Tuesday, May 3, 2011

For all my New Yorkers

Apartment hunting in New York is the single worst thing that I've ever had to do, ever.

For those of you who have never had to apartment hunt in New York, allow me to take you on a journey. (The liklihood that you will enjoy this journey is 0%.)
Here's a run-down of the top 3 reasons looking for an apartment in New York will make your soul bleed:

1) No matter how much of a "deal" you think you've gotten, you can rest assured you are being robbed BLIND. A quick search of Craigslist confirms that for the $1500 a month you're paying for your tiny studio apartment, you could be living in a spacious 2 bedroom lakefront apartment in Chicago, a 3 bedroom house (you read that correctly) in New Jersey, or a 5 bedroom MANSION in Winston-Salem.
Are you shaking with rage yet? No? Just wait.

2) Every single person who is affiliated with the NYC housing market in any way is trying to screw you over.

Every. Last. One of them.

They tell you things like "it's a great 2 bedroom on the Upper West Side," when what they mean is "it's basically a studio in Harlem that you can turn into a 2 bedroom with some fancy drapes. Or a tall bookcase."
Yep. Those definitely look sound proof.

3) When you finally find the one apartment that's just un-terrible enough to be habitable, it gets taken from you by someone else who hit "Send" 1.8 seconds before you did.
I hate you, anonymous iPad wielding girl.

I know New York City's size and population necessitate some of the hassle that comes along with apartment hunting, but I am convinced that 90% of the stress is completely unnecessary. How am I so sure? Because most people I know end up living in fairly nice places.  Which suggests that we're all bending over backwards and jumping through hoops for no real reason.

So, where do we start? Well, I can't make real-estate cheaper, or keep annoying iPad girl from getting your perfect place first, but I can do something about those pesky little real-estate people...

The solution?

A craigslist-esque website that allow users to give and access real feedback about NYC apartments.

Here's how it would work:

1) You go visit an apartment. It's not bad, but not what you were looking for.

2) You log onto my site, let's call it "ratemyapartment.com," and upload the pics you took, as well as your observations.

3) Others log on, see your reviews, and are able to make a more informed decision about whether to visit the apartment themselves.

Now let me address a few obvious points right off the bat:

First of all, it should be pretty clear that people will only want to post about apartments they're not interested in. It is highly unlikely anyone's going to post their dream place on the site for someone else to poach.
No no, don't be silly, I don't need this beautiful apartment. Take it. Please.

Given that, you may be wondering whether the posts will be good enough to warrant checking. I think the answer is yes.  People turn down apartments for a variety of reasons; maybe it's in the wrong location, or they found something cheaper, or it's out of their price range. So there's no reason to think all of the posts would be about horrible places.

Second, you may be wondering what incentive posters have to help other people find an apartment. To be clear, their desire to help would likely be entirely self-serving. It's like Yelp.  You post your reviews because you rely on others' reviews to guide you in the right direction. Ratemyapartment.com would be no different. By submitting your review, you contribute to the community of people trying to make New York apartment hunting much easier, and in return you're able to read other people's reviews to narrow down your own list of suitable places.

To be honest, I think a site like this would be useful just about anywhere. But I would most definitely start in New York, because Lord knows we desperately, desperately need it.

Let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

You learn something new everyday.

What I'm about to say may come as a shock to some of you, but there are a LOT of things I don't know how to do. In fact, if I had to give a ratio of things I don't know how to do to things I do, it'd be at least 2-to-1. (Okay okay, 3-to-1.)

Many of the things I don't know how to do don't really phase me that much. For instance, if I never learn how to drive an 18-wheeler, I'll live.
Unless it's a glow-in-the-dark 18 wheeler.

There are a lot of things, though, that I really would like to learn how to do. Like wall-scaling.

