Welcome to aaron chua make money blog

Hi, welcome to my blog. In this part of my world, I talked about how to achieve financial freedom by learning how to make money online through creating sites and earning from them.

Below are some current and past make money projects that details my learning journey.

My current experiment in making 50 amazon site niches. If you have not been following this challenge, best place to start is this resource page for the amazon challenge, that lists all the articles that I have written so far.

My experiment in making 1000 a month through adsense in 9 months.

If you came here looking for low cost startup ideas, here are 140 startup ideas that you can browse through.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Startup Idea #111: SMS based platform for delivering life saving content to the poor

This is a powerful article that covers a lot what Umair Haque has been saying. It offers a more down to earth (and easier to understand!) perspective of the great changes that we are going to see.

One of his paragraphs gives a great idea for startup:
Solar water disinfection (SODIS): put water which is contaminated with disease organisms into a plastic soda pop bottle and leave it in the sun all day. You can use a tinfoil reflector, or put it on a black sheet metal heat collector if you want to be fancy. The UV light and the heat kill most of what would make you sick.

This is a technique you can teach by well-phrased SMS messages. 5 million people a year die of dirty water, many of them children. SODIS won’t get all of them, and it’s not a perfect technique, but it’s easier to get people started on and odds-are many people who only have bad water to drink live in places with abundant sun and available discarded plastic soda bottles…

What if we can aggregate all these useful life-saving information, and organise them into easy to understand instructions which can be sent through SMS? This, I think, is another form of organisation that Umair Haque talks about in his manifesto for next industrial economy.

It is about organising information in a way that the people who needs them the most can assess and understand it.

If you have ideas on how to get this going, do drop a comment.

Idea generation #46: Predictive analysis for injuries, p2p as our future, reminding us to be happy and more

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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Idea generation #57: Measuring social capital

There has been a couple of interesting posts recently around social capital and I want to take this post to see how they are connected.

Following from Loic Le Meur blog post on "Twitter: We Need Search By Authority", Matt Ghuniem had a great insight: popularity is not authority. This then brings out the question of what is authority? It turns out that authority, as defined by the ability to drive responses, traffic and attention, is very much related to social capital.

If we loop the argument, then it is clear that social capital is beyond a theoritical concept. It has powerful business applications, with search being one of the examples. It also has the potential to change how people are valued in terms of job applications, fund raising, business networking, dating et al. It will change how marketing can be done (Imagine a person with high capital visits your online store, will you change your offerings to beter catch his attention in the hope that he will let others know?)

All these however, requires a new way to measure and capture social capital. This ties in nicely with a great post entitled: 'future of measurement' that talks about the need to capture things that are important and not well accounted for. I wanted to share the 4 key predictions that I think has absolutely nailed what will be important in the upcoming age of capturing non-financial capital i.e social, human et al:

  • We will substantially advance our understanding of individuals and the meaningful connections they have.

  • We will identify methods to tap what people are *really* thinking, feeling, and paying attention to, meanwhile gaining insight on what a measurement is truly capturing.

  • We will determine how to measure the value of social interactions and attach financial value, whether we’re monetizing attention or a new medium.

  • We will build better tools to manage-- analyze and visualize-- massive volumes of data, primarily tapping the evolving social graph.

If you are a startup and wants a rich area to build products/services on, this is one of the things you should think about. If you want examples of how a measurement startup can look like, learn from Amee.

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Monday, 29 December 2008

How to you build better equity?

This question has been bugging me for the past weeks ever since Umair Haque wrote about it in his post on the Great Rebalancing and Four Ways to Build a Better Economy. I thought I would throw it out for those who want to engage in deeper discussions on how do you exactly go about building better equity.

Firstly, how does better equity look like? Is it going to in a form that invests in human capital and creativity? If so, will it look like Ycombinator or Sellaband or both. Are they indications of what are things to come? Will this will evolve into markets for human equity contracts?

Secondly, how do we evolve better ways to manage equity? The current tools don't cut it but what are their potential replacements? Will it be in the form of real time communications, powered by the likes of Twiiter? Will it be a new form people-powered rating agencies? Will it be zero intelligence where the management decisions are made by the community i.e. Threadless?

Lastly, how can we scale these systems up so that any next generation innovator can build on top of it? How do we reduce friction of employing such new management techniques?

A lot of questions with no answers. Any takers?

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Sunday, 28 December 2008

Startup Idea #110: Services to build up social capital

When I was blogging about the idea of using a Zemanta-like service to help independent creators (i.e. musican, authors et al), that idea came out from extending what Zemanta can do. However, given the recent thinking about the importance of social capital (thanks, Ethan!), I think the potential of this idea needs to be re-articulated.

Ethan said it best when he posts that:

Getting back to my point: it’s likely that, relative to financial capital, connections to nodes on the relevant [human] business networks will become comparatively much more valuable. Startups can create a lot of value with little financial capital, but they need to quickly and easily access social capital at partners, suppliers, complementors, competitors, and of course customers to win.

Hence, in this hyper connected new economy, making solid connections is going to be a strong competitive advantage. So, there is a need for better tools or software to help people, especially individual entrepreneurs or creatives, to create more social capital. This is where I think Zemanta can be very useful. For example, they know whose articles I have posted here. How then do they make it easy for to connect to these people. How can they alert the writer of the articles that their articles have been used? This simple form of notification is a start to building up relationships, and why I find service such as Disqus very useful.

I am beginning to see such servics emergencing. Mr Tweet is one cool example started by a friend. I think there are opportunities for many other such services:

  • Who is going to make it easier for me to connect to the RIGHT people? The current recommendation systems of Facebook, LinkedIn et al tells me to add people whom I have ALREADY known. I need systems to tell me who I SHOULD know. That does not mean I should immediately add that person to my contacts. It means I should start to check out his blog, his twitter, his tumblr, the event he is going to et al. Who is going to make it easier for me to do that?

  • Who is going to make it easier to enhance existing relationships? Once I am aware of a useful contact, how do I enhance my relationships with them. A simple scenario: why can't I have a dashboard that tracks all the person's writing and allows me to respond to that directly. Disqus currently aggregates what I have commented and what others have comments on my blog. I need something to tell what conversations I SHOULD have participated in to increase my social capital. I need a combination of a feeds reader + comment system.

