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.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

The importance of looking good

I had a intense discussion with the GameRenkei folks on interface design for the past week. A thing that came up unexpectedly was the importance of making games look good. As we scan the current game sites such MiniClip, Kongregate et al, we realise the cluttered interface was not what we were looking for. Instead, we want something more refined and loooks better. In order words, we want a Tumblr equivalent for games.

This conclusion is a minor revelation for the founders and for me personally. In the course of starting GameRenkei, the importance of making games look good was often in the background. We realise that this should not be the case, and in fact, should become the strength of the platform.

Why is looking good important? We think there are strategic reasons beyond aesthetics enjoyment. A well designed interface like Tumblr allocates users attention more efficiently. For example, Tumblr's explore feature is a much engaging and efficient way of browsing content, rather than the typical approach of listing the top games because it allows for freshness in the category you desired.

Also, we hope that giving weight to the how the game will look and display has an effect on the type of game developers the platform will attract. The hope of the team is to break away from the types of games found on MiniClip but focus on higher quality and innovative games.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Any blogs to recommend?

I have struggling these days to find really interesting startup materials to read. So, I thought I should do a post describing why some of my favourite blogs are not satisfying my reading needs:

BubbleGeneration: This blog haven't been the same since Umair Haque went to start the Harvard Media Lab and the related Harvard Discussion Blog. While the insights at Harvard are still sharp, the frequency is not high and lack the directness of posts such as this.

ParkParadigm: Fantastic read for anyone who thinks markets are the way that many industries will be organised in the future. If you like exploring new forms of markets such as carbon, weather, mobile and their related technologies, this is the blog for you. Unfortunately, the author is busy with his new venture and I foresee a slowdown in the posting frequency. However, I am still enjoying his Tumblr blog, which I hope he can add more comments to what he posts.

BuzzMachine: Jeff Javier talks about networks and platforms in great understanding. He will inspire you to rethink how networks and platforms can transform from your industry. His book is taking a lot of his time now, which explains why I am not getting any good reading from there.

AVC: The only consistent blog is fortunately still consistent in its frequency. In terms of content, not all posts are appealing to me but most of them are.

So, if you have any good reads, please recommend them in the comments section.

Update: Laserlike is a blog from a VC about startup ideas. It is a new discovery and has been a great read so far.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Idea generation #47: Economics of happiness, open source mixtape, power of open source microblogging

Economics of happiness: Happiness as a strategy is becoming an increasing fascination for me (see post here and here). We are so used to organising production resources using output or productivity as the maximising factor. What about happiness? Is a form of externality that should be priced or can it be the sole maximising factor? For example, can a job site ranks jobs according to some happiness index?

Open source Muxtape: Opentape, the open source muxtape application has arrived. Why is this necessary? Well, Mixtape was shut down by RIAA so the community has to take action. Opentape is the end result. With anybody having the ability to set up their own Muxtape equivalent, it will be near impossible for RIAA to act. Open beats closed.

Related to this is the open source microblogging platform, identi.ca. I blogged about how identi.ca can enabled many new applications. Well, the first of many has arrived. Imgfave is a microblogging site focusing on photo sharing. How far are we to use identi.ca to create an open source Tumblr?

Monday, 25 August 2008

Startup Idea #85: Small idea-Exposing social networks in social networks

We have formed a partnership with Friendster as part of our effort to help our local startups break into global markets. Breaking into such markets has been difficult especially in this part of the world where connections are not as strong. We hope that though such partnerships, our startups have a better chance to achieve the success they desired.

As part of the partnership, Friendster and my office will conduct a joint call for innovative applications on their platforms. Successful applicants can then receive some micro funding (S$50,000) to develop their applications as well as marketing support from Friendster to push their applications out to market.

After the announcement was made, I started helping startups develop their ideas. One strong theme that came out during the discussions was this: social networks are meant for connections, and not for anything else. Very strangely though, you see very little applications that focus on managing your social connections.

Yes, there are countless applications that allows 'friends' to share media/information and to conduct in endless gift giving but these are not what I meant.

