Thursday, March 22, 2007

idea-team matchmaking. The shore is crowded; get into the boats!

'I worked the deep wells for a week, and did nothing', the man
thought. (The Old Man and the Sea)

With that random quote from Hemmingway to give my post respectability :)
let me begin.

A few days ago, Subbu, a former coworker called and we chatted. He still works at the cellular telco. Subbu told me that someone wrote a test simulator for Wireless Local Number Portability or WLNP and it has become the industry standard; that the telco had purchased it. (Background: when you switch cellphone carriers, you retain your old number. The new carrier must receive the phone number and subscriber details from the old carrier. This is usually done through a Corba or XML interface).

As a struggling, burning out, entrepreneur, my first thought was, "What a stupid idea!". My next thought was, "What a great idea!". It seemed stupid because when the client part of a server is being written, a server stub must be tested against - to simulate the server. Usually the worst programmer in the team gets tasked to write this because it is throwaway code and doesnt really do anything. Unimpressive.

However... when you have different companies that must test together and they are actual competitors where one has persuaded a customer to switch e.g. from Verizon to Sprint, then the testing issues become testy. (think of wife and ex-girlfriend communicating!).
So the simulator is a great solution to the problem. It does not take much brains to write one, but the point of being an entrepreneur is not to dazzle people with your brilliance. It is simply to sense where there is pain and to write something, even stolid, that will reliably ease the pain.

But what does this have to do with my post?

When I look at the list of companies that are being funded nowadays, there is a sameness to them. for example, a cursory look at a few of the companies YCombinator funded with their taglines:

Kiko - online calendar
Loopt - find your friends fast
ClickFacts - software for Internet advertising to prevent 'click fraud'.
Thinkature - online whiteboarding
Likebetter - ? (had fun playing it but couldnt figure it out)
Buxfer - track your money online
Pollground - online surveys
Wufoo - online HTML forms

The founders are undoubtedly highly intelligent, talented, young and hard-working. However one cannot help getting the feeling that the ideas they have developed have come from their consumer experiences. Online, music/video, checkbook, advertising. Even the names are 2 syllable! (like juwo, but I coined it in 1994 before the dot-com era). Look at what famed Fred Wilson (of Union Square Ventures) has funded...

In other words, the shore is getting crowded. Too many fishermen clumped together trying to catch the little guppies near the shore. Time to get into the boats and go out to the deep waters where the marlin, dolphin and sharks are.

Now back to the main thread.

I am sure there are many workers, managers, secretaries, programmers, janitors in dull and boring industries who have noticed some specific pain in the areas where they work. they even have jotted down something they think is a solution. But they dont know what to do with them. They cannot implement them. Even less incentive to pass them along for free.

Ideas are closer to earth than dreams, but they need executors to make that final connection with earth. With intelligence, youth, talent, energy and knowledge.

Can we come up with a site that will perform matchmaking for these two? What does the originator of the idea get? a 2% stake in equity as advisor. What do the teams get? a deep water idea that just might grow into a whale.

So an online, 2 syllable, matchmaker for ideas and teams (and if you implement this idea, I fully expect my 2% share!).


Anonymous said...

From an entrepreneur's point of view, I don't think most entrepreneurs are ever short of ideas. Even great ideas. Yet, we all need a humble beginning somewhere and that is what most of Y-Comb companies are - a beginning.

I wrote a post just recently about this in more detail here:


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