Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Posts Tagged ‘Ideas

It’s quite possible that I am just plain simply crazy, but if you bear with me and try to understand how my brain and thought process works, I think there is most certainly an idea here.

Energy is a Pressing Matter and Hot Topic in all Circles, but I think the basis of our problem isnt focused on.

Energy is a Pressing Matter and Hot Topic in all Circles, but I think the basis of our problem isnt focused on.

So I was sitting through a Sustainability Conference in IIT Madras today and there was one talk on Energy Consumption. The talk essentially mentioned how we ascertain energy demands by our peak hours. The problem being we need that at the most, and at times when its not the peak, we have to “shed” the load, and it usually ends up being dumped into the grid, and thanks to our grids not being designed properly, it usually ends up overloading half of rural India. That’s a different story all together.

The hint was in a passing by comment that the problem with energy is that it has to be consumed as and when its produced. There is simply no way to store it. If you want to store it in batteries and such, its simply not viable for large quantities, since its very expensive.

I have no idea what happened for the rest of the talk, apart for when he showed graphs and numbers – which always catches my attention, but he also mentioned that they were not accurate, which made me go “bleh” and back to my thinking process.

The Idea:

So Energy. The basis is that all energy is created from one form or the other. So Lets accept that we cant break this rule and make newton roll over in his grave. Knowing limitations are a plus point.

Lets learn a little bit of inspiration from biology. We take food, we break it down into amino acids, the smallest and easily metabolic form of food, and then the system burns it into energy as per the demands of the body. Compare it with however it is that we create energy, saying that one form of energy – coal or whatever is converted into energy which is converted into electricity which is probably the simplest form of energy.

If you look at biology, the food that is intaken, if the broken down food is more than the “demand” of the system, then the system quickly converts them into FAT and stores them all around the body – which is what provides all those funky love handles that people put so much energy to get rid of. But quite strictly speaking, its just the systems way of saying that we are consuming more than we need, and it is storing it away for a rainy day. The first signs of starvation and thats the storage unit that the system starts feeding off of.

Whats the FAT version of electricity? That’s the question.

Now, I am thinking that there is a possibility here that one cannot go directly from coal into  free flowing electrons. And we are probably missing a middle step that might help us with efficiency.

Secondly, there must be a way to join these electrons to become something that is more passive and with a trigger break them down into simpler free flowing electrons again.

And you know what? If that is possible… you and I would never have to wait for ages for our phones or ipods t get charged. We can technically dump these “FAT” into our devices, and let the device trigger these substance into electrons so that we get a full charge. But the deal is that, just like it doesnt take the body more than a few enzymes to break down FAT back into Amino acids and use them, we have to have these in a form that the devices themselves can transform without elaborate machinery – aka. combustion chambers and engines.

I think it should be possible. These are days when I wish I was a physicist and a chemist put together. But if, and I think it can be, it is possible, then technically we should be able to catch “energy” as and when it happens – from the lightnings, to tornadoes, to cyclones, save up all the energy and use it for when we need it. We can harvest all of the Sunlight hitting the earth and probably setup plants that can fight some of the global warming, and probably use energy in a way that is not as harmful to the planet as our current barbaric ways are.

There was sometime back when was doing a rough math on how many live camera streams there are. There are some that are pointed towards the “habitat” of the Loch Ness Monster, there are enough live traffic camera, and plenty of them pointed towards a birds nest or so. And if you take the example of Justin.tv (which seems to be inspired by The Truman Show), even people are willing to play their part in all this.

Ofcourse all of this is a one way broadcast. Apart from adult sites which are apparently making their niche through two way interaction, there is not much that is happening in this space.

Is there any of that, that can be adapted into the “green” scenario? A couple of light bulbs went on and off and here’s the thought (or Idea):

MMORPG
The forest department today plans thousands of saplings every year on barren lands to convert them into lush green forests, but the biggest problem with it has been the case of watering them. There is not enough manpower to do those menial tasks – at the salary that the govt is providing – and there is also the issue of accountability where all the saplings near the roadside stand straight and well watered, but the ones in the interior die away because laziness kicks in for most of these workers. They are not to be blamed either when the scorching sun is merciless on them and they are poorly prepped for all that.

The idea is to basically plant all the saplings as the forest department does and then have water drums which can be filled periodically with water from trucks (much simpler task). The pipes to the saplings will be set on drip irrigation and there will be a soil moisture sensor in the soil which measures if there is water or not. Set a Camera that overlooks this area, connect it to the Internet and create a frontend to a MMORPG (Massively Multi-user Online Role Playing Game). If that’s too much of an acronym, think Second Life. People can “adopt” grids of these fields and take care of them. All they have to do is, once the soil moisture turns a bit low, hit the buttons that will start the drip irrigation and stop them when the moisture level is optimal.

There are already countless number of such “events” that happen in Second Life, where if one plants a sapling in the virtual world, an organization instead plants one in the real world somewhere. This would just be an extension of that.

