Archive for the ‘Business Idea’ category

How Paying By Mobile Can Work

3 August 2010

AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and others are in a deal with Barclays Bank and Discover Financial Services to allow consumers to buy products and services with a “contactless” swipe of their mobile phones.

A pilot program will begin at retailers in Atlanta and three other selected cities.

I’m glad to see that this is not being done by Visa and Mastercard since those idiots do not know how to make paying-by-mobile work. If it was up to them they would be assessing fees of a dollar or more per transaction, basically killing the whole thing at the start.

Stock at the two largest credit card companies plummeted on the news while at Discover, the fourth-largest credit card processor behind Visa, MasterCard and American Express, shares jumped nearly 3 percent.

If you are a retailer you most likely have no love for Visa or MasterCard because of their constant raising of transaction fees. Congress last month passed restrictions on the fees these vultures can charge to retailers on debit transactions.

Hopefully Discover will do the right thing and charge very small fees for transactions that fall below ten dollars. How many times have we seen retailers put up notes on cash registers that tell us that they require transactions of at least ten dollars to qualify for payment by credit card? After all, who can make money selling a roll of mints for a dollar and incurring fees of more than 50 cents?

I’m not talking about percent transaction fees, usually 1 to 5 percent of the billed amount, I’m talking about the per transaction fees, minimum monthly fees, and other exhorbitant fees that merchant account providers assess. While Visa and Mastercard will gladly suck the blood out of credit card users and retailers, some merchant account providers make Vlad the Impaler look like a boy scout.

For example, some providers may charge 25 to 50 cents per transaction in addition to adding a small percentage fee of their own on top of those of the credit card issuers. Some even charge a minimum monthly transaction fee which requires that the merchant process a set amount of billing each month. These fees are around $15 each month although I have seen much higher.

If this new payment alliance wants to see pay-by-cell succeed not just in replacing the use of credit cards but in small one buck transactions as well then they have to insure that merchant account providers treat small transactions differently.

If they can do this, then we can be on our way to paying for everything with our cellphones. I mean everything: parking meters, candy machines, subway tolls.

But the real deal would be in micropayments, such as paying for reading a news article online or downloading a copyrighted work. I certainly would never pay 2 or 3 bucks a week to read an online newspaper in the UK but I would not hesitate to pay 1/20th of a penny to read a single article from the same source. It wouldn’t bother me if at the end of the month I spend ten or twenty bucks getting information I need from hundreds of sources. There are hundreds of millions of me in the world. Do the math.

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Catering to the Elderly

13 April 2010

Since the purpose of this blog is to inspire our readers to start a business, I suggest that supplying clothes to the elderly is the next big thing.

With the increase in longevity, American seniors will soon be one of the largest demographic in our country. Certainly they make up a good share of the fashion market, and in response designers worldwide are now coming up with appropriate wear for the older generation.

Here are some examples:

clothes for seniors

clothes for seniors

clothes for seniors

clothes for seniors

clothes for seniors

clothes for seniors

clothes for seniors

How to Brainstorm – Suspending Judgment

31 March 2010

Every business eventually gets stale. If new ideas, processes, products are not introduced then it invites competitors who are more creative to steal your customers.

acai apple granolaAt one time cereal shelves were filled with only a handful of products: corn flakes, puffed wheat, Grape-Nuts Flakes, Cheerios, and a very few others. In late 1949 and the early 1950s sugar cereals began to proliferate: Sugar Crisp, Sugar Corn Pops, Sugar Krinkles, Sugar Frosted Flakes, Sugar Smacks, Trix, and Rice Honeys, for example.

In the next few decades hundreds of different cereals came out and instead of just dominating shelves, cereals dominated entire aisles. In 1989 Kellogg’s came out with Heartwise and many other manufacturers began pushing whole grain and “healthy” cereals.

Today one can find practically every fruit, nut or spice in the product mix: marshmallows, bananas, dates, raisins, walnuts, apples, cinnamon, peanut butter, cranberries, cocoa, blueberry muffins, caramel, pecans, granola, and more than a thousand others.

Brainstorming is not needed to come out with a new product mix, one can simply combine a few fruit or nut names and viola! one has a new cereal product: Acai Apple Granola, agave strawberry cocoa, Apple Caramel Pecan Crunch, banana cream caramel waffle flakes, and so on.

