasionally a fleeting sense of euphoria from an at least harmless or at best beneficial vapor, people would dig it. The problem with the existing options is again that they do not feel like they do much and they aren’t particularly cool.
It bears repeating, my idea rests on the assumption that the sensation of smoking is not just about the substance itself. It is about sitting outside a café or on a park bench or even just on the side of the street, enjoying a low effort and somewhat sensational activity so that you may let your attention wander to the things in your surroundings as you do it.
Consider Georges Seurat’s famous painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, pictured below.
No one is smoking but you could imagine they could be. In a world where we have infinite “entertainment” on our phones, it has quickly become unusual to see someone simply standing or simply sitting, just thinking or observing the world around them as in the painting above. Today it looks quite odd to be sitting on a park bench without looking down at your phone or at least listening to something through your headphones.
This morning, I was on a walk and took a break to lean against a guardrail on the side of the street. I noticed a wave of self-consciousness come over me as a car drove by. “What could he possibly be doing? Is there something wrong with him?” All I was doing was sitting there, like the people in the painting, listening to a stream, not of music through my headphones, but of water flowing behind me, and to the birds chirping from branches above. I saw the snow all around me and watched two deer venturing through the woods. I enjoyed the cold winter air and watched the steam of my breath as I exhaled. I realized, had I been smoking, I might not have looked as unusual, but rather cool.
It would be a tall order to request that we rewire the cultural consciousness to see someone doing nothing out in public and think of them not as unusual but as cool. The easier thing to do is to give people something innocent to do so that they may not feel hesitant to go sit in the sun for an hour. Perhaps a harmless vaporizer could allow people to do such a thing more comfortably, and could prevent others still from picking up a cigarette or a JUUL instead. This isn’t the most revolutionary idea and I feel somewhat silly making it my first explicit request for a startup, but the fact of the matter is that I would like to see a better product of this kind than is currently available to me. Perhaps something about this idea resonates with you. Perhaps you can make it happen.