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.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Idea generation #51: How to do good with 2.0

Image representing Tim O'Reilly as depicted in...Image by

Tim O’Reilly / Flickr

via CrunchBase
Tim O'Reilly had a great post on what has been posted here quite frequently: using 2.0 in to organise information to solve real problems.

Instedd's approach to early detection of infectious diseases, Ushahidi's approach to crowdsourcing crisis information, Witness's harnessing of consumer video to report on human rights abuses, and AMEE's APIs for exchanging carbon data between applications

All the above are first steps in collecting and organising information for real problems. What is important is to recognise is that we need markets, networks and communities to derive and unlock the value in these information. In order words, we need to use these information to hack real world processes to solve real world issues.

We need to hack infectious diseases. We need the information to build a network of medical suppliers, transportation, temporary hospitals to provide nimble responses to disease outbreaks.

We need to hack carbon emissions. We can channel the information into the creation of a vibrant market for carbon reduction enterprises in developing countries. A microfinance market that funds innovative enterprises that reduce carbon and uses the resulting carbon credits to repay the loan. Microenergy is one great example. More can be done.

We need to hack the weather insurance market. We need to have a open initiative where creative and cheap insurance products can be created, shared and built upon to provide better coverage for those in developing countries.

We need to do a lot of things. Let's get cracking.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Startup Idea #91: Open source mechanisms for game monetisation

As I learned about different monetisation methods offered by companies to independent game developers, I am both thrilled and worried. I am thrilled at the way game industry is creating different value chains for the smaller guys. Things like Nonoba's payment API or Kongregate's advertising programme are innovative business models that bypasses traditional value chains.

However, I am also worried that these platforms now control all the information and power. The power imbalance will surely become an issue. What if these services decide not to continue their operations? What if they demand higher commissions?

I think what we need is something akin to OpenX for the game industry where developers can control their
monetisation mechanisms. A system where developers can host any of the monetisation mechanisms, can change the code anyway they want and to own any consumer data that is captured.

I think such open approach is critical to truly democratise the gaming industry. It is something exciting to me and I hope someone will work on this in the near future.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Startup Idea #90: Feeds based advertising

Fred Wilson had a great post last week on opening up our feeds to advertisements. This post follows up on what he was saying earlier about the importance of feeds, of which I had posted

My personal view is that the advertising model for feeds will not be in the form of what we are used to in Google Adsense. Your feeds are too personal for advertisers to insert anything and not pissed you off. I think the advertising model should be the other way around. Rather than advertisements, it should be recommendations. There are important but subtle differences between the two.

I think the recommendation model can work in either or a combination of the two models highlighted below.

In the first model, the service detects your consumption of a product/service through your feeds and offers to you, the option to recommend this product/service to your social network. If this service can detect your sentiment about this product/service and only pops up when the quality is good, then its usefulness immediately shoots up. If it can know the interests of your social networks and recommends only to those who might be interested in the product/service you just consumed, then it is a home run.

The second possible model starts off when one of your friends in your social network asks, via feeds, for recommendations. The service detects what relevant products/services you have consumed and asked if you want to recommend them to this friend. If so, the recommendation appears in your friends' feeds.

Both models work on the principle of recommendations, rather than advertisements. As I said, there are important differences as the former rewards your attention while the latter simply robs you of it.

If you know of other advertisement models, do share them in the comments section.
my thoughts on.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Startup Idea #89: From consumption to investment

If you have not been reading Umair Haque's blog, I suggest you do it NOW. His recent articles offered a new way to think about strategies: from consumption to investment. This is quite a powerful lens to to create startups ideas if you think about it.

Most businesses want users to consume somthing. What if we flip that idea around? Rather than endless consumption, how do we form businesses that encourages users to invest in things like environment, education, health, skills et al?

Let's take fashion. How do we go link up the many independent fashion designers to not only sell their latest collection but to form an initiative to teach other people how to create fashion pieces themselves? Is there money to be made? Of course there is. Just look at the market for informal training. What we need is some simple technologies to structure the educational content from these fashion designers and to form communities around them.

Another simple idea: form a sellaband or kiva equivalent to raise fund for park building. With the continusous devastion of our natural environment, especially within dense cities, such a project will gather many supporters. Business model? How about converting the carbon credit generated by the park and trading them on carbon exchanges?

Changing from consumption to investment model requires an act faith. A belief that what you are doing matters. Sometimes, I think business models will not be as evident as the examples I have given above. However with sufficient exploration of strategic experiments, I am confident that this is a very rich area for startups to experiment.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Idea generation #50: Markets for energy

I believe in the age of markets and that price is an important mechanism to govern their workings and realise their true potential. Hence, it is with great interest that I am following the progress of smart grids and dynamic pricing in the electricity market that is happening around the world.