But only if I get to wear a costume, obvi.
So I started thinking...why shouldn't I be able to learn all the things I want to know how to do? There's an awesome company called Skillshare whose founders had the same thought.  I'm a huge fan of theirs, but I think the skill-sharing market is still largely under-exploited.  Skillshare allows people to sign up for one-time lessons taught by people who have whatever skill set it is they're sharing.  (I recently attended a class on the legal preparations startups should take...great class.)

What I want to do, though, is provide an outlet for people whose skills can't be taught in a one hour session.  Things like basic car maintenance, website design, or weave-sewing lessons.

So this tragedy never has to be repeated.

The site would basically function as a classy online university (I felt the distinction was necessary).

Instructors would set their course calendar, post a "syllabus," set their fee terms, and start enrolling students. Students who were looking for classes could also post their requests on the site, in hopes that instructors would soon start offering the class. My site, (which has a working title of "KJ University"), would collect a percentage of student enrollment fees.

Why I think this would work:

1) Everyone's a potential instructor.
      We all have some kind of talent. Chances are, there's something you know how to do that a lot of people would pay you money to learn. 

2) Everyone's a potential student.
       As awesome as I know my readers are, I'm sure all of you have a skill you're wishing you had picked up earlier. There's no time like the present to learn.

The bottom line is, there's a world of information out there waiting to be shared, and I think this is a great way to share it. But who cares what I think - what are your thoughts? Holler back.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Last week, my younger sister sent me a text message with a business idea: a check-in website, similar to foursquare, but entirely dedicated to helping people find free food.

As soon as I read it I thought, "That's GENIUS."

We all remember being in college, hanging out in our dorm rooms, and then getting an email that said "Free pizza in the..." - and running out of the room before we even had time to finish reading.
How many boring panels did you get stuck in because of the allure of free burritos?

Then I started thinking....why limit it to food? Why not have a site dedicated to helping people find free EVERYTHING?!

Here's how it would work:

You sign up as a member in our mobile app - let's call it "freeloader." Once you're signed in, you use your phone to check in every time you're in a restaurant, store, office, etc. that's giving away free stuff.

So for instance, you walk into a bar, and they're giving away free vodka martinis as part of their grey goose promotion. You check in and let the rest of us freeloaders know where to head. Or you're on campus and some political organization is giving out Obama-shaped cookies - again, you let us know!
Maybe you're at the final hour of a garage sale, and the host decides to throw away all of the stuff she hasn't sold. You check in, and a dozen people are instantly able to turn her trash into treasures. The possibilities are endless!
Apparently the one on the left is supposed to be McCain. But who cares? They're free.

 How it would make money:
Is that all you people ever think about!? I give you GOLD, and you still come back to the money questions.

Well as far as I can see, there's only one way for this idea to make money, and that's via ad revenue. Generally speaking, I prefer that a business idea have more than one possible revenue source, but I just can't see the other interested parties paying to play. Consumers aren't going to pay to be told where to find free stuff (because that's just self-defeating), and businesses aren't going to pay to give away free stuff (though how awesome would that be?).

That said, I'm not too worried about the lack of additional revenue streams, because considering how insanely popular this app would be, I'm guessing a whole lot of advertisers would be interested.

So who wants some freebies? Let me know your thoughts.

Shoutout to: pingmag, chewonthat

Friday, April 8, 2011

Help me help you.

I often think to myself, "What's the first thing I'm going to do when I become a ridiculously rich entrepreneur?". The answer tends to vary, (though 'acquire a pure gold statue of myself' makes a frequent appearance on the list). Lately though, the answer has been the same: hire a personal assistant.

Why do I need a personal assistant?

1) Everyone who's anyone has one, and having one means you're probably a) rich and b) important.

Like you, I have no idea why she's famous. But I do know she has an assistant.

2) There's seriously not enough time in the day to get everything done. Making the choice between watching the Top Chef finale and picking up my dry cleaning is a LOT harder than it sounds.


3) The urge to use the phrase "I'll have my assistant call you" is becoming unbearably strong.