  • Who is going to make it easier for me to make a physical connection? I think dopplr is a right direction but it has limited users. Is there something that taps the status updates from services like Facebook and alerts me when I have the opportunity to physically meet someone I should know?

I think these are just the beginnings of what can be done. Applying them to verticals such as independent musicians, book authors et al is going to be another rich area for providing real value. Anybody doing this already?

Startup Idea #93: Contextual recommendation for self publishers

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Saturday, 27 December 2008

Idea generation #56: The importance of switch boards

As the social web evolves, the ability to move data around is going to gain in importance. Recently, I have noticed the emergence of such services. I called them switch-board services. They essentially act as switch boards to move your data around different web services. More importantly, they are not aggreators or destination sites. They focused on distribution.

TwiiterBoard focuses on integrating your Tweets to other services. Its first application is saving links in your tweets to your Del.icio.us account. I don't use Twitter so I cannot comment on its usefulness.

Switchabit is another such switch board service. I am currently using it to take my blog content and post it to Facebook and Tumblr. The service is still young. There are features i wish it has such as for my facebook friends being able to click directly to my blog. The tumblr integration also needs some work.

I think these services will be important but we need to create test cases that take them beyond the domain of 'geeks'. We need to imagine how this will impact other industries before we can harzard a guess of the degree of importance of allowing data to flow.

A simple case is to integrate your data with ecommerce services. For example, I can route my travel pictures in Facebook to a travel site, which then intelligently (through tags or image recognition) know what places I have been and recommend other travel locations. Another example, I can route my blog content to Amazon, which then recommends the relevant books for me.

Another application is in marketing. Tubemogul help video makers post their content to various video sharing sites. Switch board services take this idea further by letting you post your content from any location to other locations. If you are a photographer, owner of blog shops, video maker, musician, designer, tutor, financial advisor et al, this means you can distribute your products, services or content widely through the switchboard services, all without having to upload to another site (like what tubemogul is doing).

I am excited by switchbaord services because they are going to shape how we distribute things online. This is an area that that can bring big financial opportunities to whoever can get it right.

Startup Idea #90: Feeds based advertising
Startup idea #46: News feed opportunities
Startup idea #87: Feeds as the next search

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Startup Idea #109: 6 Twitter ideas

Happy thanks giving and here are some ideas for a lazy post-Christmas morning. They are all based on the concept that Twitter has become a growing platform. We need context to make sense of all the talking that is going on. This, I believe, will spawn many niche opportunities that a startup can pursue.

Some of these are trivial and some may seem totally unrealistic, but hey, it is post Christmas right?
  • Sports Talk: A stock twits equivalent for sports. Let users tag their tweets with the club name. MANU for manchester united, LIV for liverpool et al. Create a chart to show the level of support from the strength of the conversations. You might even allow users to place small wagers via tipjoy....

  • A Weebly for creating Twitter-based community sites: This idea came from a Techcrunch post mentioning why Twitter needs a group function. The example used was Twitter mums. What if you made it easy for non-technical people to create their own Twitter mums equivalent? A site/group builder that integrates into Twitter and offers all the community features such as blogging, forum et al.

  • Twitter for education: Edmodo is leading the charge here. How other things can we do? How do we turn the phone into a mobile learning tool via Twitter?

  • Twitter as an invitation tool: Most the invite systems are too time consuming. Twitter can be a light weight invite tool for simple events like lunches, small gathering et al. Just type in the place, time and a brief description of the event, and send. People can used rsvp via the reply function and the software will keep track of who is going.

  • Platform for mobile novels: I post about the emergence of Twiller a while ago (see post here). Coupled this with the successful model of Japan's cellphone novel and it is not hard to see Twitter becoming a platform for a new wave of book writers. What we need is a few simple functions added to Twitter's API such as payment, search and fiter (to find these books) et al to make Twitter into a publishing platform for cellphone novels.

  • A Twitter version of Flirtomatic: Flirtomatic is a successful mobile dating site that focuses on light weight virtual gifts that make flirting a fun activity. Can we add the virtual gift component to Twitter, plus some dating mechansims, to make Twiter into a dating service with virtual gifts as the revenue model?

That is from me. Have a great thanks giving!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Startup Idea #108: An open source ebook reader for the BOP

I think there is an opportunity to build a cheap ebook reader that comes with a marketplace like Apple's App store for users to sell and buy ebooks and articles. The current price of ebook readers are too high and lacks a marketplace. It also doesn't enhance the experience even though it is digital.

I hope the first market that a cheap ebook reader can reach is the bottom of the pyramid crowd. The kids of the poor have very poor access to information. A cheap ebook reader, with thousands dollars of free content, can be a viable way for them to overcome this.

Furthermore, if we can leverage on mobile kiosks in these countries to allow users to buy additional content through digital means, then we have also created a simple way for the poor to participate in the latest knowledge the developed world has to offer.

Of course, a cheap ebook reader will not only benefit the developing countries. The market for a cheap gateway into the world of written knowledge is going to be huge. Moreover, the market in developed countries might have a bigger appetite for slight higher price reader that enhances the reading experiences. Things like writng notes on your reader and sharing them with your friends who have the same digital ebook. Or taking one paragraph of an article and emailing or bookmarking that straight from the reader.

Some links for you to read and ponder.

A $20 ebook reader:

How to enhance the reading experience

How a startup, with $20,000, build a business on digital photoframe
. This shows that we can do a hardware business with low cost.

This is really powerful. Reinventing how books are created and distributed. Similar to how ipod changes how music is created and distributed. It will not be easy but that means less competition as well.

Startup Idea #107: Using games to improve financial literacy

I pointed out some time ago about this article from the Economist that highlights the need for people to be financially literate. I think this important, given the current crisis and financial education should start from young. The key challenge is to devise innovative ways to get kids interested.

One possible way to do this is through video games. This article from Wired pointed to an interesting direction: turning your piggy banks into arcade machines that help kids to save money.

I think this is just scratching the surface of what can be done.

  • What if we link these gadgets to a web service that allows the kids to track, compare, do mashup, share et al their results (like fitbit)?

  • What if achieving some saving targets unlock new content on their piggy banks?

