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Olson’s Observations

Technology. Innovation. Science. VC. Media. :: by Eric Olson

Archive for May, 2007

Location Based Services and Hyperlocal Info: Business Models

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After reading the last post I put together on this subject you may have found yourself wondering how companies could make any money with LBS and Hyperlocal info based products. I have been thinking of the same thing and here are a handful of ideas that came to mind.

Advertising:

I know, I know… that’s a given and it can be pretty unstable so relying on it as the companies sole source of revenue may not be a perfect solution. However, I think that advertising is only a piece of the puzzle and that it cane work together with the other models I’ll talk about in a minute.

Anyhow, back to advertising. There are a couple components to advertising in hyperlocal content based sites in my mind and if used together they have the potential to work well.

First, you have the basic ad model where you can do deals across all of your content with national advertisers like McDonalds who simply want to be everywhere.

However, you can get interesting with these ad buys by having the ad that comes up dynamically pull in the location of the closest McDonalds (to stay with the example) to the user. This type of advertising would also be a great match for companies like Coldwell Banker. Since they know the users are looking at info and news on a very specific area they can market their agents and properties in that area to the user.

Second, you have the ability to offer a self-serve system that will allow local businesses like pizza places to advertise only in their area. I know people have thought of this and that it does have some issues (i.e. the local pizza joint isn’t thinking about internet ads) but I think you can allow the self-serve system to build via word of mouth and think of it, at least in the beginning, as a nice incremental revenue stream.

Content Resyndication Marketplace:

This is simply what it says - a marketplace to allow for content resyndication. Since the big guys (i.e. papers like the Chicago Tribune) want more distribution of their news you could possibly work with them to include their news headlines into the specific local areas that make sense. The Tribune may then be willing to pay you $0.10 per click on their headlines since they know the make $0.20 per visitor to their site.

It is basically an arbitrage situation that provides a revenue stream to the hyperlocal/LBS business, provides top content to the hyperlocal/LBS business and drives more pageviews to the big news organizations. Seems like a win win to me. (The genesis of this idea came from the talented Mr. Rick Klau.)

Licensing/White Label Solution:

Working on the thesis that hyperlocal content will be a big part of the news business going forward I arrived at the conclusion that a hyperlocal content company could provide an “out-of-the-box” (aka white label) solution to companies like the Tribune that will instantly give them a wealth of hyperlocal data and content.

The hyperlocal info company could get paid in a few different ways for this type of service including:

- Monthly/yearly fees
- Ad revenue share (company sells, Tribune sells or a combo of both)
- Combo of the two models

I am sure there are many other ideas to monetize these types of businesses (like booking fees, convenience fees, etc. that would work well with LBS companies) as well but these were a few that came to mind quickly. There is definitely a future here and I can’t wait to see the space emerge in a big way.

Written by Eric Olson

May 31st, 2007 at 4:15 pm

Human Computer Interaction, Location Based Services & Hyperlocal Content

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What do these things have in common you ask? They are all things I am excited about. Shouldn’t that be enough to include them in the same post? This is my blog after all. Anyway… on with the post.

Human Computer Interaction

Human Computer Interaction and advances in that space are always going to be something that gets us computer geeks going. The latest interesting innovation in that area is Microsoft’s new Surface Computing initiative. The initiative was announced and shown off at the D conference the other day. Check out the demo video on on10 to see this thing in action.

When can I get one? I am sure that question is on your mind and it surely is on mine. Larry Larsen tells us via the on10 blog post that these surface computers will first show up in the hands of Microsoft Partners (i.e. Las Vegas Casinos, etc.) but they will roll out to consumers in short order especially when they can hit the right price points for the average Joe.

Location Based Services and Hyperlocal Information:

While my friend Brad Feld is super excited about Human Computer Interaction as an investment theme (and he should be - Harmonix Music Systems (makers of Guitar Hero) was an investment made on that theme and he did pretty well on that one and you know more of these interesting innovations will break into the mainstream over time) if I were an investor I’d also be excited about companies built around Location Based Services and Hyperlocal Information.

It seems that the evolution of the internet is heading toward a system where you can find hyperlocal information of interest to you and others in your area and location based services that will tell you where things are around you at any given time. These two things will most likely work hand in hand to get you hyperlocal information based on where you are currently located.

A good example of a location based service is ParkWhiz based right here in Chicago. They inform drivers of where parking is near where they are going. They also give you all the pricing information and are even working to allow you to reserve your spot before you even leave the house.