The more I think about it, though, the more I realize - there's no reason I should have to wait until I'm rich - I could get an assistant RIGHT NOW! How? Well that leads me to...

IDEA #6: Personal-Assistant Time Share

Here's how it would work:

-You and 3 others would log onto my website, let's call it "assistme.com," and browse the list of available assistants.
-You would choose which assistant works best for you and your associates based on the person's experience, industry exposure, or location.
-You'd then plan out the assistant's weekly schedule based on the needs of your group, and hire the assistant via my website. And....

BOOM! You're rich and important.

So, let's say you decide that you need assistance Mondays and Tuesdays. On Mondays and Tuesdays, you have a personal assistant. A real life, at your beck-and-call, "leave a message with my" assistant.

I know some of you have some burning questions about this, some of which I think I can anticipate:

1) What's the difference between this idea, and just hiring a part-time personal assistant?
  • For one thing, hiring an assistant at all, part-time or full-time, is a hassle.  If you plan to hire someone yourself, the tax implications of taking on an employee become a bit overwhelming.
Wait...was I supposed to register for an Employee Identification Number before hiring Susie?!

  • If you use a website to contract out someone (the way I'd want to), you'll have a hard time finding a website to let you browse their list of available assistants. (Go ahead and google it...we both know you're going to). So, you have to spend a lot of time and energy just to *see* if there are assistants that fit your criteria.
  • If you make it past both of these steps and manage to successfully hire a part-time assistant, you are likely to be stuck with a stringent, 4 hour per day schedule that cannot be changed because your PA has obligations to other clients which can't be moved. (With my site, signing up with 3 friends/colleagues would increase flexibility, allowing you to switch out days/times when your friends can accommodate you)
2) Don't sites like this already exist?
  • If you're asking this, there's a good chance you live in a big city. Sites like agentanything.com and taskrabbit.com have become fairly popular in NYC, Boston and San Francisco. These sites don't offer you personal assistants, though, they offer you one-off errand fulfillment. Great services, but not the same thing.
  • Several of the websites out there that do tout themselves as "assistant providers" are similarly task-oriented. Hour25 in NYC is one such site. Assistants are hired by the hour, and for a specific duration of time.  This is great if you have a big project you're working on and need an extra hand for a few weeks, but not so great if you're just generally busy, and want someone to be on-call when you need them.
I envision my core customer being someone who's extremely busy, but not extremely rich (and not-yet ready to shell out the tens of thousands of dollars it would take to hire a personal assistant full-time). Maybe this person is a small-business owner, and needs someone to help interview employees. Maybe she's a workaholic who spends 13 hours a day at the office, and needs someone to keep track of her personal calendar (parties, dates, weddings, etc.). Or maybe she's just a busy professional who can use help making appointments, booking travel, picking up dry cleaning, and walking her dog.

And how can you deny Mr. Fluffkins?

The point is, we can all use a little help, and I think this is one way of providing it. But who cares about what I think: what are YOUR thoughts?

Holler back.

Shoutout to: bestweekever, wallpaperstock, tucsoncitizen

Friday, April 1, 2011


So, I gotta be honest with this one - I'm a little salty.

Why, you ask? Because I woke up this morning with a BRILLIANT idea, only to discover someone had already beaten me to the punch. Needless to say, this post is gonna be a little short...

The idea:
An 'I.O.U' app. The purpose of the app would be to give people a way to keep track of what they owed others, and what others owed them. (Cuz I mean, I know I'm not the only one who gets tired of bailing out their friends who "forgot to bring cash" or "didn't realize there'd be a cover", and then NEVER getting paid back.)

The rub:
These fools thought of this idea back in 2008. TWO THOUSAND FREAKING EIGHT. So, not only am I late....I'm late by a long shot. And they aren't the only ones: other apps can be found here, here, and here. Which basically means any attempt of mine to *improve* upon the current model would probably be futile...especially considering the minor detail that I have no tech background whatsoever.