  • What if they can have some form of virtual currency that ties in with their physical savings, and kids can learn to place these virtual currencies into virtual savings account to earn more credits to unlock content?

  • What if tournamnts can be set up to compare kids' game results from these piggy banks? Will all these encourage more savings?

As I mentioned in my post on Product 2.0:

a truly 2.0 product has to reflect, enhance and even transform the social experiences of users (either cooperative or competitive). It is to understand that such Experiences are the driving forces behind massive adoption, not merely being able to connect to the Web.

This idea clearly falls into that category. If anybody wants to build something like this, drop me a note!

Idea generation #38: Tim O'Reily on 'be good' and other 'be good' ideas
Startup Idea #73: Product 2.0

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Tuesday, 23 December 2008

We need to empower the parents

Here is a question that I would love an answer to.

Is there a site, template, program that I can use to help my son learn to program in? I have some skills but less time to sit with him, and having a 3rd party between a son and father during learning time keeps the testosterone down for both of us. I can be the adjunct but not the primary instructor with him.

He is 12 also and interested in computers. I love the angle of him developing a computer game on his own.

Originally posted as a comment by Tom Royce on A VC using Disqus.

HI Fred. Long time listener, first time caller, er, commenter.

Can you publicly or privately give any more details on how you are helping your son and the tools started with?

My son just turned 11 and he and I are just starting with Microsoft's new Small Basic environment but it's pretty rudimentary. His current passion is the Spore video game so there's a potential spark there that I'd like to help him with. Twenty years ago when I had Basic on my Atari 400 just doing readln and writeln to get text in and out seemed amazing but with the web and games these days, doing just for loops and console write makes it hard to keep their interest.

I know this isn't a typical topic for your blog but would love any more details on what you and your son are doing...

Originally posted as a comment by jeffbaker on A VC using Disqus.

I was reading Fred Wilson's post on disrupting education when I noticed comments likes the ones I posted above. This is not unique. Across the web, I noticed similar comments from parents across different sites, blogs and social networks.

This enforced my earlier blog post on the need for parents to share the way they teach their kids on a common platform. Each child is unique. However, with enough data points, we can aggregate successful teaching methods from different parents, and filter them by the child's age, learning styles, areas of interests et al. Organising information in this way helps parents to explore and use the appropriate teaching methods.

I think the discussion on education as always been on classrooms and students. It is time to empower the parents.

: Startup Idea #98: Parents sharing teaching experiences

Monday, 22 December 2008

Micromedia vs Mass Media

I want to share a personal experience today on the massive value of micromedia vs mass media.

I spent $15 buying Wired magazine to read on the trains today. At the end of the ride (about 40 minutes), I found nothing new. No new ideas, no inspirations, no new ways to think about the world. While the articles are well written, there is nothing is that I have not read before in a blog.

Compare the above experience with another article that I read on the train. It is a blog post by Fred Wilson that talks about disrupting education, with lots of insightful comments made by the community. It definitely gave me more room for thought than Wired. The best part of this: I printed that out and pay zero cents for it (not counting printing and paper costs).

This is pure economics at work. I read a lot of stuff on the web about technology and the new economic landscape. Niche blogs gave more targeted information than a mass market magazine ever could.

So, if you are into content, how do you compete with that?

Answer: You need to be the best filter there is.

Despite all the innovations we have seen in RSS readers, personal homepages, blog aggreations et al, I still spend a lot of time finding the right articles to read. Maybe the answer is not in alogorithms.

I believe the future of news discovery will be community powered. Twitter is becoming an important source links for me. How do you build on top on that to create a better filter for news discovery?

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Models for next generation financial businesses

How does next generation value chain for finance actually look like?

Umair Haque gave a glimpse of that in one of his remarkable posts:
The App Store is radical, ultimately, because it atomizes the value chain: where once a handful of scale-driven players could produce and distribute mobile apps, today, any number of players can enter. What was once monolithic is shattered into a million pieces. If the market can coordinate those millions of pieces effectively, the new value chain is hyperefficient.

Today, we are seeing startups that are 'breaking up' the functions of banks and distributing them to anyone who has a desire to enter into the market. Who are these players?

Prosper, Zopa, Kiva: Peer to peer lending models shatter the lending functions of banks. Anyone can be a lender in these networks. However, they are still not mainstream. What are the hurdles that preventing these models to scale? Is the Ripple model the answer?

Receivables Exchange: They shatter the bridging loan functions of banks. By selling outstanding receivables, much needed financing is available without resorting to vulture financing. If you are a startup, how do you add value to these new forms of markets? What kind of feeder businesses can be built on top of them?

Sellaband, Slice the Pie : New kinds of equity that invests directly in the creative capital of people. I think this is a massive innvovation. Will this will evolve into markets for human equity contracts?

Covestor: Breaks up the asset management business and allows anyone to participate in the trading business.

StockTwits: Allows anyone to be an real time research analyst.

I am not sure how successful these players will be in 5 years time although they are definitely interesting cases to watch. What I am sure of is that the finance sector will go through the same disruption we have seen in media. If you have more examples of next gen finance play, do leave them in the comments.

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Saturday, 20 December 2008

Idea generation #50 (Part II): Markets for electricity

Energy is really just another form of 'content' or data that travels across a network. We saw how businesses in media content have been revolutionized by the Internet. Will the energy sector be revolutionized as well, by the coming of smart grids and smart meters that are plugged into the Internet? If every home and building will have one and it too will be connected to the Net, this will provide energy efficiency and numerous revenue opportunities.

Some thoughts:
  • Who is going to be the Dell of the smart meters? Better yet, who is going to be the BugLabs
  • Who is going to provide software and applications to connect the Web to the Energy Net?
  • Who is going to manage the data, to filter and provide context to empower users to make decisions? To be the Amazon for providing useful recommendations for energy consumption?
  • Who is going to put all these information into mobiles and enable real time energy control?
Part 1: Idea generation #50: Markets for energy

Related: Wifi thermostat puts power (and cooling) at your finger tips

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Social recommendations done right

My wife was browsing through her facebook when she noticed the following comments from one of her friends:

She immediately got excited and click through to the photo to find the below. Next thing, she is looking for ways to buy the clothes.