A couple more great examples are hyperlocal content sites Outside.In and EveryBlock (still in development). Outside.In shows you stories/blog posts from folks around you and EveryBlock, Adrian Holovaty’s new project (another Chicagoan), will bring an unprecedented level of hyperlocal information right to your fingertips.

Location based services like ParkWhiz and sites that provide hyperlocal info like Outside.In and EveryBlock seem to be the future. Keep an eye out for new start-ups in the hyperlocal and location based services arenas. As things start to progress further into the mainstream (like cell phone technology, GPS technology and the mobile web for example) these services will become increasingly more valuable.

Written by Eric Olson

May 30th, 2007 at 1:12 pm

Microlending in the U.S.: Problems and Possible Solutions

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I’ve had some interesting conversations lately regarding microlending in the U.S. and it’s left me wondering why there isn’t a more reliable system here. What we do have are community-based micro loan programs which are spread out all over the country but access to those programs is incredibly restricted. The programs also have very limited funds to say the least and they have yet to get anywhere near the profitability mark meaning the programs are not self-sustainable.

A solution to the limited funds problem would be to work with Kiva or an organization like Kiva that is focused on the U.S. market (this type of group has yet to be founded - I may have to add that idea to my someday/maybe list). This way the U.S. microlending programs could send the Kiva-like organization any good candidates for microloans that they can’t help simply because they don’t have the money to loan to them.

It seems to me that a system like the one described above might have a shot. However, there are a lot of issues that hamper microfinance efforts in the U.S. that will need to be addressed.

A paper on microlending programs in the U.S. written by Mark Schreiner (Washington University in St. Louis) and Jonathan Morduch (New York University and Princeton University) back in 2001 discusses some of the hurdles facing microlending in the U.S. (download the PDF and give it a read if you have the chance). Here is a brief overview of the hurdles Schreiner and Morduch outline in the paper:

Size of the microenterprise sector: The microenterprise sector is very large in the Third World and very small in the U.S. This makes it difficult to reach critical mass. If you were to have a U.S. wide microlending program it would be hard to reach everyone in an effective way but having small independent groups in certain areas leaves those groups with a very small addressable market of potential people to loan to.

Safety net: In the U.S., unlike a lot of Third World nations, there is a safety net that essentially deters people from self-employment. The safety net comes in the form of welfare programs and and abundant amount of low wage jobs. The low wage jobs and welfare not only give folks an alternative to starting their own company via a loan they also set wage floor expectations that, at least initially, the microfinanced business may not yield.

Competition from the big guys: In the Third World stores like Wal-Mart and Best Buy aren’t present for the most part but in the U.S. they are ever present. This means that miceoenterprises in the areas covered by the big guys will have a very hard time competing. Due to this situation it seems that service based businesses would be the way to go for microentrepreneurs in the U.S.

Competition from commercial lenders: Ahhhh, the old credit cards. Here they come again. Most folks, if they have a decent credit history and a job can get a credit card which essentially provides them with small hassle-free loans whenever they need them. Therefore, credit cards provide competition to microlenders in the U.S.. On the other side of the coin credit systems in the Third World basically consist of moneylenders which charge much more interest than microlending organizations making microlending the preferred choice.

Group lending faces issues in the U.S.: Group lending is at the core of most microfinance programs around the world. The theory is that the groups will keep all the members honest and also provide background on members looking for loans. The problem with that type of system in the U.S. is that there can be less of a community feel at times. Just because people live near to one another it doesn’t mean there is a community there. In the Third World people are tied to a group of people and a plot of land making the group lending system very effective and we don’t have those same ties in the U.S..

Microfinance for housing: Sometimes people that take microloans can use some of the proceeds to fix up their house and in some cases the loan is specifically sought to fix up their house. In the U.S. this becomes a little tricky since most lower income housing does not allow for improvements and drastic changes that someone might want to make with their loan money.

Regulation: Here it is. The pièce de résistance. Unlike Third World countries where there are sections of the countries where taxes and regulations are essentially absent the U.S. is regulated to the hilt. The other interesting thing about the U.S. in the context of regulations is that banks and non-profits are under scrutiny and if they are found to have charged the poor more interest than the rich they will be taken to task in the press.

