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.

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

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Startup Idea #93: Contextual recommendation for self publishers

Zemanta is a startup providing contextual recommendation services to bloggers. This idea of contextual recommendation is something I have thinking about last year when I receive a proposal that wants to deploy such service in travel planning. I though that was a good service but lacked a market entry point. I think Zemanta has found such an entry point by targeting bloggers.

With its API, it is now possible to leverage on what Zemanta has built and to apply in other domains. One area I am interested in is in self publishing. While Lulu provides a fantastic set of marketing tools, there are no applications that help authors, especially those writing non fricition books, with their market research, case studies, figures et al. A more focus Zemanta can help with all these.

What is more interesting is if we flip the model around. Let Zemanta propose where your content or book is likely to be valuable. Let it show you the possible sites, communities, blogs who might be interested in your work. I believe this will create more value for self publishers. In this age of abundance, knowing how and where to gather attention one of the most important thing.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Startup Idea #92: Ad insertion for self publishing

Ever since I learn about Topspinmedia, I have been researching for such equivalent in other media sectors such as games, video and books. One company that caught my eye is Lulu, the platform for self publishers. Beyond providing a publishing tool, Lulu understands that getting attention, not distribution, is what self publishers need to monetise their work in this age of abundance. Let's look at some of the tools they have put in place.

First of all, they understand the importance of search. Tools like online marketing and Google book search enables authors to easily leverage search to gather more attention for their work.

Lulu also enables viral distribution via a comprehensive set of tools such as widgets, banners and linking to social networks and social news sites. Again, these help the authors to easily spread their work across the web and increases the probability of their work becoming a snowball.

Finally, they also provide tools for authors to create press releases, websites et al that assists in the traditional marketing side of the equation.

Overall, if I am an author, all these tools provide a real service to help me gather attention to my work. However, in this age of abundance, the most effective way to gather attention might be giving something away for free is a an effective way to gather attention first. To do this however, you need an easy way to get advertisement. This is where advertisement insertion technologies are needed.

The difficult thing in this business is to gather the statistics and aggregate them in a way that is meaning to advertisers. For the near term, I see a federated media approach might work best, where a startup can gather the best independent authors to create high quality inventory for advertisements. In the middle term, an auction system akin to Adsense might evolved.

Whatever the model, I think advertisments are necessary to provide an alternate way to help self publishers monetise their work. While Lulu is great as it is, I think ads are needed to make this an evenmore healthy ecosystem.

Friday, 3 October 2008

APIs that I love

Two recent announcements by the Big Boys on their APIs really got me excited about the possibilities. The first is by Best Buy. If you are keen to find out more, the below links should serve as a good research point:

  1. Open Beats Closed: Best Buy's new API: The o'reilly team discusses how open beats close and why other big companies should follow sue
  2. The API bugs hits old retail and old media: An NYtimes article descibling the API trend among the more 'traditional' businesses
  3. The API itself: All the documentation you need to start coding.

The second one? Netflix of course. Again, some references if you need to catch up on the reading:

  1. NetFlix API, What it will and will not do: A layman description of what the Netflix API can enable.
  2. 5 business ideas built around Netflix API: a fun discussion on some of the business opportunties. A couple of them are actually interesting and might even make a little money
  3. The API itself:

These annoucements reminded me that Mybloglog API remains unexploited. Joe Lazarus has a great post on why it is important (see link).

In fact, I was so convinced about what Joe was saying that we invested in such a startup. They loved the idea that an digital object on a blog including music, news, books, events, photos et al can be influenced by your community is powerful and ran with it. Unfortunately, in the course of their development they ran into problems with the API's T&Cs of non-commercial use.

As we are toying around ideas on how to solve this issue, we hit upon another scenario. Is it possible to replace mybloglog users with people from any other social services? Twitter users on your blog? How about Facebook or Last.fm. This seem like an interesting avenue to explore and I wish them best of luck in doing so.

As APIs started to be used more and more, I believe all interesting services will be created. If you know of other APIs or interesting applications, do drop me a comment!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Link based journalism

Scott Karp is on fire recently. His interpretation on the importance of links to disrupt the news industry is sharp, insightful and totally on the money. If you have not read his blog, here are some recommended links (to practice what he preaches):

  1. Starting of the link journalism manifesto, which in turn is based on Jeff Javier's 'do what you do best and link to the rest' memo;
  2. While link journalism is about an individual post or news item, the equvialent of link journalism is what Scott terms networked link journalism. This is in effect using similar citation methodology as practiced by the likes of Google;
  3. Link journalism can be used to power local reporting;
  4. Examples of link journalism: GoVolsExtra.com and WashiontonPost.

Of the important issues that came out of this, one that struck me is the issue of determining the best links. Scott, in his networked link journalism post, seems to favor using professional journalists as the filter. I disagree. I think every blogger, writer, twitterer is already a 'professional' journalists in their own way, linking to article or research that interest them. What we need are ways for people to choose their preferred network of link sources, be they friends, bloggers or journalists, and aggregate the common links that this network gathers.

I also think that aggregating these links from your network should be implict, rather than explicit, i.e. requiring effort to bookmark them in some bookmarking site. There should be an extraction engine that looks at your preferred network's links, and automatically surface the most cited ones. What the user needs to do is simply to feed the engine with their preferred news sources.

If we can do the above, what we will have will not be something like this:

Rather, it will be a frontpage filled with the best links from the sources selected by you.

Updated: Somebody asked me how is this different from RSS readers. This is quite obvious. RSS readers let you selects your preferred sources but do not surface the best ones. That is the most important difference.