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.

Monday, 29 June 2009

The next generation of edge feeders

Fred Wilson talked about edge feeders in 2005:

Flickr is an edge feeder and the best one I know of. I could take my photos and simply post them to my blog. But I don't do that. I put them on Flickr and then from Flickr, I post them to my blog. Flickr makes that dead simple. But they also give me a badge to show aggregated photos. And they let me post other's photos to my blog. They are the photo feeder of the blog world.

Blip.tv, vimeo, and youtube are the video feeders. I could post a video directly to my blog, but I don't. I post it to vimeo, youtube, or blip.tv, and then from there I post it to my blog. These services are rolling out lots of video specific blog integration techniques that will make it even easier to be a video content creator living on the edge.

Delicious is a link feeder. I could post a linkroll to my blog, but I don't. I use delicious to host all of my links, and I use a tag (mine is linkroll) to feed my linkroll. Delicious makes it easier to be a link content creator living on the edge.

Add to these are newer services like slideshare, scribd, last.fm, zemanta etc. Edge feeders are very powerful businesses as they are viral in nature. If a blogger embeds one of these in his blog, and if his readers like it, they will also embed it in their blogs, spreading the service wide and fast.

To me however, these are first generation edge feeders. They feed the personalised media channels that services like blogger, tumblr and twitter have enabled. How they serve it is very similar to how traditional media is broadcasting its content: mostly one way and lack of real interactivity.

Now, we are seeing the next generation of edge feeder like prezi. It torn itself away from our accepted definition of how powerpoint should behave and adapt it for the Web world. It turn linear sequenced slides into notes that jumps around, back and forth, in and out. What this does is creating a fun product that is both entertaining to use as well as leveraging on the medium to which it is created for. To me, that is how the next generation of edge feeders should be.

Are there opportunities then to reinvent the current edge feeders? To have a prezi for each type of media?

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Simple idea: A personalised techmeme based on blogrolls

As an fund administrator, I need to keep up with the latest developments in the industries that I am responsible for. Hence, I always on the lookout for good blogs to follow as well as new ways to keep myself updated. Recently, because of helping a team in the ebook sector, I have been following on the developments in the book publishing sector. Yesterday, I stumbled upon a book publicity blog that has these relevant links on its blogroll.

Currently, I need to read those links, one at a time, to assess whether I should follow them. There are a host of problems with this approach. Firstly, it is too time consuming. Imagine I have to repeat this process for every new industry I need to learn and the problem becomes magnified. Also, there are a lot of dead links. Finally, I don't know which one of these links are the most visited by the blog author.

There is service called blogrollr that I think solves part of these problems. What they do is to track your browsing activity and create a dynamic blogroll based on the most visited blogs for that day. Go to Fred Wilson's site if you want to see it in action. It elegantly solves the problem of dead links and lack of recommendations.

However, I still need to read the links one at a time. I need a service that takes all these links as inputs and create a personalised techmeme for me to read and browse. Maybe blogrollr will evolve that service or maybe they can have an API for others to build it.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

The context for real time search

Vertical search used to be a hot topic in 2006-07, with search being applied to horizontal industries like travel, B2B (see this article for a big list of such search engines), products, health, people etc. Read this 2006 readwriteweb article for a good refresher. In 2009, many of these vertical search sites are still around and are in fact, prospering.

Now, with real time expanding the perimeters of search, will we see similar verticals being pop up?
That was the question I kept asking myself after talking to a couple of entrepreneurs who want to build alternatives to Twitter search. They argued that real time search shouldn't be confine to what Twitter provides. There is room for different forms of search that build on real time conversations.

This sounds reasonable to me and is worth supporting to explore how real time search will evolve. Currently in the real time search arena, we have general search companies like Topsy, Collecta, Crowdeye as well as vertical search like Twitseeker (for people search), TwitterJobSearch (for job serach), PicFog (for image search) etc. There is no clear winner yet but it is informative to watch how these services evolve.

The big challenge to me is to think about the context of which real time matters and therefore how real time search matters. Emergence plays a big part. When you want to know emerging thoughts, patterns, trends etc, real time search becomes critical. Think about reactions to product launches, about the spread of virus, about unfolding of events like sports, weddings, disasters etc. All these are context where real time matters.

I am sure there is more context surrounding real time search. What are your views?

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Quick riches versus long term value

Creating real value for the long term has been the basis for the ideas I have talked about in this blog. This is of course large influenced by the likes of Umair Haque, Taylor Davidson etc. However, this post by one of our incubators has let me wondering about the merits of such thinking:
take a winning formula and adopt it to a new platform. Almost seems like a cookie cutter formula for success, provided you can execute well.