Considering that microlending programs in the Third World charge anywhere from 20% - 30% interest they are way above the interest rates charged to someone like me meaning that they wouldn’t be able to use the same interest rates in the U.S.. Unfortunately microlending is expensive so the high interest rates are justified (and they are usually far less than the local moneylenders in Third World nations charge which is why they are accepted and embraced).

Microfinance is expensive because borrowers are spread out so getting to them is costly. Also, loaning $1mm to one person or $1mm in ten thousand $100 installments to ten thousand individuals is a very different animal. The earlier is much easier to scale than the latter meaning the cost to administer the earlier is much less leading to lesser interest rates for the rich.

I still think the answer to the problem must lie in the internet. Yeah, I may be a bit biased but hear me out. The internet allows you to scale quickly since anyone in the world with a connection, and in this case anyone in the U.S. with a connection, can find you and interact with you. Of course the key phrase here is “with a connection.” Since a lot of the poor are still without an internet connection we need to hop that hurdle.

This is where that Kiva-like system comes into play. The microlending organizations in the U.S. can be the folks that source the loans and pass them up to the Kiva-like organization (man, I need a snappier name than that) which will place the listings online and allow anyone in the world to loan to them. This would bring more cash into the mix and hopefully allow the U.S. microfinance organizations to cut a lot of their costs in relation to sourcing funds and to make more money since they can get more loans out into the market.

We’ve seen peer to peer lending in this country starting to make another push with both Prosper.com and Facebook’s new P2P lending program leading the way. People could use these systems to get their microloans but this still assumes the people in question have access to the net. The digital divide needs to be bridged and it can br bridged now by having folks on the ground finding people in need and then passing them up to internet based lending systems.

Of course this is easier said than done but the first step could be to unite all of the fragmented U.S. microlending folks together and then possibly build that Kiva-like system for them to share.

In the end of the day we still need to work on regulations that incentivise people to become microentrepreneurs. The regulations will be a big catalyst in the U.S. microlending push. Once the regulations get hammered out the national microlending network with Kiva-like system could get things moving in the right direction.

Written by Eric Olson

May 30th, 2007 at 10:55 am

Posted in Microfinance

America: The Ultimate Startup

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American FlagDuring this Memorial Day weekend I found myself thinking about our troops who have died in battle to protect our way of life over the life of this country. Before I go on with this post I’d like to thank all deceased and living troops for their service to the United States of America. I often think we don’t thank them enough.

That said, my thoughts drifted to the Revolutionary War - the first war for American soldiers. I am sure I ended up thinking of the Revolution because I happen to be reading David McCullough’s 1776 right now. That novel, while enriching my historical knowledge of the Revolution, has also shown me that the founding of this country was much like the founding and building of a company making America the ultimate startup.

Here are some key characteristics of both the Founding Fathers and citizens of America and the founders and employees of a startup:

Passion is very important: You must have a strong belief in what you do in order to make your goals a reality. Washington had no real experience leading an Army which technically put him at a disadvantage when fighting the world’s most elite force, the British Army. However, Washington and his troops had passion and time and time again even though they should have lost they won because they wanted it more.

Startups always have this same passion. It is a driving force within the company that keeps people going and sacrificing when needed to get things accomplished.  They want to change the world and will fight when needed to make sure they get their product out there.

Knowing your limitations is crucial: History shows that Washington knew his limitations as was not afraid to defer to others for help. He also was smart enough to surround himself with great people that he could count on to do the right thing and to advise him when needed.

This same type of behavior is shown in most of the great startup CEOs. They hire great people around them that they can trust.  Most importantly they aren’t afraid to admit when they don’t know the exact path they should take and to consult with their fellow company builders to find the best route.

Remaining calm under pressure is critical: Washington and his men were always under tremendous pressure. They were outgunned and outmanned at every turn and yet they stayed calm, formulated their plans and pulled off one of the biggest upsets in history.

Startups do this every day. They are always up against bigger companies who have resources they don’t but yet they persevere and change the world just as Washington and his army did.

Adaptability and Innovation are essential: Things change (the only constant is change, right?) and being able to adapt is something that separates the winners from the losers. In the case of the Revolutionary War the U.S. Troops and their leaders were able to adapt to different battlefields, different situations and different styles of warfare quicker than the British. They were also innovating on war strategy and attacking in ways the British never would have imagined.

Startups are typically innovative by definition but they are also adaptive. Most if not all start-up founders and employees, at least early on, are jacks of all trades and can adapt on a dime to fulfill a need in the company.  This leaves them more nimble than the large companies they are up against and puts them at an advantage.

