A few months back we introduced the gymnasium of everyday irritation, how new business ideas and opportunities often come from crap experiences you have dealing with existing products, and life in general. It’s actually a lot of fun. I wrote down just a few new business ideas I’d like to see, based on stuff that bugs me a lot, and there was so much of it I had to split it into a two-week series. Here’s Part 1:
1. The Right Of No Reply
An email app with no Reply All button. Or limits it to say 3 people.
I’d pay extra for that app. But the problem isn’t me, or you. It’s the Reply All enthusiasts, who see no problem with emailing “Thanks!” or “Busy that day how about the 5th?” to 25 people all day.
Because they have all the time in the world plus it makes them look busy.
So in the spirit of economic reform, the government should make it compulsory. More than any other efficiency policy, it would free up millions of worker hours each year and push business performance through the roof.
2. Separate Bar Queues
Long-term readers would know I’m a big believer in conducting business in bars. I’m a simple drinker; beer, wine or water.
In the last few years I’ve waited entire Friday nights, chronically dehydrated, watching beard guys painstakingly scorch bits of orange peel with a blowtorch like they’re training to be microsurgeons. China can build a monorail in less time than it takes a Sydney barman to assemble a Mojito.
As a bonus, they have their heads down all the time doing their fiddly work, so they don’t have the vital bar skill of knowing who’s been waiting longest. So beard guy completes his masterpiece and looks up for the next customer. Does he see:
- Middle-aged business guy who’s been waiting 45 minutes, or:
- 22 y.o woman with dazzling Instagram teeth who just arrived
I am so much the Invisible Man I sometimes wonder if I should just rob the place. But whatever cash they had in the register would smell of burnt orange rind so no.
City bars need separate ordering areas, like airport priority check-in, where you can get simple drinks that can be just poured straight out and off you go. I’m pretty sure bars barely break even on cocktails given the insane labor cost of all that sugar-rimming and mint-plucking, so it would really help their cash flow.
3. Face Shazam
For when you’re in a meeting or cocktail party and you hear “hey HOW ARE YOU!” from someone who is clearly super-pleased to see you, and you’re thinking: oh my God I’ve never seen you before in my life.
Then it turns out you were in their wedding party and you’ve known them since junior school but you were confused because they were in a different context.
So we need an app that’s Shazam but for faces. Obviously you need to catch them early in the approach stage – you can’t be scanning their face close-up like some scene from Ghostbusters. New phones have enough pixels to zoom across the room and ID people before they get too close.
Maybe it could read their name to you via a hidden earpiece. Was that what Google Glass did? Obviously Face Shazam can’t make you look as doofus-y as that.
The scan database has to be limited to people you’re connected to on socials, so it can’t be used for stalking or networking creeps. Sometimes it’s just good to know you don’t know someone.
4. Video To Text Converter
Thanks a lot, social media algorithms, for now rewarding “videos” over text.
Now every feed is jammed with earnest white business people talking “content” into their phones. I did some random screenshots from my LinkedIn and it … speaks for itself:
I’ll come back to this topic in some future piece about production values and the amazing invention that is the tripod, but today let’s focus on the sheer plodding slowness.
Written text, though traditional and uncool, is an insanely efficient way of getting information across. You can read stuff 2-3 times faster than you can listen to someone rambling it into their video camera.
Watching video is just next-level inefficient. It’s not even like podcasts, where you can exercise at the same time. And unlike text, you can’t skim ahead, because the picture never changes.
I’m no online content guru, but I have written and directed a fair number of TV ads and do you know what the point of video is? To show your viewers interesting things, not sit there in some grim home office, the only movement you opening and closing your mouth.
That’s not a video, it’s like a visual version of a voicemail from your parents, where you’re sitting there spinning your hands going COME ON COME COME ON GET TO THE POINT I’M ABOUT TO DIE OF OLD AGE.
Your kids have hours to spend watching YouTubers. You should have better things to do with your time. And yet, we still might be interested in what’s in that video.
So, new product: an app that can take any online video and knock out a text-only version. That’s a unicorn business right there, and it’s not even new technology. Get to it, start-upperers.
Part 2 next week: why AI isn’t as close as everyone tells you it is, a proposal to take down the worst of society’s corporate mobsters, and what is it with parking meters using 1996 Game Boy screens?
Did you enjoy this article? Assuming it wasn’t too painful or you wouldn’t have made it this far down, and thanks for that. Hey why not subscribe, because I write a piece like this every Tuesday, and apart from the other stuff you might miss Part 2 next week. And oh my God it will be so worth it.