The key for me is the definition of success. If your business is solely in it for the purpose of making money, then I think what Kenneth is saying makes sense. Don't be too fanciful. Take something proven, adapt it for the new platform or markets, and launch it well. Scott Rafer (during his unconfernce speech in Singapore) mentions similar things as well. Don't try to innovate too much. Do something dumb like directory services, data collection etc but make sure the market is big enough.

On the other hand, trying to create real value seems to require more experiments and innovations. Daring to push the boundaris and test new forms of thinking are essential to reshape outdated economics. The end might not be clear but at least there is something worth fighting for in the things you do.

Of course, both might not be mutually exclusive. You can copy a model that creates lots of value, liking developing a Hello Health for Asia.

What is your view? Am I making any sense after the long break?

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Thanks for all your comments

I am finally back home after a wonderful break. Lots of new perspectives and stuff to share. Greece is really a beautiful country. I intend to upload some of my photos here once I got them sorted.

I wanted to return back to blogging again but a bad news greeted my arrival yesterday. My wife's grandma just passed away yesterday morning so I had to rush back to Malaysia to settle the funeral arrangement. It wasn't a pleasant return but it did get me thinking about lots of stuff.

Before I end, just wanted to thank everyone for their comments on my last post. Wasn't really expecting so many responses but they made all the difference in the world.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Taking a break from blogging and from everyday life

In recent weeks, I have found blogging to be quite tiring. I have not any new thoughts or inspirations to share and forcing myself to write for writing sake is quite painful. I have decided to take a 2 weeks break from blogging and spend them in the lovely country of Greece to reflect upon the future direction of this blog.

This is reflective of what I am experiencing from my everyday life as well. I felt that I have hit the limit of what I can learn and contribute in my current job. Maybe it is time to move on. Time to seek new learning experiences and to 'unlearn' what I have been thinking upon.

This blog hasn't got many readers but for those who bother to check it out regularly, I thank you for your attention. Your attention and your comments are what made blogging worth it. If you have ideas of what I can do in terms of blogging, do leave them in the comments although I would not be responding for the next 2 weeks.

It has been a fun ride so far but it is time to self reflect.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

6 examples of mobile applications to enhance reality

One of the exciting things about mobile is its ability to enhance our understanding of the physical world by drawing in information from the online space. We are now just beginning to explore the possibilities but the early signs are already encouraging. Here are some of these interesting applications:

Sky MapEkinWikiTude
Oedo YokdiTotal ImmersionInvizimals

Sky Map
A new program called Sky Map uses not only GPS signals to tell users what stars and planets are visible in the sky at their location, but actually shows what celestial objects the phone is pointed at. Because it doesn't need to see anything, the program works if you point your phone through the Earth, so you can see what people on the opposite hemisphere might be looking at. You can also search for objects of interest, like Mars, and Sky Map will show you where to look for them.

"Enkin" introduces a new handheld navigation concept. It displays location-based content in a unique way that bridges the gap between reality and classic map-like representations. It combines GPS, orientation sensors, 3D graphics, live video, several web services, and a novel user interface into an intuitive and light navigation system for mobile devices.

Wikitude is a mobile travel guide for the Android platform based on location-based Wikipedia and Qype content. It is a handy application for planning a trip or to find out about landmarks in your surroundings

Oedo Yokdi
"Oedo Yokai" is a book on the Japanese "Yokai" (Sprites and Spirits). It is a collection of "Yokai" stories associated with the areas near the subway stations of the Oedo Line in Tokyo, Japan. You can also summon Netsuke sculptures of each "Yokai" in the book and collect them at your leisure.

Total Immersion
Allows users to take images of cars and then manipulate the digital version of the cars including the ability to change colours and rotate the view.

This kid-targeted title uses the PSP Camera/Go!Cam (still unavailable in the U.S.) to find hidden monsters around their homes, which they can capture with real-life trap pieces, then trade or battle them against each other locally or online. The ability to cast spells like earthquakes by shaking the system, or lightning strikes from shadows players cast is particularly cool. It even has a very DS-like feature in which players blow into the system mic to create a snowstorm.

Thoughts on hacking finance (continued)

There is just such a HUGE opportunity to reinvent this stale, corrupt, end of empire business we call finance.

In response to the NYtimes article on the crooked behaviors of financial planners, Sean Park made this wonderful comment. He should know since he has been at the forefront of the financial sector for many years.