While there are many more similarities between America and startups I’ll leave them for another post. Perhaps you’ll see them next Memorial Day. I hope all of you American readers out there had a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend and I hope this post will get you excited to head back to work tomorrow and make things happen.  After all, this country is one big startup so get out there and follow in your forefathers footsteps.

Written by Eric Olson

May 28th, 2007 at 11:03 pm

Movie Reviews: Memorial Day Weekend Wrap-Up

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Due to the rainy Saturday we had in Chicago over the long weekend and my general interest to kick back on said day made it a good time to catch up on some movies I had been meaning to watch. Just for the record, Laura and I did do a 20 miler on the bikes on Sunday and generally got outside a bunch. I thought I would mention that so none of you out there thought we were shut ins.

Without further adieu here are quick reviews of the movies we took in over the weekend.

The Last King of Scotland

Fantastic film. The acting was incredible (especially Forest Whitaker’s portrayal of Idi Amin) and the locations were breathtaking. The subject matter was also fascinating. I knew nothing about Uganda in the 70s and Idi Amin’s reign as dictator before I watched this film and, although the film was fictional, it did get a lot of the history across. Check out this one if you have a chance. It’s intense so be prepared but ranks right up there as one of my favorite films of 2006.

Blood Diamond

Continuing with the Africa theme Blood Diamond was next up on the viewing queue. Blood Diamond is another fictional film set in a very real setting. In this case the setting is Africa in the midst of civil war and it focuses on the mining and trading of what are known as Blood Diamonds or diamonds mined in a war zone and sold in order to finance insurgent/rebel war activity.

The film was a good one although the ending could have been tied into the film a bit better. DiCaprio was excellent in his role and showed again that he is a great actor. This film is both action packed and very character driven. It doesn’t head too far toward the bleeding heart zone even though it could but it still makes you think about the diamond trade and I know I will insist that any future diamonds I buy are conflict free. As with The Last King of Scotland this film is one you should check out without question.

The Queen

The Queen focuses on the royal family, and in particular the Queen, during the tragic loss of Princess Diana. While Helen Mirren does an incredible job portraying the Queen I have to say that I found the film quite boring. The plot just dragged. It truly would have been more interesting if this film was a documentary since you would have been seeing actual historical footage. If you want some insight into the royals you should check this out but otherwise it’s best left on the shelves of your local movie rental joint.

Fast Food Nation

This film was pretty eye opening. It shows, through a fictional narrative, the process it takes to get a burger to your local fast food joint and into your hands. Exploiting illegal workers, having untrained workers gut cows which causes manure to contaminate the meat and crippling injuries that take place in the meat packing plants are the just the start of what this film shows as the reality of the fast food business.

This film did head down the bleeding heart track but apparently a lot of what was said does happen in the meat packing and fast food businesses. I hardly ever eat fast food simply due to the health issues but now it will be hard to ever stomach another fast food burger while on the run or traveling.  This is not because fast food doesn’t taste good, cause it does, but because I don’t want to support such awful corporate practices.

This is a film you should check out and then do research on your own as I have been doing. While technically it was not a fantastic film the message is still one that bears listening to and following up on.

For example, Chipotle restaurants will not use meat from animals that have been fed antibiotics (a practice used by cow farms who pack cows in very close together in dark barns - they have to give them antibiotics to keep them from getting sick since they are so close and standing in their own filth). Good work Chipotle. Ultimately it is up to us as consumers to make the change happen by requesting organic and free range options and supporting restaurants like Chipotle are a good step in the right direction (plus their food is great!).  Bottom line: I won’t become a vegitarian but I will insist that the animals I eat are raised and killed in a humane way.

Side note: On the DVD special features section there were a few short animated films called “The Meatrix” that are well worth a watch. Check them out here.

That ends the movie wrap-up.  I hope this will help you fill out our netflix queue for rainy Saturdays to come.

