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Ask Jason

This Week In Startups - Episode #546
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Ask Jason is back! Today’s show was hosted at the Samsung Global Innovation Center where five companies asked for Jason’s advice on their most pressing problems. The questions came from a music event startup, a virtual reality startup, a live video journalism app, an on-demand personal assistant app, and an idea network.
Key Takeaways - 2 min read
 
Top Quote:

“Solve a singular problem and do it really well.” 

- Jason Calacanis
 
Key Takeaways:
 
On A Music Event Startup

Sometimes when you put two things together that are 60% as good it makes it better than any one thing, but typically if you do that the smart companies will see you doing that and beat you.

Solving a singular problem and doing it really well is what entrepreneurs need to challenge themselves to do.
  • Conducting user interviews is a great way to find pain points.
On VR And The Metaverse

The test should be will this VR environment be faster or slower.

Clearly things are working better in VR this time - the headsets work, the motion tracking works, the resolution is better, and now there is the mobile phone technology to go with it.
  • For video games VR will be a lock.
  • For traveling and history channel type experiences it will most likely work as well.
  • Concerts and sporting events could also be really popular.
If you take on VR right now you are taking on a 5-10 year journey.

On Limelight

This is a great idea because everyone has their phones on them all the time.

Crowdsourcing was an interesting trend years ago, and crowdsourced journalism was supposed to change everything but it never did.
 
Limelight could actually work as a journalism platform especially if the people turning on their phones video to film would get paid.

On-Demand Two-Sided Marketplaces

Jason typically invests in people – then execution – then market (this is the opposite of most investors).
 
No one ever knew Uber would be as big as it is today (not even Travis), which proves that no one ever really knows what they are talking about:
  • You don’t actually have to know.
  • What you have to know is if the person is passionate, intelligent, and executing at a high-level.
With two-sided marketplaces you do need to learn how to balance getting demand on both sides, but if you execute well and solve the problems that exist it is just a matter of money and time.
Table of Contents (Full Notes) - 10 min read 

*You can use the table of contents links below to jump to that section only on laptop and desktop.*
Top Show Links

Companies People  Miscellaneous
On A Music Event Startup
This startup gets you tickets and necessary travel needs for live music festivals and shows.
 
Jason’s feedback:
 
SeatGeeks also gets you tickets and they have a couple hundred people focused on it so it will be hard to beat them at that.
 
It will also be difficult to be better than Expedia in the travel for the show part.
 
Since they are using the API for both of these sites they will only be 60%-70% as good as those.
 
Sometimes when you put two things together that are 60% as good it makes it better than any one thing, but typically if you do that the smart companies will see you doing that and beat you.
 
Maybe there is a kernel of an idea here, which is going to these music festivals is a big trend now:
  • They should conduct user interviews with the people that go to these music festivals and go through 30 questions with them (and have questions 20, 25, and 30 really be the ones that matter).
  • The goal is to really figure out what the pain points are.
  • You may find a better pain point from these interviews (for example - coordinating group travel to these events is difficult). 
Jason felt they did a great job building the product, but they may have built before they had enough information about what the problems were.
 
Solving a singular problem and doing it really well is what entrepreneurs need to challenge themselves to do.
 
They identified a great market and have executed well (which is extremely rare), but now they need to find a singular pain point to focus on.
On VR And The Metaverse
Question from AJ:
 
There is a buzzword being thrown around now called the metaverse.
 
Essentially, the metaverse is a 3D version of the web.
 
A lot of people in the VR community are convinced that this is what the web is moving towards.
 
How long will this transition take and what would Inside.com look like if it were in 3D?
 
Jason’s feedback:
 
This is a great question.
 
We know that VR has had 4 or 5 false starts.
 
For example, VRML – which was supposed to be VR in HTML.
  • Instead of going to the Yahoo directory and then clicking on a topic you were interested in you would actually be “floating through space” through the web, pick the file cabinet, and then pick the folder with the topic you wanted and opened it up.
  • This didn’t work because it took so much longer and the latency wasn’t good. 
A lot of times these virtual worlds slow you down, and if it doesn’t add that much then it will fail.
 
The test should be will this VR environment be faster or slower.
 
Getting the news in a VR environment for Inside.com would not be faster than reading the news or watching someone talk.
 
On the other hand if you are reading a news story and there is a part that you actually want to see in a virtual reality setting then that adds massive value.
Clearly things are working better in VR this time - the headsets work, the motion tracking works, the resolution is better, and now there is the mobile phone technology to go with it.
  • For video games VR will be a lock.
  • For traveling and history channel type experiences it will most likely work as well.
  • Concerts and sporting events could also be really popular. 
Up until now VR has been bullshit and didn’t really work.
 
Jason does not believe that the idea of all the worlds’ information being available to you walking around in 3D with the metaverse is actually going to be productized.
 