Image representing Xobni as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase, source unknown
The class of applications I am referring to are more inline with things like MyBlogLog and Xobni.
Applications that help to expose the social networks around you so that you can better manage them. Why isn't that an app that shows who has viewed your profile? Why can't I know who are my real friends as determined by the exact communication that have happen within the network? (Maybe there are. If you know any, do drop a comment and let me know).

Anyway, I hope that more apps appear that help to expose our real social networks and hopefully better utilise them.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

I just bought Numerati

Continuing my passion for data driven businesses (see related blog posts here), I just bought a new book, Numerati.

Why did I buy this read, beyond the fact it fits out interests? His blog helps. Through the blog, I get the sense of what the book will say and it seems to be what I was interested in. In other words, his blog provided a weak form solution to the moral hazard problem. This got me into thinking about tools for book publishers.

Is there a TopSpin equivalent to help writers connect with their fans? Beyond blogging, is there other ways that an author can reach out to his audiences? How about a tool that aggregates all the potential book tour locations and provides an easy way for authors to plan their tour? More interestingly, is there a way for readers to contribute in future versions of the book and a tool can help them to provide the proper payment mechanisms to reward the contributors?

I think many possibilities exist if we think deeper about it. I have a candidate in mind who has the potential to do this in this part of the world: Bookjetty. Let's see if they have the vision to do this, rather than remaining to be just another book community.

Bonus reading: From the author's blog, I discovered his 2006 article on how mathes will transform our world.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Startup Idea #84: Small idea-Polyvore for brands you hate

I blogged about the genious of Polyvore a couple of days ago about how it is represents the emerging forms of branding 2.0. It is however, one experiment in what will be a new wave of opportunities in remaking branding. How this will play out in other medium (i.e. beyond pictures), other markets (beyond fashion) and other forms (beyond collage) will become the foundations for new powerhouses in branding.

One angle I have is to take the reverse of Polyvore. Rather than giving users the power to put together what they love, how about giving them the ability to show what they hate?

They are tons of bad services and products in the market. Give people the ability to voice their bad experiences through a simple application like Polyvore, where they can make fun of the brands. A sort of anti-polyvore.

Through a feature like recommendations, we can then allow the community to suggest better services or products to replace that was complaint about. A lead generation business can then be created based on these recommendations.

Finally, we will allow these bad services or products the opportunity to 'redeem' themselves by communicating, through public video or text, that they have improved their services.

What do you think? Will this work?

Thursday, 21 August 2008

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

Predictive analysis for sports injuries: An interesting articles talking about the value of speedy recovery to the sports economy. One interesting bit that caught my attention is this:

Prevent injuries by predicting them......Much like the
Moneyball strategy employed by Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, in which teams comb through unusual stats to better evaluate undeveloped talent, the Red Sox hope that Andrews's brand of unconventional testing will crack the mystery of injuries.

This represents an ongoing change where the filtering of data to derive insightful analysis is going to affect all forms of business activities. I blogged about this before but I am constantly amazed by the new opportunities that present themselves.

P2P as our future: An insightful article examining how a different form of organisation, i.e. P2P will affect our future. I am particularly intrigued by the kind of services that can improve lifes in developing countries:

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…

Can we create then a form of SMS services that serves these info once a day? This will be the equivalent as a-joke-a-day SMS service, but only much more meaningful :)

Reminding us to be happy: A great insight. Marketing needs to stop making us want things. Instead, they need to tell us why we should be happy in the things we have. In fact, marketing should help us rediscover the joy of freedom, the comfort in connecting with others, and the fulfillment of being confident. In order words, marketing needs to know that Happiness is a strategy.

Game industry threatening to sue their own customers: This is hilarious if not a bit sad. The game industry needs to know, as the music industry is realising, that suing is not sustainable. What they need to fix is the business model, not to screw their customers even more. Let's hope gamerenkei can teach them a thing or not.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Startup Idea #83:Topspinmedia for fashion

The decay of fashion as a blockbuster industry: Interesting article that shows how fashion is suffering through similar decay as media has already done. There has been an explosion in the number of new designers but the bottleneck in the form of a traditional distribution chain is trapping the value that can be unleashed.