Written by Eric Olson

May 28th, 2007 at 10:05 pm

Posted in Movie Reviews

Movie Review & Start-up Commentary: e-dreams

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e-dreamsWow… watching this film really opened my eyes to what went on at some of the biggest companies in the bubble. I had seen Startup.com before which is very similar to this movie. That film follows govWorks.com from beginning to end but the story wasn’t as crazy I thought it would be. Sure, they had their problems but it was nothing compared to what you see in e-dreams.

e-dreams follows the guys from Kozmo.com, a service that would deliver whatever you ordered in under one hour using a fleet of bicycle messengers. Seems harmless enough I suppose but check out these stats:

- Raised $250mm in VC in about a year

- Went from 10 - 4000 - 0 employees in about a year

- Did a deal with Starbucks where they paid Starbucks $150mm over 5 years for the right to market to Starbucks customers and they made about $25mm from Starbucks for allowing them to be the only coffee they would deliver (more on this deal later - as a biz dev guy myself it made me cringe for a number of reasons - in fact, I felt physically ill after hearing the terms)

- CEO/co-founder was incredibly out of touch with the operations of the business due to his obsession with talking to the media (it’s just about all he did if the movie was accurate - of course you never know how they cut the film)

- Wanted to go public when the company was bringing in $3.5mm per year but still had a net loss of $26.3mm per year

- Pushed away their college student base (about 80% of their customer base) while trying to go for older folks who would buy more expensive stuff

In today’s web atmosphere this sounds completely absurd and it should have probably sounded absurd during the bubble too. Let’s talk about the biz dev deal with Starbucks since that was one of the craziest things in my mind.

The deal with Starbucks basically allowed Kozmo to leave video drop boxes (for returning videos rented via Kozmo) in Starbucks stores and market to Starbucks customers in other ways for $150mm to be paid over the life of the 5 year deal and Kozmo would get back about $25mm over 5 years for exclusively selling Starbucks coffee on their site. What could be wrong with that, right? A lot of things.

Granted 80% of Starbucks customers were internet users so getting to them made a lot of sense for Kozmo. However, did hitting them everyday of their lives for 5 years make sense? Can someone say frequency capping? The killer was that the company really wasn’t in any position to sign a deal worth that much money even if the deal made sense.

Of course the business model was a bit suspect (no delivery charge or decent mark-up on the products) and they grew far too fast and raised way too much money but aside from that the other glaring issue was that the CEO, Joseph Park, didn’t have a hand in much of anything other than talking to the media (or so it seemed from the film).

One of the most glaring examples of this lack of involvement was when Joe went over to one of the warehouses (called “spokes” at Kozmo) and the manager showed him the new Kozmo Intelligent Delivery System (K.I.D.S.) that, of course, is crucial to Kozmo’s core functionality of delivering stuff to people quickly. The manager asks Joe if he’s seen this yet and replies that he hasn’t seen it at all. That’s crazy. An internal product that is crucial to the company was developed and Joe had no idea what it was, how it worked or how it looked.

The quote in the movie that summed up Kozmo, and the whole internet bubble, came from a programmer on the Kozmo staff named Rich Marshall.

“A lot of these companies never intended to be businesses and we’re [Kozmo] a business now. …. [In reference to all companies in the boom/bust] Get investor money, get a sexy website, get bought if they’re lucky, cash out if they’re lucky. If they’re not, who cares? Start over. Big deal. Crash and burn was just as sexy as succeeding.”

Those were crazy times and while I was not part of them I did watch it all go down while at Bentley College and it wasn’t pretty. I think those times have made me the frugal guy I am today (i.e. when I go to NYC on business I stay with friends rather than spend company money on a hotel for example which in NYC are super expensive and I fly late night/early AM if possible to save on the flight and to maximize work hours) and I believe that frugal attitude will continue to help me through my career.

e-dreams is a great movie for anyone to watch but I think it is especially good for entrepreneurs and start-up folks to check out (also check out startup.com if you have a chance). It’s a great example of what not to do and a lot of times those examples are just as helpful as examples of what to do. Don’t repeat history, right? Be a student of History and don’t make the same mistakes.

Written by Eric Olson

May 25th, 2007 at 12:37 pm

Posted in Movie Reviews

Better Communication while in Hospitals: A Tough Nut to Crack

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Having a sister who was very ill growing up and who spent a lot of time at Mass General Hospital because of her illness and subsequent surgery (which cured here by the way) my family and I have been in the situation of having to communicate things to our extended family from the hospital many times.

For those that have been there you’ll know that this isn’t an easy thing to do. Up until recently cell phones weren’t allowed to be used in most hospitals so extended family members had a hard time calling in for updates. However, even with cell phones the family is stuck making and answering a bunch of phone calls when they should and want to be focusing on the family member in trouble.