I find this entire process enlightening. Now that it is easy to post content, the next step is to find context for which the content is relevant.

How do you make it easy for independent designers to find the right context to sell their stuff?

Is there a room for a TopSpinMedia for Fashion, and is this one of the building blocks?

Can we create A Zynga equivalent for independent designers i.e. to build a context for social shopping?

What else can we do to help independent designers?

Post your thoughts below.

Idea generation #54: Sharing as an edge competency.


A simple concept that is taking on new importance in this new economy.

I first seriously think about it when Fred Wilson, in one of his comments, mention that sharing is a big part of what social media is. Sharing enables interaction, which is the key value in social media.
  • fredwilson 6 months ago

    But the goal of social media should be two fold

    1) Make it easier to share
    2) Deliver value for sharing

    Then we'll get more sharing


But, today I learned that sharing is beyond social media and digital. Umair Haque has very elegantly showed us how sharing can be a key driver of value across real industries such as automobile. Sharing is in fact one of the next gen strategies that breaks the practice of encouraging consumption.(Investing vs consuming is also another way).

What else can be shared? What industries are there where sharing will reduce the incentive to consume and hopefully, free up resources to do more investment?

Monday, 15 December 2008

Startup Idea #106: Third part comment system for videos

Taylor Davidson has a useful post on the revenue strategy of Nico Nico Douga, which involves giving its community the ability to interact with each other via embedded comments and links with a video.

What is interesting about Nico Nico Douga is not the technology. Video annotation has been around (see veeple). Rather, it is the understanding that in social media, conversations are key. They have also show that it is possible to build a business if you give people the ability to converse, to personalise their conversations and to integrate the conversations around social objects.

What we are seeing now for sites such as Youtube is that the comments are not fully integrated into the media. It does not match the velocity that the video medium is capable of. Is it then possible to build a third party comment system for videos, similar to what companies such Disqus have done for blogs? An open system where any video can be embedded into and start enjoying the type of commenting system Nico Nico Douga has.

I wonder if the commenting system will be more useful if we throw in some Zemanta-like recommendation service that recommends the right kind of product image (that has an affiliate fees attached) for embedding into the videos. For example, a fashion video site will have fashionn product images, a car video site will have car parts, a anime video site will have figurines, CDs et al.

What I have outline above is a very rough attempt in exploring business models around the concept of conversations and new forms of referrals. This is such an exciting area to be innovating it and I look forward to any examples, feedback et al you might have.

Startup Idea #105: Virtual items for profile photos

giantrobotlasers:  This is really relevant to tipjoy. I could give someone $0.99 - but it would be really cool if I could give $0.99 to make 100 new people discover a friend’s tumblog. AVC logo

This is certainly a hint at a monetization strategy. Seriously! Thousands of people would pay for virtual goods like this - especially behavioral/functional virtual goods that influence how many people see my tumblog.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Startup Idea #104: Powering viral distribution

The power of consumer voices on the Net is growing as sites like Tripadvisors are becoming important lead generators. A study conducted last October by comScore and The Kelsey Group of 2,078 respondents, including 508 who used online consumer reviews, found that online, consumer-created reviews have a big impact on prospective buyers. The study showed consumers were so trusting of online reviews, they were even willing to pay at least 20 percent, and up to 99 percent, more if a company was rated excellent or five-star than if a business received a good, or four-star, rating.

If consumer are becoming important viral channels, it make sense that companies will need new tools to help them engage with their customers. Hence, there is an opportunity for a platform play that decentralised companies' commission or referral fees and pass them to customers so that they can help market the services they love.

In the hotel industry, for example,
hotels tend to pay out anywhere from 10-25% commissions on retail rates to 3rd parties and travel agents. A web based application can take these commissions and reward guests who have referred customers to them. This not only results in lower distribution costs, it also help companies to retain the customer relationship and also gain a lot more guests they want to attract, referred by trusted sources who’ve experienced the product and service.

How would this platform look like? I have a few possible scenarios:

The first scenario is for the more conservative companies. The platform can offer an online review form similar to reviewscale. Customers can fill the review form while the platform does the heavy lifting for embeddeding the referral fees mechanism into the reviews and distributing it to different sites.

A more decentralised approach is to have a plug-in extension where users can embedded the referral links within any reviews they have written anywhere, from review sites to their individual blogs and/or social networks. Skimlink has a nice example of how it could look like:

If such a referral platform is in place, we can then see the blossoming of viral distribution. Just like how RSS liberates content from their destinations, we should also liberate referral fees and allow them to flow to consumers who are passionate about the products/services they love and will want to promote.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Startup Idea #103: Spot.US for blogs

Spot.Us is a non-profit project that pioneers 'community funded reporting'. It is a really good idea that plays on the concept of intention market, where users indicate what they want and vendors respond accordingly. I believe this concept can be applied to blogging as well.

Many times, I have wished there was someway I can express my desire to read some topics from a particular blogger. For instance, I wish Fred Wilson can write a series of posts about hacking finance, hacking healthcare et al, and I don't mind putting a monetary value.

The idea, hence is create a distributed Spot.Us platform where blog readers can suggest the topics they want to read by the particular blogger and contribute a monetary amount if the topic was written.
Other blog readers should be able contribute to the topics that was suggested in a threaded format. Of course, the blogger will have the ability to delete any topic he/she doesn't want to write about.

The platform will be more useful is all the different topics that were suggested across different blogs can be aggregated, Disqus style. This can then create intention markets where bloggers can see what are the topics readers want to read about and how much they are willing to pay for it. It is also a good way to see trends in readers' interests.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Startup Idea #96 (Part II): Topspinmedia for the mobile

The concept of a mobile publishing platform for independent musicians becomes more and more sensible as I look around how the music industry is shaping up. Let's look at some numbers:
Mobile music was worth 9.1 Billion dollars in 2007 (source Netsize Guide 2008). Contrast that with the 30 billion dollar global music industry, and we find that 31% of the total worldwide consumer spend on music, is already consumed on mobile. The biggest part is ringing tones, obviously, but there are other billion-dollar markets already in full-track MP3 files and ringback tones sold to mobile. Karaoke, music video, welcoming tones, background tones and music streaming services round up the numbers. (from the communities dominated brands blog).

