I am infrequently surprised by the so far relatively small successes I have had because I have extremely high expectations for myself and the work that I do. That said, I was sincerely surprised by both the quantity and quality of outreach I received in response to my first request for startup posted just over one month ago as of this writing.
Within 48 hours of the post, I had assembled of team of six individuals including myself who were interested in contributing to the project in whatever ways they could (coding, funding, design, etc.). This team has been meeting once weekly ever since and will soon have a simple solution to show for it. I look forward to sharing it at the appropriate time.
Maybe most surprising to me has been the persistence of messages I have received weeks after the original post, perhaps because I have not posted another blog since, or perhaps because the idea has struck a chord with many more people than I would have thought, or perhaps because my following is larger and/or more engaged with my blog specifically than I had presumed from its less than 100 email subscribers (99 as of this writing). Perhaps the reception has resulted from a combination of all of these factors and more. Regardless of the reason, below you can see some screenshots (with sender names removed) from a few messages that I have received in the last 48 hours alone.
The overall response to my first request for startup has not been quite as crazy as one might assume based on the activity I shared from the first 48 hours and the screenshots above from the last 48 hours, but still, the quantity and quality of responses from these 96 hours alone has been far greater than what I had ever expected to receive from the original post.
Anyway, I am now quite curious to see if the success from the first request for startup can be replicated a second time and in a reliable way moving forward. I tweeted the other day about one of the coolest aspects of all I have been doing:
If in becoming a magnet for people working on interesting things I have also become a magnet for people interested in working on interesting things, it may be that I could regularly post ideas on here which I wish someone would build, and that with a little help from me and a lot of work from others, some of them will get built. From my perspective, I am here to provide an initial idea, a spark to action, and a Schelling point where people interested in working on a particular project can meet. I am also here to connect the people who gravitate to the project through me in this regard, to organize the founding team, and to help them however I can (product, team, funding, distribution) with a small and decreasing time commitment along the way so that I may continue to help new projects get started in perpetuity.
On the subject of helping new projects get started, let me segue into the first of two new kinds of match apps that I have been thinking about lately which together will serve as my second request for startup, as is implied by the title of this post. If both ideas gain traction, perhaps we will get a 2-for-1 out of this second RFS. With increased expectations after the first go-around, my hope is that at least one of these two ideas will be at least as half as interesting to half as many people as the first one was, and that would be plenty enough interest to build off of and get another project underway.
Match App #1
The first new kind of match app would be for the purpose of introducing co-founders. Think “Tinder for Co-Founders”. The purpose of the app would be to pair technical and business-minded co-founders, builders and storytellers, coding missionaries and product visionaries. I fundamentally believe that many more people could start great companies than those who do and that the reason why many of them don’t is because they are missing the complementary co-founder they believe they need to do so. This would set out to solve that problem. Think of it as a place where Woz meets Jobs. An exceptional outcome would be if the pair of founders that starts the next Apple were to meet through this app. Naturally, we will call it Pear.
The above image I found on Google could serve as inspiration if anyone wants to draft and submit a possible logo.
In addition to the name and logo, I also bring with the introduction of this idea a proposed mission statement as follows:
“We believe startups are good for the world. Our mission is to help more start and succeed.”
As I did with the first request for startup, I will offer a few features of the product which I think could be important and help to paint a picture of what this could be and how it could work. First, it would be important to build an effectively leveragable network through the app so that the users (founders) can help each other, not only the partners who they meet, but the broader network of founding pairs. In this way, the app would begin to function as a founder community and digital incubator of sorts. The company can gradually develop a group of successful entrepreneurs and investors who are willing to share their time with the founders in the community. Think the kinds of people whom I have had on my podcast. Eventually, those who emerge successfully from this ecosystem would circle back to further empower it. It would not be exactly like YC, but it would not be totally unlike YC either. One key difference is that it starts earlier. You typically go to YC with your founding team in place and an idea worked out, if not a company already started. None of these prerequisites are necessary to go and meet your cofounder on Pear. Eventually, it would be much easier to raise money as a pair of founders from Pear than it would be to do so without.
The introduction of the initial cofounders and the endless list of benefits which would accumulate with time to those in the network would come at a cost of perhaps as low as 1% equity in the company — and that would be the best part. The whole thing is a bet on itself. The incentives are inseparably aligned. Pear would be better off facilitating the start of one extremely successful company than one thousand duds. What I have described is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to be conceived of and done. I personally think it could get very interesting. If it sounds at all interesting to you too, I will look forward to hearing from you. Please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Twitter @blogofjake.
Match App #2
The second new kind of match app would be for a similar use case as the one Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, and whatever other match apps are out there (which I am happily not a user of) claim to be for. The difference between my idea and the apps that already exist is that this new match app would be audio-only. The seed of the idea actually came to me from a scene in the movie Her (from 6:50 – 10:00 if you want to check it out with full disclosure that it is inappropriate) where the main character played by Joaquin Phoenix gets in bed and pops his Airpods into in his ears. Of course, they were not actually Airpods as the movie came out 3 years before the first Airpods were released, but they looked and functioned just like the popular pods which we have now come to know as Apple’s latest killer product. Anyway, Phoenix’s character puts in his Airpods and tells his headphones’ version of Siri, “go to chatroom standard search” which, for him, Siri reports back, is “adult female, can’t sleep, and want to have some fun”. This predictably leads to a few options of women in audio-swiping succession who fit the description that he was looking for and he ends up having a nightmarish experience with the one he ultimately ends up matching with.
Despite the particulars and the negative outcome of his experience, I actually think the concept of an audio-only matching app can be quite interesting and does not need to be so explicitly sex-oriented, superficial, or transactional as it is in the movie. Tinder and the others have more or less stooped to acting as such sex-oriented, superficial, and transactional service themselves and actually the reason for my idea to exist in the first place is to offer a more human alternative to those apps. I still think the best app for introducing people in a meaningful way that can lead to more long-lasting romantic relationships has yet to be made, and I believe the answer is audio.
The existing match apps use some combination of pictures and self-descriptions and sometimes some self-selected preferences to match people. While a broad set of information might be collected, in practice it generally degrades into users making split-second yes or no judgements based on a picture or two which likely doesn’t even accurately represent the person’s true physical attractiveness as you might perceive it in real life let alone their overall attractiveness including their personality and who they are in a fuller sense. Of course, I am by no means denying the fact that physical attractiveness plays a large part in overall attraction and relationships, but I refuse to believe that it is the only factor for everyone. I think it could be good for people to have the opportunity to get to know each other a bit through conversation before they see each other or read any self-descriptions of one another or anything else that tends to be shallow and put people in boxes that are not necessarily true or fair. In the end, the other person’s looks could be a deal-breaker for one person or the other but perhaps they could then part in a respectful and unoffensive way after having gotten to know and like each other at least enough to proceed to the point where they could meet over video or in real life and have a drink or a bite to eat with someone they otherwise never would have taken the time to get to know.
There would be challenges from the beginning as there are with almost any network effects business but I think that, for example, the problem of going onto the app and not getting matched because there is not enough traffic could be solved by restricting the app in its early days to only operate, for example, between 5-6pm in a given time zone. Another problem could be that the system could be taken advantage of by bad actors but I think there are several ways to prevent that from happening through a simple reporting system or a 0-1 rating system where people can confirm that the person they talked to was not being a blatantly bad actor.
I look forward to hearing from you.