What fashion needs is a Topspin equivalent. A way for independent designers to reach out and connect with their fans. Simple things like contact management, pricing tools are first steps. More advanced tools like social media, Digg-style of voting, or even Zazzle type of remixing
create context for consumption. This not only acts as efficient attention filters for users but also allows designers to know the preferences of their fans and prevents duds. It is even possible to create new funding models through mechanisms pioneered by Kiva and/or Sellaband.

Ultimately, as micromedia and communities splinter the fashion industry into masses of niches, there is a need to recreate the value chain of fashion. Enabling this change will be extremely cool!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Disruptive strategies

If you are always on the lookout for ways to find disruptive ideas, here is one cool article you should definitely read. It is authored by Mark Tovey and is entitled: 'Mass Collaboration, Open Source, and Social Entrepreneurship'.

Some gems you will find inside this article:

Find existing communities of interest and bring them together- Related: Empower communities by bundling relevant open source software.
This should be common enough for 2.0 fans. Trouble is none of this is open source. Open source Threadless?

Science and technology: Replicate
innocentive.com in your area.
Beyond R&D, here are areas that distributed intelligence can help to solve. What about product development? marketing campaigns?

Identify the disruptive applications of the future. Build them, or have them built. Open source them. Watch the world alter.
What a killer statement.

Establish collaboratories to solve key problems. Solve them

Determine where the costs are too high. Lower them.

Lawyers' fees? Price of electronics?

If you want more inspirations, go read the article.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Brand 2.0 in action!

Polyvore absolutely rocks! I talked about branding 2.0 in my previous posts (post1, post2) but to see in action is truly mind-blowing.

Polyvore enables users to mash and create their collage using brands' sponsored items. This is plasticity at its best i.e. enabling people to mix and mash. Beauty of this model is that brands are not doing any 'talking'. Instead, they are 'listening' by enabling users to do what they like. If companies are smart, they will be looking at what users are mashing their brands with.

This is really a re-invention of branding as we know it. By all means, Polyvore is not there yet but it is what it can be that is truly exciting. One to watch!

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Saturday, 16 August 2008

Startup Idea #82: Fighting obesity with 2.0

An interesting NYtimes article highlighting the potential snowball effects in obesity:

According to the World Health Organization, 400 million adults around the world weighed in as obese in 2005. In the United States, more than a third of women between 20 and 39 are obese, some of them extremely so. For the first time in history, large numbers of obese women are having children.

Indicates how ripe this market is for using some 2.0 makeover. Revolutionaries should seriously think about how next generation media strategy can produce better industrial value chains to solve this obesity epidemic.

Cheap weight loss programs: The high price for weight loss camps means that a massively distribution solution can create tremendous value. I am thinking of a set of simple tools to help caring entrepreneurs create low cost weight programmes for their community.

Open game platforms for exercise game: Wii fitness games show us a way for kids to exercise while having fun. How about a network that focus on these fitness games? Build a value chain that directly connects fitness game developers and their users.

Adbuster for food ads : Food industries are spending about $900 million to advertise their unhealthy food to the children. We need a Adbuster equivalent to stop these messages from reaching these kids. We also need to construct an index that measures how much 'bad food' advertising' is each food company throwing at the children.

Raise parents' awareness: How shocking to find the parents are in denial of their children's weight. How do we design markets to drill that into them?

Friday, 15 August 2008

Idea generation #45: Power of identi.ca, carbon trading by banks, photoframe 2.0

Power of identi.ca: 2 light bulbs went up when I read this blog. First, what kind of businesses can this enable? Microblogging around lousy products/services? Checked. Emergency broadcast system? Checked. Product twittering? Checked. And..... I stop counting after reaching number 10.

Second, how can we apply this to other 2.0 services. I wonder if it makes sense to do a open source GetSatisfaction or Seesmic or as Marc Cartersuggested, a open source Gnip?

Carbon trading by banks: Is this right? JP morgan getting $200-$400M? Shouldn't these money be allocated to the poorer people who needs it? I think a decentralised system can be built whereby middleman like banks can be cut out so that the gains flow directly to the people. Enable these guys to make a small profit and I am sure a thousand decentralised system will bloom.