Why I'm posting:
Well for one thing, I have a deadline. I promised one idea a week and gosh darnit I'm going to post a new idea if it kills me! And since I came up with this idea without realizing 1,000 other fools had already launched it, I like to think it still counts.

The other thing is, I think this post just goes to show how useless a good idea is. The fact of the matter is, if you have a great idea, chances are so does someone else. I know this may sound a bit counter to the whole point of this blog, but in reality, my blog only supports this theory. I'm not worried about people stealing my ideas, because for all I know - they had them first! I want your feedback not just because it may help me launch one of these businesses, but because the process of refining and executing an idea is just as important (or actually, more important) than the idea itself.

So yeah - my 5th business idea was a dud. I'm not letting it stop me though, so meet me back here next week for what will surely be the BILLION DOLLAR BANGER.

All of that said...I'm still feeling a little salty.

If you could just move a little to the left...yep, right there, directly in my face.

PS - In case you're unfamiliar with the urban use of this word, definition can be found here.

Shoutout to: entrepremother, senseitalks

Friday, March 25, 2011


Take a trip with me. A trip back in time....where are we headed?

To the year 2003.

(For those of you who can't think back that far, here's a refresher: Justin Timberlake had just released his 1st album, skinny jeans weren't in fashion, and everyone was sure Bush was months away from being kicked out of office.)

Most importantly, I was a senior in high school, and there was exactly one thing on my mind: COLLEGE.

I won't bore you with the details of my obsessive-compulsive college search habits (I mean, hasn't everyone had their guidance counselor file a restraining order against them once or twice?)

The important thing to note is how well-prepared I was to navigate the maddening world of college applications, scholarship deadlines, school visits and alumni interviews. I credit a lot of my preparation to my older sister. Having been through it before (and done well enough to go to Princeton, no less), she had a really strong grasp on what it would take to turn me into the essay-writing, SAT-killing, future-billionaire I was destined to be. What a lot of people don't know is, I wouldn't have even *applied* to Harvard if it hadn't been for Lauren. And look at me now! I'm practically swimming in Alumni-of-the-Year Awards.

I was going to put a pic of Harvard here, but they frown upon non-approved uses of their image. Even from their most esteemed alumni, which I clearly am.

The fact that one suggestion from my sister changed the course of my life considerably got me thinking: what do the people without an amazing big sister (or mother/father/mentor) do? I suspect most of them end up applying based on things like proximity, tuition requirements, and their friends. And while all of these are perfectly fine considerations, they're certainly not the only considerations. I would argue that they're not even the most important ones.

What if someone had stepped in at the beginning of senior year, and told one of those 17 year olds "Hey, you've got great grades and you're interested in computer science. Have you ever considered the University of Texas? Their CS program is ranked top ten, and they give out thousands of dollars in scholarships to budding programmers."

Well this idea aims to fill in that gap: a website for college seniors that provides school recommendations based on the student's GPA, interests, test scores and extracurriculars.

Let's call it: findmyschool.com

Findmyschool.com would act as a mentor to all of the college seniors out there in need of a little extra guidance. Students would give us their stats, and we'd give them a top-ten list, separated into "safety, fit, and aspirational" schools.

The list would contain a link to each school's website, so the students could browse their options easily. There'd also be a "compare schools" tab, that would allow them to do side-by-side comparisons of their top choices.

Make the right choice. (PS Harvard please don't sue me)

Once the students made their decisions about which schools to apply to, they'd plug in their choices and be given instant access to a "Deadline Calendar," which would clearly mark application deadlines, scholarship deadlines, FAFSA requirements, Prospective Student events, and so on.

How would it make money:
....Well...I'm still working on that part. My first thought was to have Universities pay a small fee when students apply via my site. I see that being problematic, however, because I imagine top-tier colleges may feel that paying for applicants is beneath them. I could also charge students to access the site, but I don't really see that being feasible either. So basically...I'm still working on it.

If you have comments or suggestions (especially concerning potential revenue streams...), holler back.