On the research front, the GridWise Olympic Peninsula Project is a year-long smart grid research project on price-responsive household technology, dynamic electricity pricing, and consumer behavior. You can read the summary in this NYtimes article. One of the most interesting outcome is the people are behaving like day traders in managing their energy consumption:
Every five minutes, the households and local utilities were buying and selling electricity, with prices constantly fluctuating by tiny amounts as supply and demand on the grid changed.
"Your thermostat and your water heater are day-trading for you," said Ron Ambrosio, a senior researcher at the Watson Research Center of I.B.M.
If this is going to the future, then there is opportunity for a new set of monitoring, trading, information tools for users to manage their energy consumption. There could even be a WeatherBill equivalent to let people hedge their energy risks. Once the electricity market really becomes a truth marketplace, there is room for plenty of smart ideas to be done.

On the more near term end, the smart grid technology space is growing. The NYtimes article has a nice article overviewing this recent market:
Some analysts expect so-called “smart metering” to boom nationwide. ABI Research, a technology firm, estimates that the market will jump to 52 million by 2013, from 560,000 this year — which would be more than a third of the nation’s meters.

I think the next step is be to push these technologies to automate the costs savings, rather than focusing on pure information display. This is akin to the implict web idea, i.e. users need not focus their attention to enjoy the benefits of mining their own data for personal use.
Can it be programmed to respond autonomously to price signals? Can it be programmed to respond to some other type of communication that the consumer can receive under his/her contract with his/her retailer? Can the consumer access the device remotely to change its settings?

In summary, electricity markets are interesting fields to study how a typically government-owned insitution can be transformed into a marketplace that allows for true pricing and innovative products/services. I will keeping my eyes open on this area.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Startup Idea #88: Data driven business ideas in healthcare

For anyone interested in using data to improve their industries, here are some recent studies that might give you ideas to build your next startup that solves real issues.

Farecast for hurricane evacuations / Farecast for natural disasters :A personal online prediction tool for the ideal time for evacuation would help businesses, government and individuals to better manage hurricane risk. If we can allow various ways to parse the data to show e.g. the cost of evacuation vs probability of being hit, the number of false positives, the different routes to evacuation, (combining with GPS data) the least crowded evacuation route et al, I think a lot of useful information can be teased out.

Weatherbill for retirement planning: Weatherbill represents, to me, how a modern investment bank should run. Leveraging on technology and cheap computational cycles, it should run complex algorithms at very low cost to provide personalisation of financial products at individual level. While Weatherbill is doing so for weather derivatives, there are opportunities to build the same platform for other products such as the retirement planning tool highlighted in the article.

Farecast for premature births: This is rather powerful and in my mind, will bring lots of benefits to all mothers-to-be. Looking at the statistics quoted, improving any form accruacy will yield improvements in human lives.
About 17,000 pre-term births occur in Australia each year. Premature birth is responsible for 70 per cent of new born baby deaths and 50 per cent of cerebral palsy cases.

If we pipe in the community data sharing features of PatientsLikeMe, the amount of value that can be created will be tremendous.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Idea generation #49: Yammer, flood of camera date

Flood of camera data: The below para makes a verrrry interesting point. With millions of data points on pictures, enabled by mass penetration of camera phones and digital cameras, what kind of business can this resulted? Food for thought..

The bigger point is that cell phones and cameras add literally billions of minute-to-minute images of what's going on in the world. Millions of us now carry the tools to report on each other. And whether it's fighting crime or targeting potential Macy's shoppers, the Numerati are gaining more data that will lead to new businesses and services.

Yammer: Yammer just won the TC50 which should give them some attention for a while. More interesting for me is the line below:

Yammer is a tool for making companies and organizations more productive through the exchange of short frequent answers to one simple question: “What are you working on?”

What is we asked different questions? Will that result in different type of yammer like services? Questions like:

i) What is your most hated products/services?
ii) What are you eating/wearing/drinking/seeing/listening right now?
iii) What is your boss/husband/boyfriend/ doing now?
... and more!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Idea generation #48: Email innovation

If you are looking for ideas in the email or communication space, below are some useful links from some very smart people: Bijansabet, Foundry Group and Mike Speiser.

Some of the ideas I found to be intriguing are:

i) Extracting the social graph from your email to improve productivity and customer management (Note: how to turn your inbox into LinkedIn?)

ii) Data mining the links and media from your email to aid in content discovery

iii) Data mining the email content to discover expertise

iv) An automated scheduling tool based on email

What other ideas do you have?

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Startup Idea #87: Feeds as the next search

I normally don't try to link to popular articles or blog articles to maintain some degree of freshness for any readers that might come across my blog. However, this post by Fred Wilson's on the "feedization of the web UI" is too compelling for me not to mention it.