Now, technically you can take this to the next level. Think of all the Wild Life Sanctuaries. The biggest problem today is Poachers (I am still worried if I have to show stuffed toys of Tigers as our National Animal to my kids someday), and the forest officers are not nearly paid enough to scout the areas – and they are very ill armed to protect themselves from these animals as well. What if we could setup a range of Wifi cameras, stream the videos and let people monitor them. I’m sure there are enough animal activists around the world that some might even take it up while we sleep. All they would have to do is to hit a button which will alert the officer if a Poacher is spotted. And give the front end the control to click a snap if they want to document something and we might capture poachers and exotic wildlife as souvenirs.

I think finally, and its about time that the conscious of having to go green is kicking in. And we are gonna have to do everything – not just to sustain – but positively influence this planet to make it sustainable and even stay on the existential path. Maybe entrepreneurship, technology and the enthusiasm of the global audience can create a network of Global Watchers, to take care of the assets around us – All this while getting to “play” their roles.

Social Networks are the way to the future. Ah, I can see people getting ready with pitchforks to nail me to the wall, but lets hear this out.

There is this basic ideology. The paradox of the masses. Whenever at any given network the number of members become too huge, the system starts to break down. It happened with all other social networks, it happened with the internet before that, it happened with ICQ, it happened with Orkut, and it will happen with Facebook. Lets take the case of Orkut, and with a much more real life example to follow it. Orkut was great till it was reference based, and then case the day when it was opened up to everyone and then the masses came in and so did the “frandship” requests. Long story short, I deleted my account in Orkut and am hiding in Facebook till that eventual doom also arrives at the door step of Facebook.

I think this is the logical thing that is going to happen to facebook. Imagine that you are part of an elite club such as the Lion’s club (if it is elite enough) or lets take the Madras Club (known for its elitism) and you were part of the elite 50 and you knew everyone who was part of the club. Most of the members in that club enjoy that lifestyle and keep it closed for the very nature that they dont want to democratize it. Lets say that they do, what is going to happen is that there will be 300+ people flowing in, soon you realize that you dont very much “belong”.

In the first order of things of all creatures, the necessity to belong is a crucial one. When that starts to erode, everything starts to fall apart. In my visual imagination, its like a tower that rises and rises, till it eventually starts to crumble under its own weight and falls apart, that smaller networks start to arise out of the ashes of the parent.

All this is to state one thing. The future of social networks is one where there will be niche verticals that will get created for various things. Imagine meetups with a social networking aspect and that is what will happen. Now this is happening in some level with Ning . But the issue with Ning is two fold. One it cant get out of the domain name of Ning.com (which can be easily fixed), and the other is the fact that I need to recreate the membership everytime. What if I create a new “community” pretty much like what we do inside orkut or Facebook, but outside of the walled garden?

So the future is pretty much a case where there will be skeleton frameworks available so that one can give it the look, and theme it to what they want, all the way from Mac Cultists, to Cricket Fans to whatever one fancies, and the social linkages will be drawn out of Opensocial. Using the linkages one can easily pass on how one’s friend is part of a new network and can draw out a larger easily accessible audience for each of these interest groups.

Now comes the fancy bit. Each of the these verticals will need to be monetized to be sustainable. And just as facebook has Beacon, there is a need for a Unplugged beacon which can power these networks and make these initiatives sustainable. Given that they will be such a niche target area, getting an audience of say 40,000 – 60,000 for each genre would be fairly simple and would make for a very focused approach for these marketers and advertisers. There will be new ways and means of delivering the content, message and engaging those audiences.

There is most certainly an opportunity to tap here, especially as we start to see eCommerce on the rise in emerging markets with such staggering numbers.

There is nothing new under the sun. Nothing Whatsoever. Ideas are just evolved from one form to another to adapt and wear a new dress.

I often used to quote the phrase that “Ideas are worth nothing. Implementation is all that matters”. Its true, but it also frustrates a lot of people who think they have fabulous ideas in their hands. I don’t spell it out as much anymore, but I have figured out much easier ways to get that same point across.

A couple of months ago, I was introduced to a guy named Sian, the brains behind an event named Alpha Summit that used to happen in Europe. It was almost like Proto.in, except that their focus was slightly different. They focused on Tombstone companies. Companies which would have died, if not for that boost that an event brings together. They succeeded a bit in what they did, but turning around a company is no one day matter, it takes months and years to turn some companies around, and hence the Alpha Summit is no more. But the thought has stayed in my mind, that some companies simply are hatching ideas that are way ahead of its time. If the timing is right, and if it is repositioned, there is a chance for a miracle. Heck, if we have already categorized them as a tombstone, why not give it that shot? That’s been a thought in my head, as we are also looking at ways to evolve where Proto.in stands right now. But this thought goes beyond that.