Photoframe 2.0: The awakening of product 2.0. Digital photoframes will be the first step. However, don't expect the innovation to stay in this area. As the cost of hardware become cheaper, expect many of our current products to become interactive and create real 2.0 experiences.

Sports business: In case you are not a believer of sports as an a real industry, this article from the Economist should serves as a good introduction.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Startup Idea #81: Enabling game developers to connect to fans anywhere

My previous post on "platforms that enable fans to connect" inspired more thinking about the topic. While GameRenkei is focusing on connecting fans through creating hand-made merchandise, there are other ways where gamers connect.

Connecting gamers is already a common idea. This explains why the likes of Xfire, Raptr, GamerDNA, UGame, WePlayThis, and GameStrata are all busy competing to be the MySpace for Gamers. None of these however addresses of connecting the independent developers with their fans and in the process, create a new form of publishing market, like what Topspin is trying to do for independent bands.

Unlike music, games require a different set of tools for fans to communicate with the developers and among themselves. Feature requests, game modding, virtual items, different skins et al are distinct things that gamers typically talk about. All these requests the game assets to be very plastic such that they can be modified by fans. If we can capture a platform that enables that kind of conversation and interaction to take place, we will have create a very valuable service to the community.

Further, if we can distribute these forms of services such that they can be used at the developer's choice of destination, be it their own blog, or social network et al, it will be more useful than creating another independent microsite.

All these sounds very exciting to me as a gamer. How does this sound to you?

See part 2 here:

Startup Idea #81(Part II): Enabling game developers to connect to fans anywhere

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Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Reading materials for new forms of interactive products

I believe as the Web moves from online to becoming ubiquitous, intelligence will be built into everyday products, from toys to clothes to cars. Looking at things such as MAKE convince me that this will come to pass.

With this move, opportunities will open up for new development platforms, new forms of infrastructure and a new wave of consumer products.

For those interested in this space, I highly recommend you take some to read through this list of interesting papers on tangible and embedded interactions: it might give you some ideas of what startup to build.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Idea generation #44: Striking againist the worst corporations

I am rereading this post by Umair Haque about using the worst behavior of corporation as vital points to strike. In considerations of the recent thinking about using 2.0 to solve real issues, it fits in nicely as a way to think about what areas to focus on.

So, what I have done is to Google around for the term "10 worst corporations" and placed the various lists as references. So, if you are an innovator looking for an area to strike, these lists should make for a good starting point. While reading these lists, do keep in mind the principles of the edge economy: of using markets, networks, and communities to achieve edge competencies such as good, open, light et al.

Neither Honest Nor Trustworthy: The 10 Worst Corporations of 2007

With the 10 Worst Corporations of 2007, we aim to show - again - that Big Business is out of control and to connect comparable abuses to the failure of government overseers, regulators and enforcers.

J'Accuse: The 10 worst corporations of 2006
Selecting the 10 worst corporations of the year is more art than science.

We do, however, apply certain guidelines. One is that, barring extraordinary circumstances, we do not place companies on the list two years running.

The ten worst corporations of 2005
2005 was a good year for bad corporations.

There were no U.S. elections to worry about, with their troubling possibility of politicians running on the popular platform of curbing corporate power.

There were corporate scandals and corporate crime and violence galore, but none that rated the ongoing banner headlines of Enron and WorldCom.

Indeed, the ongoing prosecutions of individuals associated with corporate financial scandals enabled Big Business and its apologists to claim there had actually been a crackdown on corporate crime.

All leaving corporations free to buy legislation, profiteer, pollute, poison, and mistreat workers without restraint.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Investing in platforms that enable consumers to connect

I am a big believer in Umair Haque's hypothesis that remaking branding is the next step in media 2.0. For those readers interested in exploring branding 2.0, do refer to my collection of links to Umair's writings.

This is the reason why I am happy that we have invested in a new startup called GameRenkei that attempts to do so for causal games. They are building a platform where fans of a particular game can engage with each other via uploading and selling hand made merchandise based on the assets of the game. Something like mini Etsy for each game. I believe this is right as it finally recognises that fans want to get together to do something cool for the games they love.