Feeds is always something I am mindful of. It is, to me, part of the next generation solution to the attention problem and this makes it an area full of potential. As pointed out by Fred, feeds represent an alternative or complement to search and it is interesting to note what happens when the Facebook generation uses more feeds than search.

Feeds however brings with it a new set of problems and that is in the diminishing returns when the feeds volume increases. To me, the solution is not better filters. Rather, it is to acknowledge that the front page of any news feeds is actually an attention market. As such, we need to design and develop 'market currencies' to make any news feed system effective.

Taking the current examples, Techmeme's currencies are the links, Digg's are the votes, Del.icio.us's are the tags. These currencies carry with them a 'price' and it is this price that will become a good mechanism to surface the most relevant news. Problem is that these currencies are easy to game and hence the appearance of link farms et al. Hence, for the innovators in the feeds space, it is worthwhile to spend some time thinking about how to improve the current feeds sustem using 'market currencies'.

Beyond market currencies, next post will suggest other startup ideas that can be done in the feeds space.

Applications of Twiiter (Part I)

I am always interested in how microblogging as a whole is evolving. So, I will posting these stuff as I continue my discovery of what Twitter and its cousins can do.

Twiller: New forms of medium eventually spawns new forms of media. This is the first example of such a media. A good startup breeding ground for people that focuses on culturally relevant ideas. I think this is worth following.

Twitter and branding: A natural application. This is part of the continuing transformation of branding as a one-way broadcast to a two way interactive medium. One of the new potential investment we are looking at involves doing a proper Twitter for enterprises that includes aggregation capabilities and a very cool twist that I can't disclose right now.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Startup Idea #86 (Part II): Turning social networks into data driven businesses

(See part 1 of the post here)

Sorry for the lack of posts for the past few days. My laptop got stolen ($#@&%) so have to get a new one before I can start blogging again.

As promised, here are some ideas of how social networks can be turned into data driven businesses that can help reshaped stale industries:

Beauty Treatment: Sort of like PatientsLikeMe but with a focus on beauty related treatments. This includes things like diet treatments, acme solutions, hair products et al. User can share their treatment experiences and outputs while we provide analytics, aggregation and visualisation tools to help the community figure out which type of beauty treatment works for which type of body types. If this product can be focused on teens, this is a potentially big market to go after.

Small Business Owners: With more and more people getting sick of corporate life and wishing to have a small business of their own, I see a need for a community to share their little experiences in starting and growing a small businesses. The type of businesses can range from a one man shop in Cafepress to a Ebay seller. With clear visualisation tools, we can provide a easy way for the community to understand what works and what don't for these small businesses.

Job Experiences: I really surprised that not much attention has been put into this area. We all know how our work sucks. Maybe there are better jobs out there that fit our personality and skills? Where is the Google Analytics equivalent that can show these information to me? Let me know how long this person with a personality similar to mine last on this particular job. Let me see where all my friends with the same degree stayed the longest. Let me have a Last.fm audioscibbler equivalent to automatically record what I do each day and summarise that to my community to let know what am I acutally doing each day.

Equipment hacks: People are known to hack their own stuff to make it better. Just google for 'PSP hacks' to see what I mean. The thing is: nobody knows how effective a hack is until it has been done. There is no aggreation tool to let people record the experiences of their hacks and summarises that to inform the rest of the community. I think this is a sorely needed product. There are so much stuff out there that can be hacked: gadgets, cars (mods), toys et al. We need a PatientsLikeMe equivalent to share the hacking experiences.

I am sure there many more ideas. If you have one, why not drop a comment?

Friday, 5 September 2008

Startup Idea #86: Turning social networks into data driven businesses

(See part 2 of the post here)

It is my deep belief that data driven businesses will become more and more prevalent in this networked economy. Converting the masses of data in social networks into powerful applications that help the community be better at what they are passionate about is one manifestation.

This NYtimes article suggests how this can be done. It talks about how a site, PatientsLikeMe, is using data about its users to create powerful management tools, similar to how Amazon create useful recommendations based on their users' clicking behavior.

The members of PatientsLikeMe don’t just share their experiences anecdotally; they quantify them, breaking down their symptoms and treatments into hard data. They note what hurts, where and for how long. They list their drugs and dosages and score how well they alleviate their symptoms. All this gets compiled over time, aggregated and crunched into tidy bar graphs and progress curves by the software behind the site. And it’s all open for comparison and analysis.

This leads me to think about how other niche social networks can used this model to provide real use to its users. More importantly, if these networks can improve and transform the current broken practices of many incumbents industries. PatientsLikeMe for example has the potential to transform the whole healthcare drug industry by dentralising the drug testing activities.

Next post will suggest what other social networks can transform industries if they reply on data driven mechanisms.