In the traditional of this blog, let me continue on my ideas of how to hack finance. If you have further ideas to add on, please leave them in the comments section. We all need better discussions and ideas on how to reinvent this industry.

Covestor for financial planning
Financial planning really isn't all that hard. We can make it easier through online tools. More importantly, if we allow people to start sharing their financial plans, there might be less need for the so call 'professional' planners. After all, if you have spoken with any of them,you know how 'sophisticated' they really are. What we need are just ways to surface the best among us so that we can depend on each other for sound financial advise, rather than some arbitrary third party.

Financial services for new kinds of markets (carbon, power, water etc)
Current financial services are build on thin value. However, the potential of finance is so much more. It can reallocate resources, through markets, to projects and companies that are bringing real value. Now, with the technology and economic infrastructure of the 21st century, it is entirely possible to implement a market-based pricing of intangible externalities. This means the real cost of our activities, including those on the environment, can be properly measured and evaluated. To do that, we need a whole new suite of financial services, from information tools, to risk management and trading.

Better risk assessment models for the so-called high risk groupsI have mentioned before in my first post on hacking finance that we need better ways to serve the under-served. That include groups such as students, low-income and creative folks. The key solution is to develop alternate risk assessment models that better understand the context of these groups and take into account factors that might otherwise be missing from traditional risk models.

Let's take students as an example. Interest rates for students loans are a bit out of whack:

Interest rates on student loans, including on popular federal programs like the unsubsidized Stafford (now nearly 7 percent) and Parent Plus (8.5 percent), are running several percentage points higher than the rates on secured loans, like home equity lines of credit.

One of reason for that is that the FICO model doesn't accurately measure the risk of student loans. Students have no credit history which leads to FICO producing unreasonable credit risk. A better model is to capture the human capital aspect of students' education. A startup called HumanCapitalScore is doing exactly that.

We can learn from that experience and develop better risk models for the rest of the under served groups. With that, we might reinvent how finance can be extended to them successfully without taking on huge amounts of risks.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Types of entrepreneurs I have met

Inspired by this story about how a cashier has written a book on her perspectives of the shoppers she serves, I decided to tell my perspective of the type of entrepreneurs I have met. As part of my job, I have met hundreds of entrepreneurs in Singapore and they are a mixed bunch. I thought it would be interesting to pick out a few categories and talk about them.

The Know-It-All
Hands down, the most irritating of the bunch. They assumed they know everything, even in the face of strong evidence. What are their characteristics? They counter every point you made, they interupt you even before you finish, their arguments are illogical, they are too absorbed in their views etc. When I encounter such people, I count that day as an unlucky one. Fortunately, they are not many of them around.

The Clueless
These types come in without knowing anything. They don't know their potential users, they don't understand the market, they seldom talk to real people. In order words, they live in their worlds. Unlike the first group however, they are open to listening. What I usually advise them is to be real. Get out of their heads and start talking to potential users. Gather real feedback rather than imagining everything in their minds.

The Money Minded
Everything is about $$ to these guys. There is nothing inherently wrong with this but you get the feeling you will not see anything special coming out from them. They might able to survive. Heck, they might even be doing well. However, they will not be the ones that create new markets or the next big thing. Those things are reserved for people who put value creation and their passionate ahead of money.

The Passionate
You can't help but to be touched by their passions. They may not have the most complete plans but they are willing to work at it and listen to all views. These types are typically a joy to work with. The only exception is when they are passionate about the wrong things. That is when they might become type one.

The Inspirational
They are the highlights of my job. Talking to them is like taking a live lesson. You get to hear deep insights about the markets they serve, the experimental models they are playing with, the lessons they have learned etc. They are what makes this job worth it. Every session with one of these type expands my horizon. You can't get better lessons than these.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Super distribution may be upon us

The concept of distribution has been around. Umair Haque termed it as viral revenue chains in 2005 and deem it as one of the important models for content distribution:

viral revenue streams are almost a foregone conclusion, because they are a dominant solution for the public goods problems the radically decentralized and open economics of the www creates. They're, pretty simply, the most rational and efficient solution to what people think is a messy problem - dealing with digital property rights.

This was echoed by Fred Wilson in 2007 when he wrote about how superdistribution will become a new model for content and revenue distribution:

Superdistribution means turning every consumer into a distribution partner. Every person who buys a record, a movie, reads a newspaper, a book, every person who buys a Sonos or a Vespa becomes a retailer of that item. It's word of mouth marketing, referral marketing, but with one important difference. The consumer is the retailer.

Superdistribution hence seem be an important mechanism/model for next generation marketing. At stake is a new ideology of how distribution in a networked economy will look like. But before we go deeper into the subject, let's get back to basic: what is superdistribution?