As the music market moves to mobile, musicians will need an easy to use publishing platform where they can connect with fans. This platform can and should be built on top of Twitter APIs, to both take advantage of network effects as well as to focus on the extra stuff that Twitter does not provide but is needed for a music publishing platform. For example, a mobile commerce engine is clearly needed as part of the platform to allow the selling of music.The Twitter platform allows for easy community building and is ideal for building a musician's fan base.

This platform will allow musicians to post updates on their daily activities as well as to post their music in the form of ringtone, mp3, live recording, sample music et al. These different forms of tweets should be marked by different icons as well as different dynamic action buttons. When user scroll down the tweets, different actions will appear on the mobile button. For example, when user scoll to the mp3 tweet, the button changes to 'play', 'purchase' et al.

This is my tentative product idea. I am sure more can be done. If you have any feedback, I will love to hear them.

See part one here:
Startup Idea #96: Topspinmedia for the mobile
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Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Startup Idea #102: Democratizing games

The Internet has the ability to push the power from organisations to individuals. MetaPlace is providing such a platform for game developers and is threatening to do to the game industry what blogging did to publishing industry.

If we think about blogging and the changes it bought, it goes beyond replacing the publishing industry. Rather, it brought about an entire new ecosystem of products and services such as publishing platforms (wordpress, blogger), comment aggregation (Disqus, IntenseDebate), recommendation services (Zemanta), community services (MyBloglog), blog advertisements (Federated Media), delivery services (Feedburner), aggregation (techmeme), search (Google, Technorati), verticals (seeking alpha) et al.

Is it possible then to think that platforms such as MetaPlace will bring about a new gaming ecosystem as well? If so, what are the products and services that this new ecosystem will need?

Techmeme equivalent: if tens of thousands of games are being made, how do you know which game is the most interesting to play?

Zemanta equivalent: if we are to encourage a non technical person to develop a game, we need to make it easier to give him the right set of codes, images, models et al. This is where a recommendation service will be the most useful.

Last.fm equivalent: games are social in nature and there is a need for a social layer to be added onto the games people play. This means an opportunity to build a community service such as Last.fm where users can see who are similar to them in gaming tastes, what games are their friends playing, the top ten games of their social network according to the different genres et al.

TargetSpot equivalent: for the ecosystem to thrive, we need monetisation mechanisms. They can be in-game ads or virtual items or merchandising. Whatever the revenue models, we need someone to provide an easy way for a non-technical person to profit from the games he made through simple APIs.

Disqus equivalent: Rather than comments, users might need a score aggregation services to keep track of the scores from the different games he played. Based on the scores, a tournament service can then be developed where players of similar scores can compete.

Aggregating Verticals: serious games, advergames, educational games. All these can be aggregated and filtered to give players an easy way to navigate to what they want.

For the new gaming ecosystem to be developed, we will need lots of parts to be built by lots of gaming fans. If you have ideas or feedback, do leave a comment below.

Slides on future of mobile

These are useful slides for me as I researched on the potential of mobile. If you are keen to explore this area, these slides can be quite a valuable resource

Future Of Mobile
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: countries developing)
Mobile Invisible Revolution
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: 2.5g 2g)

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Visiting Japan and seeing the potential of mobile social networks

Apologies for the lack of posts recently as I am currently on vacation in Japan. I want to drop a quick note here to say that mobile social netwroks will indeed become bigger than online social networks. This was already reflected in a slide presentation (see slide 19) by vinod khosla a couple of years back. However, seeing how the Japanese used it for their everyday communication purposes makes you believe that this will indeed be true.

What I see promising is to take the generic social networks concept and apply it around social objects that are suited to the mobile. This is make it easier to come up with mobile viral apps. For example, one big thing I notice in Japan is girls buying all sorts of accessories and makeup. It make sense to have a mobile network that focuses on this target group. We can then design viral apps that are relevant for the group. For example, one that enable friends to share their new accessories, nail polish, make up et al via images that they can capture on their phone.

I will share more about mobile social networks on I get home to do more research. If you have any feedback or comments, do free feel to drop me a note.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Startup Idea #101: New models for photography industry

I had a great time reading Talor Davidson's blog post on the changing landscape for the photography industry and what are the opportunities that such a changing landscape brings.
Some of the points he raised seem right for startups to build something upon.
Publishing Platforms: Rather than rely on sites like istockphoto, photographer should start to build relationships directly with their fans and community. A open source publishing platform like BandCamp will be needed. Photoshelter is a good start but I feel it is not geared sufficiently towards helping photographers better connect with their community, such as the lack of viral distribution and analytics capabilities.

More importantly, an open source platform will allow other developers contribute to make the platform better for everyone. Photoshelter can never beat an open source version where new add-ons or new features are contributed by the community.
Ecommerce Platforms: Photographers must begin to better understand the context of where and how their images can be used. A contextually sensitive ecommerce platform can help photographers remix and rebundle their photos into different context (powerpoint backgrounds, wallpapers, scrapbook items, greeting cards), different topics (locations, celebrities, indutries), different colours et al.

The platform should allow photographer to decide how they want to sell their photos. They can sell it as a subscription, per download, or even free if the user sends in their emails. All these will allow photographers the flexibility to decided on the best way to engage their community.
Discover platforms: If photographers start to host their own sites, then there will opportunities for discovery services to help users discover new images and photographers. In the music business, we see discovery services such as Hype Machine. We need an equivlent in the photography business but using Flickr's 'interestingness' alogorithm to surface the most interesting and breath-taking image.

Startup Idea #94 (Part 1): Helping independents to earn a living

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Startup Idea #100: Improve virtual world merchandising

As virtual world items becomes the default business model for many free to use social networks, games and virtual worlds, there is an opportunity to improve the sales conversion through a sophisticated merchandising platform.

In the real world, there are many product strategies that are devised to improve sales ratios.

A 'razor and blade' strategy, for example typically involves selling a item for less than its costs in order to sell more peripherals that this item needs to operate. We can use this technique in the virtual world as well. Why not give away a virtual radio or game console, and then charge for music or games to be played in these machines?

Packaging is also important to a physical product but why is there no effort made to package a virtual good? This is especially important when virtual items are given by players to other players as gifts. Why not make the 'revealing' of these gifts an experience, with music, animaiton et al?