Where brainstorming might help, for example, is coming up with new packaging to help one product stand out from the crowd, let’s say a star-shaped box for oatmeal galaxy flakes (which are also star-shaped).

Or perhaps boxes that when fit together make a puzzle.

The problem with brainstorming sessions is that unless the session moderator is able to stifle judgment, participants may find it difficult to come up with ideas or suggestions to solve a problem.

I have been in many brainstorming sessions and I find that a judgment-penalty-jar helps to keep the negative comments or judgments down to a minimum.

This is how it works: all participants are handed approx 40 poker chips with each chip standing for 25 cents (or any other amount set by the moderator). A negative opinion jar is set in the middle of a table – and everyone is informed that the jar starts off with $100 (or whatever amount the company want to ante with). Any time a participant utters a negative statement, he must put a chip in the jar.

The negative comments can be put on a whiteboard so everyone knows what not to say during the session: here are some samples: that won’t work, we can’t do that, that’s a stupid idea, I don’t like that, why would we do that? that’s silly, that’s crazy, our organization is not built for that, we’ve never done that before, we’ve tried that before, we’re not set up for that, it’s too expensive, it’s too cheap, too hard, too easy, we can’t make money from that, market research shows …, do you have any evidence that …, but our focus group showed different results, we’ve always done it the other way, etc.

The moderator should put all participant names on a separate board and put a checkmark every time someone has an idea, no matter how crazy. Every ten minutes, the idea generation process is suspended and everyone votes for who had the craziest, most absurd suggestion during that ten minute period. That name is then put into the jar. At the end of the brainstorming session the person with the highest number of checkmarks (overall ideas) and the person who had the highest number of stupid ideas share equally in whatever is in the judgment jar.

Those participants who lack chips because they had negative comments must come up with money for the missing chips. This ensures that nay-sayers will eventually not show up at sessions.

In this manner, I have been at sessions where 10 people generated more than a 500 ideas and more in less than an hour.

What to do with all those ideas generated will be for a future post.

Photoshop’s Content Aware

30 March 2010

If you deal with images you no doubt by now are aware of Photoshop’s Content Aware (video), a tool to help remove unwanted elements in an image.

The purpose of this blog is to help suggest possible opportunities for businesses and this particular advance in photography will undoubtedly help many aspiring but not overly talented photographers break into the business.

Taking unique, interesting, and unblemished photos is not that easy. Retouching photos, while ostensibly frowned upon in the industry, is nonetheless widespread. We recall the photo-shopped image by the media arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in July of 2008 when they added a fourth missile to make their weaponry exhibition more impressive (read NY Times story):

iran missile photoshop

This could all have been avoided with the new tool which would have made the addition undetectable.

Indeed there are no shortage of web articles regarding photoshop fails:

photoshop fail

Fortunately Getty Images makes it easy to submit your photos for sale, check out their submission site.

Marketing the Cure for Cancer

25 March 2010

First, let me give you the beginning of the story (with a Hat Tip to Skirmisher):

Live Longer Now Blog, Nanobots Kill Cancer Cells

The image below shows an exciting development in cancer cure: nanobots successfully attacking a cancer cell, disabling it. The “attack nanobots” do the work by safely delivering what is called small-interfering RNA (siRNA) to deactivate the protein, thereby starving the tumor cell to death.

nanobots attacking cancer cells

A Caltech-led team of researchers published the first proof (in the March 21 online edition of the journal Nature) that a targeted nanoparticle injected into a patient’s bloodstream can turn off a cancer gene. This also bodes well for therapeutics other than those that attack cancer at the genetic level [see Caltech Press release].

Now comes the end of the story: just because one finds the cure for cancer does not mean anyone can get it soon.

So You want to be your Own Boss

In today’s world, even more than in the past, business success has nothing to do with your product or million dollar idea. You can have the cure for cancer, but unless you know people in the FDA and pharmaceutical business you will get nowhere. Believe it. On the other hand, you can sell frozen dog-turd and make millions if you have contacts, a customer base for any other product, thousands of retail outlets that already sell something, distribution channels, distributors, wholesalers, manufacturers reps, and significant web traffic (and it doesn’t matter what you’re already selling).