Clay Shirley has defined it well and also added in its importance to our connected culture:

This is superdistribution — content moving from friend to friend through the social network, far from the original source of the story. Superdistribution, despite its unweildy name, matters to users. It matters a lot. It matters so much, in fact, that we will routinely prefer a shareable amateur source to a professional source that requires us to keep the content a secret on pain of lawsuit. (Wikipedia’s historical advantage over Britannica in one sentence.)

Given how important superdistribution is, why are there so few real life examples? The answer is that it is tricky to operationlise these revenue chains. To make superdistribution a reality, we need (i) analytic services that can track beyond first level referrals and (ii) a payment infrastructure that is well embedded into our interactions such that we don't notice it at all. Both are difficult to achieve in critical mass on the Web.

Now however, there is an interesting device that has both of these characteristics: it is called the mobile. Mobile is our most personalised device and it knows information about us right down to the indiviudal. That can produce insightful analytics about who we share our content with and to what extend does that content gets filter through the social network. Mobile also comes with payment embedded, which is necessary to enable revenue sharing.

Hence, I was pretty excited when I read this article about Google and Apple enabling superdistribution-like features for their mobile stores:

Apple's (AAPL) new iPhone 3.0 software includes features that, if activated by Apple, may let users share software with one another, according to a person familiar with the technology. Eventually, iPhone users may even get a commission when they've induced someone else to make a purchase

If they get this right, we are going to see new models of distribution being created right before our eyes. The value this is going to release will be tremendous. I can't wait to see how this unfolds.

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Tuesday, 2 June 2009

4 rules I used in my startup to leverage on the networked economy

The new networked economy requires new rules. As a startup in this new economy, I constantly looking for ways for my company to be part of the network. Here are the 4 rules of thumbs I always used to ensure that what I do leverages fully on the networked economy

Many touch points
I want my service to touch as many networks as possible because the value increases exponentially by the number of networks the action flows through. In practice, this means open APIs and confirming to open standards such as microformats and Open ID/Facebook Connect. The aim is to make it as easy as possible for my service to get in and out.

Tapping/Coordinating existing networks
Rather than creating new networks, I am always on the lookout for ways to leverage on current networks. More significantly, if my service can help to coordinate or bridge different networks, the value is even greater . Take the simple example of commenting systems like Disqus. It rides on the blogging networks to scale its users. However, because it works across different blogging networks, from blogger to Wordpress, the value it creates becomes much more significant.

How to benefit others
Networks become more powerful when more value is flowing through them. Hence, I would want third party developers or suppliers to come aboard my service and create new things using it. Therefore, thinking about ways to create benefits for network members is actually very productive. This cannot be accomplish by simply having an open API. I need to consider pricing tools, ability to collect payment, how to surface and promote the best third party services etc. Such support structures must be there to truly benefit other members.

Feedback Loops
There is a viral effect for networks. I want to create high viral coefficients so that my service can spread itself faster. Conversely, I want to be aware of negative feedback loops as well so that it doesn't dampen my growth. One important factor here is the fees. Rather than charge as high as you can, Tom Evslin famously said that networks should charge as low as they can bear to maximise growth. Pricing in this case is an important viral factor.

These are my rules of thumbs. I watch for these in many of the startups we funded. Do you have any rules of thumbs to leverage on network growth?

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Monday, 1 June 2009

Music industry is missing a big opportunity with nightclubs

Umair Haque talked about how connecting music with offline distribution creates new opportunities way back in 2005. In making these connections, new networks emerge. These networks are powerful because they enable people to connect to music in a physical context where it is enjoyed most. For example, in locations such as nightclubs, music are sampled through dance floors and people can buy the music which they just sampled.

The opportunity hence is to enable music sharing and commerce to be easily conducted in these locations. Let locations be the new CD stores. Let the physical environment and mood be the context where music can be enjoyed. Add to that the ability for people in the same locations to be connected through music and a new value chain can be constructed.

Unfortunately, music industry is taking the wrong path. The NYtimes reports that labels and publishers are increasing the royalities that nightclubs have to pay for the rights to play music:

To pump music out to their dance floors, Australian clubs used to have to pay record companies and artists a nominal 7 Australian cents in royalties per guest, per night. Under a recent copyright settlement, that rate has risen to 50 cents per customer, and it is set to jump to 1.05 dollars, or 84 U.S. cents, in a few years.

This is rather sad. Instead of exploring new possibilities, labels have resorted to imposing old models on new economics. The end result will probably not be very pleasant.

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