When I first heard from Arun Katiyar, the concept of an Event Web, I was quite amused. It’s true, our life is a sequence of events, and an “event-web” as he put it, makes a lot of sense. SERaja was a company for which the visions came from Rajesh Jain and Ramesh Jain. Ramesh has published a paper on the same concept. They were one of the companies that presented at the first edition of Proto.in. Unfortunately, it seems that they didnt manage to build traction as they hoped to, but then just recently I heard a very similar pitch. It came from Dandelife and Lifeblob. Timelines, events, blogs, friends and how everything is interconnected.

While SEraja had complicated the implementation a bit my mixing multimedia content and such, and also adding the complexity of mobile phones and such, Lifeblog is taking the incremental step of taking blogs, appealing from a point where everyone is comfortable and taking it from there. To be quite honest, I signed up, found a fair bit of friends there and am still trying to figure out how well it works. I haven’t made too many posts there, given that I can barely keep my facebook, blog and twitter updated – let alone a lifeblob. But if you haven’t already succumbed to so many social networks, it does make sense to stick to that.

One of the oldest ideas that makes me remember of the phrase that Ideas are immortal is how Location-based services are coming up. LBS had the imaginations of people lighted up and quite a bit of rave imaginations I must say, were running behind what it could possibly do. Five years ago when I was bootstrapping a venture, we explored around that, lobbied with the canadian govt to give us location data and were shooed away. Fun times. But today companies such as bangalore-based Yulop are digging that old grave up and bringing that dream to life – atleast the hope of such dreams back to life.

Most often timing, and the wrong timing is what kills an idea. VoIP still hasn’t taken off, because people really don’t know what to do with it beyond making phone calls, and the infrastructure cost that goes into it is so darn expensive that it doesn’t justify the phone calls as a function or feature. VoIP will die its death in this timeline, but will come back again. Perhaps when 3G becomes prevalent and demand pushes need and applications and services are born, a revival might come in place.

Quite a lot of folks ask me whats a good idea worth exploring. It is quite interesting to note that the “ideas to toss” section of this blog is one of the most popular ones, apart from the controversial ones that come up from time to time. People are looking for ideas, and thats a statement. Sometimes, in order to look into the future, you just have to look at the past and see what has died before its time, and perhaps give those tombstones a new leash on life.

If you want a hint and a springboard, go right ahead to the deadpool section of Techcrunch and see, what you can dig up, and where you can play the part of a necromancer (Oh the Diablo playing days!)

More Links to Click:
Startup North
Startups that came back from the Dead
Michael Arrington Seeds Dead Startups.
Y Combinator List, with Lots of Dead Startups

Professional User-Generated Content. You think its Oxymoronic? Think again. Let me cite to you two examples. Rocketboom, and ZeFrank. I dont think Frank is doing the show anymore, but Rocketboom is essentially a low-budget, five minute clip which basically is one of those “tequila shot” videos, giving you a summary of everything thats going on out there. Sports, politics, Gossip, IPL, Entertainment, you name it.

It will make sense because:

1. Our Broadband penetration whatever the 4.2 million users are, are all essentially mostly IT Professionals.

2. These chums, have no interest in anything apart from Cricket, because they dont have time to understand the decades of stories behind political quibbles and other issues going on.

3.Humor has slowly begun to find a way among this crowd and given that these guys are all young, and most of them watch shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Even South Park (Please dont ask me what these shows are), a show done with a live-actual person, but on the same lines of humor, will bring about active engagement in a interesting fashion.

Rocket boom Stats:

+ Over 1 million post-roll complete downloads per week; 200,000 viewers per day
+ Over 500,000 text impressions per week of company name & link; 100,000 per day

The Video infrastructure, the entire thing to make this happen, along with the infrastructure to play ads and monetize this is, is available with two indian Startups – Ventuno Tech and Tekriti Software. If you have the guts (everybody in the media business needs guts), the ability to produce a show, and get a couple of eager, hyper, good-looking people on camera, you are game!

I was thinking of this while I was sitting through a brainstorming meeting and there were heated debates on the monetization capabilities of local business search services such as what Google Local is doing.

Well, there are arguments for and against it and for one, I dont believe that vertical silos of the same information is going to help. Justdial has done a fabulous job (atleast more than most) in aggregating critical info and I came to know that they just shut down their shop in Chennai because they weren’t getting many calls they are apparently still going strong. I hear they are much bigger in Bangalore and Mumbai, but I do suspect that the percentage of floating population also contributes much towards the success and breaking point of these “local” services.

This idea is and probably will form a crucial element for the Mobile Caller ID service that I have been talking about. The basic concept is this: If you take all these mobile operators, all of them (vodafone, Airtel, Aircel, BSNL) all have their individual customer bases. What would it take to come up with a unified telephone directory that bridges all these networks so that people can look up numbers easily.

If such a directory is available, then it will also make sense and will make life a little easier when the Mobile Caller ID part kicks in, since it will only have to query a single database and find the identify of the caller and his name.


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