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, 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.