So will nanobots be considered a drug, a procedure, or a tiny medical doctor all on its own? Because the FDA requires testing in the hundreds of millions of dollars before they will approve any drug or medical procedure it will take years for anyone to actually get a hold of the tiny devils.

But people are dying of cancer now – so here’s a business idea: buy the bots from Caltech and take them to Mexico where rich Americans can go to get treatment as many already go for prostate cancer treatment, cosmetic surgery, weight loss surgery, dental treatments and many others. About 40,000 Americans travel to Mexico for medical treatment each year.

You set up a website, provide air transportation, taxi (or limo), medical consultations, hotel arrangements, and even provide for post treatment stays at resort areas. The commissions from the various service providers can quickly add up to a significant amount of money. All this courtesy of the stupidity of the bureaucrats at the FDA.

People with zero medical experience have already set up clinics throughout Mexico.

Related: See video of Mexico’s Distinction In Medical Technology Development.

How to Succeed in Business

22 January 2010

The wheel was invented about ten thousand years ago. At each stage, from a simple log to help move heavy objects, to chariots for hunting and war, to two-wheeled farm carts, to covered carriages, and finally to four-wheeled freight wagons and passenger coaches, there was an entrepreneur who helped advance to the next and greater wheel.

There are only two choices in life: be an entrepreneur or work for someone. I ignore for a moment the twentieth century invention of the union where one can not bother working at all and still get paid.

Aside from drug dealers I’m one of a select few Americans who has actually carried a suitcase weighing 110 pounds filled with hundred dollar bills or walked the streets of New York with millions of dollars of gold in my backpack; so it is quite often that young people who know me ask for advice regarding what occupation or profession they should pursue to succeed in life. Actually, they are asking what business should they get into in order to eventually be their own boss and make lots and lots of money so they can retire early.

The answer is deceptively simple. Two things:

  1. Find something you like to do. Steve Jobs liked to quote an old Chinese proverb: “The Journey Is the Reward.” If you do not like your job, you will never succeed.
  2. Be the customer – don’t focus on the product. Another old Chinese proverb: “Make happy those who are near, and those who are far will come.” Case in point: Verizon is a company that will eventually fail because they are focused only on their products, not on their customers. For example, most of you are likely familiar that Verizon charges 1.99 for data usage, and that hundreds of millions of dollars each year are fraudulently being billed to people who have never made use of the service or who might have accidentally switched on the service.

    The Consumerist, Verizon Configures Phones So You Incur Erroenous Data Charges? (To The Tune Of $300 Million)

    “The phone is designed in such a way that you can almost never avoid getting $1.99 charge on the bill. Around the OK button on a typical flip phone are the up, down, left, right arrows. If you open the flip and accidentally press the up arrow key, you see that the phone starts to connect to the web. So you hit END right away. Well, too late. You will be charged $1.99 for that 0.02 kilobytes of data. NOT COOL. I’ve had phones for years, and I sometimes do that mistake to this day, as I’m sure you have. Legal, yes; ethical, NO.

    Roger Tang, Verizon’s regional head for Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, said the charges were not an attempt to con customers out of their money [Read more: Fierce Wireless].

    Despite that protests of innocence, Verizon is only “crediting customers for unintentional data charges as customers bring the ‘error’ to our attention.” This is of course how Verizon gets away with their scam. They know that it is very easy for a customer to mistakenly activate the Internet on their handsets but rely on the fact that only a small percentage will notice the extra $1.99 charge on their bill. The majority of people pay their bill without even looking at it because they trust Verizon.

    Over-billing, billing for non-existent services, billing for uncompleted calls, these are the standard practices of all the Baby Bells. Hopefully as consumers become more aware of these fraudsters, fewer people will do business with them.

That’s it. Once you find a job you absolutely love and you can “be the customer” then opportunities for going on your own will appear. If you focus on product or simply on making money, you must fail.

At the risk of pimping companies I consult for, I’d like to give you an example of a business you can start by first being the customer and then when you get the hang of it you can become a SIP Reseller; it’s simple, easy to start, doesn’t require huge upfront fees, and is completely refundable if you’re not satisfied.