Recommendation system, pioneered by the likes of Amazon, have proven to be useful in improving sales but they are not used to in virtual goods. Why not? I can see, in clothing virtual items for example, that such a recommendation system will be popular among users, especially in conjuction with in-world events where users want to look their virtual best.

Loyalty points, special event promotions, coupon redeemption are also fairly common promotional techniques. Again, virtual world items have seen very little of the above being used.

I believe there is an opportunity to build better tools to help virtual worls, games and social networks monetise their virtual items better. All these tools should provide simple APIs for developers to plug into their products and then see the magic happens. With development tools getting more and more simple to use (see MetaPlace as an example), we will see more independent small scale projects that need simple tools to help them sell more virtual items.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

3 cool startups

I read about some really cool startups during the past week so I thought I will share it here with everyone:

  1. Boxee: Fred Wilson called it the 'firefox of media content'. I find Boxee utterly intriguing because there are so many powerful concepts in it. It allows users to reorganise their content into streams of attention, making it one of the few reconsturctors. It is also able to become the 'RSS reader' of media and in the process, able to conduct profile based targeting ads. Finally, it is able to become the 'wordpress of the media center OS' and such openess is becoming the defacto business strategy.

  2. Ocarina: A cool iphone app that turns your iphone into a flute, with the ability to share your tunes around the world. Beyond the coolness of the app, this also shows how the iphone is less of a phone and more of a mobile entertainment device. In fact, it might possibly disrupt the portable gaming console market. With its many sensory features and the low price point of its apps (relative to psp or ds games), the iphone might do to the portable game console what Wii did to the game console.

  3. StockTwits: An open, decentralised financial information service and conversation tracker. This can be seen as an light weight Bloomberg for the masses. It is also interesting as the first powerful application in a vertical that is built on Twitter. What other verticals can this model be aplied to?

Monday, 17 November 2008

Startup Idea #94 (Part 3): Bandcamp

I just discovered Bandcamp and was pleasantly surprised that we have a Topspinmedia competitor in the making. I think this just the beginning of a trend. Soon, we will see startups that provide such tools in many different industries.

What I hope to see is Bandcamp taking the concept further and putting it on the mobile. I see this channel as offering more interaction potential between bands and fans. For example, I can foresee that fans will like a Twitter like streaming of their bands' daily activites.

Mobile is also a media where there are already in-built payment mechanisms. This makes mp3 commerce more viable. In addition, ringtones and ringbacks are already proven business models. So, why not start with that and allow your fans to purchase this immediately?

I definitely like BandCamp as business concept. I think there are a lot of opportunities for other startups to pursue.


Startup Idea #94 (Part 1): Helping independents to earn a living

Startup Idea #94 (Part 2): Helping independents to earn a living

Idea generation #53: Social Q&A services on your phone

I found this fascinating quote today:

The reason I am blogging about this, other than to get all of you to go download the app, is because Live Poker is the first first application to leverage Facebook Connect to allow iPhone users to play with their real friends and access social information such as real player photos. Just think about that for a second. We've now got apps on open mobile phones connecting with apps on open social nets. It's only a matter of time until we see more of these live mobile apps running on iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Windows Mobile, Symbian, and connecting to Facebook, MySpace, and other social nets.A VC, Nov 2008

The ability to tap on your social graph with your mobile has immense potential. One area is taking the concept of Aardvark and applying to the mobile phone. Aardvark is Yahoo answer + twitter. It analyzes the question you post and distributes them to your social graph according to who is in the best position to answer it.

Applying Aardvark to mobile makes a lot of sense. Very often, you need answers when you are NOT at your desk. Your phone is your best bet to get a quick answer. If you can leverage off your social graph to get the answer, even better. The app shoud be able to not only assess who has the best domain knowledge to answer your question, but who is currently as well. Hence integration with status information is also important.

I think integration your social graph into mobile apps is worth more thinking about. What are your thoughts.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Startup Idea #98: Parents sharing teaching experiences

This idea was inspired by the book 'Disrupting Class'. The thesis of the book pointed out that we need flexible and modular teaching tools to fit the different learning styles of children. There was an interesting paragraph that mentioned how parents might already be doing this via their own initiative. For example, a parent might be stringing alphabets into music for his/her children who are musically inclined.

I found this concept very intriguing and did a couple of Google searches on how parents are teaching their kids. It turns out parents are indeed devising their own teaching methods and posting about them through blogs. This blog post for example writes about how a parent is teaching her kids the meaning of financial planning via through the use of bricks.

So, is it possible to create a community where parents submit and share their teaching experiences? I think it can be and should be done. This is the kind of bottom up innovation that formal institutions cannot provide and something that 2.0 is meant to accomplish.

This community platform should allow parents to submit their experiences or tips directly or through their blogs. It should structure the data such that they can be sorted by subjects, children's age and more importantly, the learning styles of children. This last point is very important as it allows the customisation of the materials to suit a child. For instance, a parent whose child learns better via touching will get a series of tips on how to use touch in educating him various subjects.

The platform should also parents to form meetups to better share their teaching experiences face-to-face or to even co-educate. The ability to form groups is critical as pointed out by the book 'Here comes everyone'. The platform should allow the users to do so by geography, interests, children's age et al.

Finally, the platform should generate its own feeds of whatever content a parent wants. He/she could, for example, generate a feed on learning tips for 5 year olds whose learning style is through images. These feeds can then be shared or diseeminated acrossed the web to hopefully benefit more people.

I am excited by this idea or at least in the direction it is pointing to. I think education is one of big issues we have to solve, along with environment, poverty, healthcare et al. If anyone is working in this area, why not share your experiences via the comments. I will definitely love to hear it.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Startup Idea #97: A marketplace for volunteers and charitable organisations

If you like to be a volunteer, where would you go? That is the question I was asking myself when I thought about volunteering the other day. There is no information source where I can assess where can I volunteer, what kind of help are organisations looking for, the organisations' environment, the type of people I am helping et al.

There should a marketplace of sorts where these information can be assessed and volunteers can be matched to organisations looking for them. Moreover, volunteers should be able to share their stories, be they words, images or videos such that these stories can be told to the rest of the community. In fact, volunteers and organisations can even rate each other to create some form of reputation mechanisms.