Jason applauds the people working on VR because working on VR today is like working on the web before there was broadband, but broadband was right around the corner.
  • If you take on VR right now you are taking on a 5-10 year journey.
AJ respectfully disagrees with Jason because his team already develops for a couple of different apps that are already very metaverse-like.
  • They are gaining thousands of users of traction already.
One of them is called JanusVR.
  • This is as close to a modern day metaverse that we can feasibly build right now.
  • You can navigate to anybody’s website but when you get there you are in a room or outdoors using an experience the developer created.
  • Hyperlinks are not just text anymore they are portals you can open up from one person’s server to another.
It is a much more social experience than your typical website today.
  • You can chat in real-time with other people who are at the website.
On Limelight
Limelight is a brand new app, and just got in the app store last week.
  • They have about 350 users and their main challenge is organic growth.
The question is how can they fuel organic growth more quickly with their app.
 
The app shows a map of people in a certain area and you can click on that group of people to see what is happening in that area via live video.
  • You can also be a part of this ecosystem anonymously.
There are 22 journalism colleges that will be piloting this app in the fall.
 
This will be plenty of time to grow the user base so they can create relevant content.
 
Jason’s feedback:
 
This is a great idea because everyone has their phones on them all the time.
 
Crowdsourcing was an interesting trend years ago, and crowdsourced journalism was supposed to change everything but it never did.
 
Limelight could actually work as a journalism platform especially if the people turning on their phones video to film would get paid.
 
Jason’s advice is to go to CNN, Fox, Huffington Post, etc. and try to partner with them as a launch partner:
  • Offer to give them a six-month exclusive for $250,000 and they will be the the only publication that has access to it.
  • There could also be a two-year exclusive for the platform for their specific vertical (i.e. gossip for TMZ) for $250,000 per year.
  • They could take this approach to all the major publications and work them against each other until someone writes a check. This way you also don’t need too much funding.
  • This partnership approach will amplify it for them because they can white label it for the publication (i.e. “TMZ powered by…”) 
This is like a reverse Meerkat.
 
Jason thinks they should skip the journalism schools and go right to the top news organization.
On-Demand Two-Sided Marketplaces
Question from Justin:
 
What are the key properties Jason looks for in a marketplace on-demand startup?
 
Were there any reservations with Jason investing in Uber because it was a luxury niche in the beginning?
 
Jason’s feedback:
 
Uber was a niche for Lincoln Town cars in the beginning.
 
Jason had known Travis for 10-15 years prior ot that so there was no reservation with investing in him.
 
Jason typically invests in people – then execution – then market (this is the opposite of most investors).
 
No one ever knew Uber would be as big as it is today (not even Travis), which proves that no one ever really knows what they are talking about:
  • You don’t actually have to know.
  • What you have to know is if the person is passionate, intelligent, and executing at a high-level.
  • If you are executing at a high-level today then the chances of you showing up tomorrow and executing at a low-level are small.
  • If you are executing at a low-level today and Jason gives you an angel investment then the chances of you taking that and operating at a high-level are small. 
Execution is everything. You have to be able to prove a certain level of craftsmanship.
 
HomeHero is another marketplace that Jason invested in (for eldercare).
  • They are Uber of eldercare.
  • When Jason met the team they were executing at a very high-level even though they didn’t know too much about the space. 
With two-sided marketplaces you do need to learn how to balance getting demand on both sides, but if you execute well and solve the problems that exist it is just a matter of money and time.
  • If you are actually solving a problem and figure out the supply side then the demand side is pretty easy.
These marketplaces are largely about execution and doggedness.
 
Justin’s company is Send, which provides on-demand personal assistants in real life.
  • This is running errands for people on-demand using technology.
  • This is like Exec, but Send does everything up until your front door (anything in the real-world). 
Send charges $10 for a delivery within 2 hours.
 
Jason thinks they should frame the idea as “we will make your business on-demand”.
  • This is like Uber in a box almost (where they don’t have to build the map software).
The on-demand economy is changing how we live.
On Ideator
Ideator did a survey with 2,500 people across six countries. The questions they asked were:
  • When you think of a professional network what product comes to your mind? – Answer - LinkedIn
  • When you need to get an answer to a question what product comes to mind? – Answer – Quora 
Ideator is trying to build a similar network for ideas (which does not exist right now).
 
If you share your idea on Ideator you can then interact with consumers who will give you feedback.
  • Startups need feedback and this product will allow you to get this very quickly. 
Jason’s feedback:
 
There are some people working on this in some capacity already (ChallengePost, XPrize, Quirky, Idealab, etc.)
  • Although a normal citizen wouldn’t know of these companies.
There is something interesting here but now it comes down to the mechanics of the website. Some of these ideas will be obvious to people in the industry, but there is something here.
 
There is no business model and no viral component, which needs to be worked out:
  • The viral component could be putting challenges up like, “what are the 10 ways hotels could be better?”
  • People could vote up the best idea and then they could then take this to the hotel people. 
This space is wide open.