I started thinking about a better way for families to communicate in these types of situations about two years ago but still have yet to wrap my mind around how such a fix would look business wise. I had tried to work towards a solution with the help of my friend Rick Smith while I was back in Boston.

We thought that, to start out, kiosks placed in hospitals might make the most sense. I know, I know… that’s soooo mid-1990s but here was the thought process.

Since hospitals don’t offer wifi anywhere other than the lobbies and don’t want it interfering with their equipment we’d need to patch an internet line into the hospital and route it to terminals. We’d also be able to set the terminals up for the complete novice with features like memory card slots for each type of card and a quick 1 step picture upload if you wanted to upload pictures for your family. The interface would be dead simple so everyone could easily use it.

The product would be a web page that has permissions (like flickr) and could be edited out of the hospital on a standard computer as well just like a blog. Again, UI would be deal simple and would only have core functionality in it. Family members could then get alerted to updates via e-mail, feeds, text messages, etc.

Of course then we thought families in crisis may not be the best way to break into the market. What would be? Babies. We could have these “New Life” terminals, or so we called them, in the newborn areas of the hospital where families would want to get pictures and such out ASAP. The sites could even be set up in advance of coming to the hospital and then modified via the kiosks. After the newborn market solidified we’d try to move the concept to other places in the hospital (ICU, Surgery, etc.).

Now, to the problems:

- Getting buy in from the hospitals is nearly impossible.
- Maintaining kiosks is labor intensive.
- Customer turnover is very high.
- How in the heck do you monetize this thing?

Getting buy in from hospitals will always be a hurdle but I think as more technology is allowed in hospitals those barriers will break down.

Maintaining kiosks could be farmed out to a group like Geek Squad or other local repair and help service firms via contract.

Customer turnover is a big one that isn’t easily remedied. Since this service is very events based users would only use it once in a long while and for very short times when they do. This behavior would be touch to monetize with ads and such since you can’t predict where the impressions would be from day to day. (The babies thing might work better if you could convince parents to keep it up over time with new pictures and other info.)

Monetization, as referenced above, would be tough from an ad model standpoint but not impossible. Other than an ad supported model you could add the cost into hospital bills for those that want it. Since the value add for the hospital is that you are giving them a free service for their patients so you’d probably need to get patients or their families to pay for the service and, in crazy times, they probably won’t since they have too many things on their mind.

What got me thinking about this whole idea again was a discussion that I had with my girlfriend’s brother and his wife this weekend while in D.C. They had a similar idea in the elderly care space and I brought up all the same issues with it and we then tried to think of more creative solutions.

It is a frustrating situation since it is a large problem but when trying to solve it you run into so many issues. Perhaps a twitter-like service is useful. Even in that case you run into the issue that, in a time of tragedy, you may not be able to set up a system. You would really need to convince folks to have something set up in advance even though they may never need it. It’s like insurance in that sense but when they aren’t using it how are you making money?

Convincing the users to pay would be tough since the value isn’t immediately noticed until you have been in the situation before (i.e. my mom bought a beeper way back just in case my sister had issues but had she not been though it before she wouldn’t have purchased the beeper).

Running ads would be equally hard due to the long periods of inactivity on the sites created although once you had a big enough user base you would probably have a decent amount of inventory at any given time. Forecasting that would be hard though and you’d probably be considered “low rent” space by advertisers since people aren’t necessarily in buying moods. On the baby side though ads for baby related products would be a perfect fit and people would be in the mood to buy them. That still doesn’t solve the core issue of alerting family members to a persons condition on the ICU/surgery side of things though.

I’d love to hear all of your thoughts on this. It seems like something should be done to remove friction here but it seems like most solutions only add friction or come up against tough walls like hospital regulations.

Here’s one of my recent ideas on this (i.e. came up while I was writing this post): Perhaps you could create communties around current sufferers of certain illnesses or people having the same surgeries that would allow them and their family members to learn more and communicate with others in the same position.

In this case you could have links on the personal sites that would send people to more info about the condition/surgery and to forums that others in the same condition would be part of. That would cause more stickiness which would help with an ad related model. It would also drive people to the service who may be searching for info on certain illnesses or surgeries. Of course now you are faced with some content aggregation issues which leads me to wonder if this whole thing should be another piece of business for WebMD designed to drive more pageviews through their site.

Written by Eric Olson

May 21st, 2007 at 5:14 pm