Such a marketplace is exciting to me because it is a form of resource organisation that actually creates value for everyone. Whether this can be a form of social business is something I am not too concern with. If you create something of value, there are many ways the value can return to you.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Idea generation #52: Internet of things

The Age has an interesting article on the Internet of Things. I deeply believe that as more and more atoms become connected to the web, it makes it easier and easier for virtual to affect the real and vice versa. This is kind of amazing becasue we can start to build things that really matters, that will help improve people's lives in the real world. Fitbit is one interesting example.

To prepare for the Internet of things, we need new foundations.

On the infrastructure side, we need a new backend to support data transfer between physical and virtual. As more and more data becomes connected, a new form of GNIP will also be necessary. Finally, we also need new ways of identification and security.

On the browser front, we need to create a new form of browser fot this Internet enabled world. Currently, the barcode reader/scanner acts as a form of browser. It is easy to imagine how to improve this by simply doing an open source barcode reader/scanner akin to what Firefox has done for the web broswer. However, the bigger opportunity is to recognise that RFID or barcodes are simply one way of connecting atoms to bits. How would a browser for other forms of physical-virtual connection look like? What would it display and how would it display?

On the social side, we need to create new forms of sharing mechanisms. These mechanism will enable more powerful sharing than ever before. If sharing information can get us wonderful things like Wikipedia and PatentLikeUs, what would sharing atoms or information about atoms enable? Can I now share with my travel history as recorded by my car? Can we form online relationships based on the paths taken by our pets as recorded by their collars? Can we build better safety models for home patients based on their life route data as recorded by the home itself? Can we organise the world's energy information based on what each and every smart energy meter is sharing?

I am excited about where all these can lead to. If you have thoughts about this, do leave a comment.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Peer to peer financing

Finance is one of the cornerstone of the modern economy. However, the current crisis is showing us how distorted the financial system has become. What can we do as innovators to make the system relevant again? To make it value adding, rather than sucking the value away?

I believe there is an emerging class of financing that is going to become more and more important: peer to peer financing. The likes of Kiva, Prosper, Zopa has shown us the first glimpse of how such a system will look like. These p2p networks will not replaced VCs, IPOs, loans et al but instead complement them as an alternative to finance what I believe to be the emerging independent class. People who work for themselves based on their creative skills. Sellaband is one fine example.

So as a startup, what can you do? Can you build a decentralised P2p system for every community? Let the dogster, carspace, last.fm of the worlds have a simple way to allow their members to support one another financially. We don't need more sellabands. Instead, we need to be able to put p2p anywhere it is useful.

Another idea is to build software that helps individual in their 'fund raising'. This software can help individuals build their credit score by aggregating all their relevant digital records, anything from credit card spending to pay slips et al. It can also remind them on the payment schedule.

On the investment side, there might be a need for a software to help investors manage their p2p loan portfolio. With automatic portfolio balancing, real time analytic and information feeds, this software can greatly enhance the productivity of these loan investors.

Finally, we can develop a Farecast equivalent to predict the best time to go into market. Interest rates might go up and down, depending on supply and demand. With such volatility, having a way for market participants to predict the interest rates could be an interesting play.

If you have more ideas, do leave them in the comments.

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Saturday, 1 November 2008

Startup Idea #96: Topspinmedia for the mobile

My fascination with topspinmedia continues as everything I read is constantly coloured by this great concept . Such is the case as I stumbled across this article on how powerful mobile is and how much revenue it is already generating for the music industry.

the mobile internet has already innovated in this music area. Ringing tones. They are worth over 6.5 billion dollars (already over six times larger than the size of digital music downloads such as iTunes). .....All kinds of music innovations have been dismissed by older generations as "not being real music" such as rock n' roll which was supposedly not music, and rap which many said was not music, and the recent innovation of sampling and mashing existing music, etc. Ask the person forking over the money. If that teenager spends two dollars to put Shakira's music on the cellphone, who cares if it is of lousy sound quality, and extremely short duration. It is music.

Considering the above, doesn't it make sense to develop some easy tools that enable artists to connect with their fans via mobile? If that is logical, what do these tools look like? Well, here are some possibilities:

- using mobile as a testing platform (see fugees as an example)
- using mobile during live concerts (see diddy as an exmaple)
- allowing fans to create their ringtone mashups (see tonemine as an example)
- use the web as distribution but monetise them via ringbacks and ringtones (see Mice Love Rice as an example)

All these are opportunities for us to build simple tools to allow artisits to connect to their fans via mobile. However, the most exciting thing is to allow artists to launch their own branded phones, that comes with everything a fan desires i.e. artists wallpaper, artist ringtones and callbacks, artists mobile cover, fan chat et al. This concept was pioneered as early as 2002 by a pop group from HongKong called Twins:

This idea led to the Branded SIM Twins Mobile based on the ultra popular Hong Kong idols Twins, and turned an ordinary mobile phone into a portal with the power to bring Twins closer to their fans....With the subscription to TwinsMobile the member (subscriber) instantly belongs to a fan community. They get access to:
  • TwinsMobile STK Menu for accessing information
  • Latest news from Twins, concert info and direct advertising of upcoming live performances
  • Twins Ringtones, logo, screensaver, e-card, website with a fan chat area
  • Member can use loyalty points to enjoy more premium services
With the development of Android, I think it is now possible to develop a platform where customised Android phones can be created by artists to connect to their fans. This is an area which I find to be extremely exciting and I look forward to seeing how it will all play out in the coming month or years.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Startup Idea #94 (Part 2): Helping independents to earn a living

Continuing my posts about creating tools to help independents earn a living, I will be talking about software ideas to help the independent t-shirt designer. Before going further, I want to share this statement from Six Part. I didn't notice this before but what they are saying fits very well into how we can create tools to help independents become more successful:

T-shirt designers are proliferating and yet no tools exit to help them become more effective at what they do. One immediate thing that comes to mind is a tool that helps independents upload their designs to multiple aggreator sites and then tracks their comments.A cross between tubemogul and disqus.

Why is this important? It helps designers to 'listen' to their users and in the process, learns what will appeal to them.This turns the value chain inside out as designers can now know what to produce before producing them.