That being said, I don't think they have gotten their model right. First, they need to think about how to make the game plastic, i.e. giving fans the ability to remix the asset of the games into whatever hand made item they desired. This requires them to think about how to extract things like character images, background, music et al and make it easy for fans to play with them.

Second, they need to ensure the quality of the games are high enough to attract fans. They must remember fans love a game because of certain qualities. Nobody is going to be passionate about crappy games.

Finally, they need to mindful of the network effects. They need to think about how to do cross game promotion or enabling fans of different games to connect with each other. If not, keeping fans within each game is going to kill the network effects dead.

If you are keen to follow what they are up to, do follow their iphone game blog. I think what they will be learning in the upcoming months will be interesting for those keen to explore in this space.
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Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Startup Idea #80: More sports business 2.0

I blogged in 2007 about how new markets such as tickets, sports, virtual worlds et al will bring about the need for a new Bloomberg, Fastsearch, Monitor101 (which unfortunately has closed down) et al.

It is good to see this happening in 2008 with the announcement of Ticket Stumbler, a search engine to find the best deals on the various secondary ticket markets. This is very smart as every new market needs a robust and powerful search to help users find the best deal. So what else can be we do here, specifically in the tickets market?

I think there are still lots of opportunities to aggregate all these market data and build something useful on it.

How about a Farecast to help predict the probability of a ticket price coming up or down? As more data becomes available, it is now possible to find relationships that can help in modeling the predictive model.

Alternatively, there is also opporunity to develop a algorithmic trading platform for people to trade tickets. While there are currently people trading tickets online, to my knowledge, there is no trading tools built to serve their needs. We can further expand on this idea by layering in the social element where traders can share their trading history. This is the Covestor model. The payoff for such a trading tool can be big.

Finally, how about a Seatguru.com to let users know where exactly will they be sitting. If 3D models can be made for every stadium with users reviewing their seating experiences, a powerful tool can be created. If a search can be built on top of this, where users search by the best view, rather than by price et al, it can be a killer application.

See the first post on sports 2.0.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Idea generation #43: Uninsured, beyond subprime, danger in student loans

Millions uninsuranced: Another article on people not getting enough treatment due to the lack of insurance (See related post here). What is going on? If a BOP insurance market can be created where people pay 13 cents per month, why can't a simlar market be created for the Americans? I need to study the Narayana Hrudayalaya to understand their model and hopefully come up with a working model for developed countries.

One way is to tap on the medical hubs popping out of the globally to create a lower insurance premium. I blogged about this idea here.

Markets for landing slots: Whenever there is scarcity, we need to use price mechanisms to regulate demand and supply. As technology makes markets out of previously impossible situations such as landing slots, we will see explosions in value creation.

Danger lurks when shopping for student loans: This is definitely crazy. Who in the right mind will not want to shop around for something as important as a study loan? I am sure there is business here for peer to peer lending for study loans. Alternatively, how about a data driven comparison site that helps students get the best deal?

Updates on my startup ideas

This past week in the blogsphere has been kind of slow, which explains the lack of posting. Hence, I might as well use this down period to summarise what I have been doing with some of the ideas I have posting.

Startup Idea #77 (Bloomberg for player transfer market in soccer): Finally got someone interested to partner me with this idea. We are now documenting all the data sources available to build our information platform. We will also be slapping a 'game' mode which allows users to participate in the transfer market through a trading system. The model is to identify brilliant talent scouts from the masses and do for transfer market what Covestor is doing for securities market.

Startup Idea #52
(Comparison service for medical tourism): One of my favourite ideas. Assessing the data collection process as well as the comparison engine needed. We are trying to model the engine after Jellyfish,which in my mind has one of the best comparison engine out there.

Startup idea #13
(Open source CAD): I briefly explore this with my friend in the CAD industry. Too much effort needed and something out of our depth.

Startup idea #43
(Social advertising): We manage to raise some small angel funding for this. Good enough to get us into the prototype stage. The team is excited about the idea of experimenting with a different approach to advertising.