Another idea is to have an open source threadless. While threadless is great, it does not allow anybody to create their own version of the community. I believe that if we make the threadless software open and modular, it will greatly benefit the community. Independents can now choose any features they liked about threadless and implement it on their own blog or site. I think this open model can potentially have a greater impact than what threadless currently brings.

More to come in the next posts...

Friday, 17 October 2008

Startup Idea #95: 4 ideas to turn beautiful interfaces into meaningful applications

I saw some great interfaces recently and was wondering if they can be adapted to solve some real economic issues and create value for its users. This is by no means an implication that these current sites offer no value. Rather, if we can alter the content or context, they can deployed to realise raically different values.

1. Determining the independence of a company's board
This site has a great interface to allow users to flow from one topic to another.
The power comes from the relevant topics that pops up when you click on a post. Rather than topics, why not make them people? Related people can pop up whenever I click on a particular, and when I click these other names, I should be able to flow to their profiles

2. Visualisation consumer's feelings towards your brand
Twistori has been around for a while.
But I am amazed is the kind of direct conversation opportunities it offers. Look at the screenshot below. It is literally a goldmine, waiting for some clever startup to make their day better. If we add in some intelligence such as showing how many times a company's name has been mentioned et al, this could be a powerful way for companies to listen to their users.

3. A tumblr for community to highlight key issues of financial reportsFinancial reports are one of the hardest to read document and yet is an important form of communication between shareholders and company. I think there is room to have a tumblr equvialent where users highlight/annoate/emphasis the key issues/dangers/warning signs of a company from its reports. Imagine the below interface. Instead of random images, they are filled with markings, highlights, scibbles of a company's financial report. This is a form of crowd filtering to let investors zoom in on areas that need their attention.

4. Converting your playlists into a curated storefrontTake the idea of playlist sharing and have a easy to use storefront builder where it can automatically extract the songs, their album covers from your playlist and displays them like a store (see image below). This concept is essentially another approach to share and discover music with the exception that everyone can now earn some $$ : )

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

10 random startup ideas

Here is a list of 10 random ideas, in no particular order or relevance.

- A tumblr for inspirational web design: a light-weight service that enables users to 'copy' any parts of a website you like and share it in a tumblr like service, that is easy and beautiful to set up. A place for 'river of news' style of web inspiration. A bit similar to PatternTap with a flow to it.

- Daily inspirations: A service where daily or hourly pictures of inspiration are posted. Have a big comment box where users can post, in 100 words or less, their reactions to the pictures. Comments are limited to the first 50 users before they are closed. Think this is stupid? Look at sites like PostSecrets and LoLcats.

- A Virtual Greats for Asia market + the ability for users to remix them = new markets for user generated 'branded' good and services

- Stardolls for boys: How about toy cars they can customise? Robots? Anime characters? I am surprised to see this wonderful model not copied everywhere.

- An enlightening post by Ethan on Umair Haque's 'How to Chrome your Industry' post. In more concrete terms, think about what is the complements for your industry that you can make free (or low cost) and open. The strategy is to increase the usage of these complements such that it will stimulate demand for your products/services.

- A ycombinator for bands: This is a great idea! With tools from TopspinMedia, and the distribution afforded by the Web, investing in bands or any kind of creative outfit will not be as risky as before. The music industry needs such innovation in their processes and organisation structures, with more transparency and ease of participation. Sellaband and SlicethePie are 2 examples. We need more. We need thefunded.com, the AVCs for the music world.

- Open source all legal documents: Ycombinator has made a great contribution. We can build a simple service to let others deposit, share and find other legal documents. There are of course hurdles to cross but none are impossible to solve.

- Revamp the concept of an article: Jeff Javier has a great post of how future journalism will have an entirely different structure. This means wide open space for anyone to try anything.

- Open markets for product placement in user generated video: NextMedium is an marketplace for product placement in Hollywood style content. Zadby is like an e-lancer for advertisers to engage video producers to produce videos for sites such as Youtube et al. I think there is room for something in between, an open marketplce where video producers upload their scripts, track records of viewership et al for advertisers to buy inventory.

- .......That is folks!

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Startup Idea #94 (Part 1): Helping independents to earn a living

As the markets continue to take a pounding this week, I was reminded of a great post by Bernard Lunn called the Emerging Main Street Web. It talks how Web 2.0 can survive in the recession by enabling people to make money off the Web. It is a fantastic and well written article that any startups should read and reread it.

"The way for Main Street Web ventures to make money is to help other people to make money."

Enabling people to earn a living is also why I am a big fan of Topspinmedia, the company that helps musicians connect with their fans through social widgets. In fact, I believe there should be such a company in all industries to help independents leverage the web and earn money. Let me take this post to brainstrom how it can be applied in some the industries where there are many independents (I have briefly written about how the Topspinmedia concept can be applied to fashion and games.)

Photography: The millions of photographs being sold at iSTOCKphoto and/or posted at Flickr is a testimony to this large photography market. However, there are no tools or mechanisms to enable these independent photographs to earn more from their work. I think we can do better.

We need to create more flexible pricing tools to allow photographers to sell their work anywhere and in any price they want: flat subscription fees, price per photo, batch sales, discounts, demand based pricing (see amie street) or even free photos in exchange for user email. We need to give control back to the photographers to let them value their own work.

We also need to create alternate revenue streams for photographers who want to give away their work for free. Why would they do that? Getting attention is one good reason. In this age of abundance where anyone can be a photographer, giving high quality photos away is one way to gather exposure and attention. The important thing is to use the free photos to create your fan base and then create value for these fans so that they are willing to pay you.

So, what can photographers earn if their photos are given away for free. How about photography books sale: A photographer becomes a curator of his work and presents them in a theme book for sale to his fans. We need to make it dead simple for photographers to create such a book and enable its sales to its fans and through the different book sales channels such as Amazon.

Any revenue possibility is photography classes. Given photographers a widget to manage their lesson schedules, invitation, event planning and pricing. Sell on the experiences, rather than the photographic content.

In summary, I believe more can be done to enable independents. Next few posts will focus on other independents like
Theme Designers, Game Developers, and Toy Makers.

See part one here:
Startup Idea #94 (Part 2): Helping independents to earn a living