Companies I'd like to Profile (but don't exist)

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There are companies I review every day that I don’t write about. Reasons vary – it’s been done already and the product isn’t even as good as what’s been done, its a mostly or totally one-way application, or it isn’t consumer focused (or have implications for consumer focused applications). Even with this filtering, I get flame comments on some of the stuff I do choose to write about as “not worthy”.

But there are a number of companies and/or products that I would like to write about but don’t exist. I’ve been keeping a list over the last few months and I am posting it now.

Some of these are big ideas, some small. Some could potentially receive venture backing, most wouldn’t. But I believe that a viable business could be built by an entrepreneur around any of these, and I will be happy to profile them if and when someone builds them. In a way, this is number 11 in my previously post “Top Ten Things You Can Do To Get Blogged“, but its also much more than that.

And let me know if and where these should fall in Nivi’s matrix.

1. Better and Cheaper Online File Storage

Photos, movies, music and important files take up a ton of hard drive space. I recently purchased a new desktop computer with a 250 GB hard drive, and the hard drive is full from recorded television shows that I haven’t watched yet. Yeah, I can buy a network drive for my house, but they are expensive and if the house burns down I’ve still lost everything.

It’s amazing to me that all of us aren’t backing up our important files online regularly. As far as I’m concerned, the only reason is because no product has emerged to fill this tremendous demand, with the right features and at the right price.

We need a good product. Something as easy to use as the Flickr uploader on the client side, and easy web access. These tools need to go a generation or two beyond what xdrive is offering.

Features I’d like to see: drag and drop file adding and removing, an rss feed for my files, tagging of every file for easy search later, easy sharing, and the ability to publish files to the web with permanent URLs. And off location backups in case your building burns down.

Pricing needs to be dramatically lower too. Find a way to make this cheap. Include ads or whatever, but this needs to be very low cost (remember that Google offers over 2 gb of mail storage for free). Xdrive is currently $10/month for 5 gigs. Even Godaddy, at $10/year for 1 gb, is way too costly.

I have no idea what the cost economics for a business like this are, but plan for scale and give some amount, at least a gig or two, permanently free. No 15 day free trials – we see right through that. Give me a lot for free and let me scale up to, say 500 GB for $20 per year.

2. Blog/website Email Lists

People can visit my site, and get the content via RSS, but I know of no quality service to allow people to subscribe to my site via email.

I hate to rip on Feedblitz, which is really the only choice right now, but it sucks. It’s orange. Really ORANGE. I want the look and feel to be TechCrunch, not theirs. I want people to have the option of getting an email every post, every day, or every week.

I also want to know that I and I alone control these email addresses so that they will not under any circumstances be misused. If I change services, I want to have an easy export feature to take these with me (OPML would be nice).

I also want access to real time stats. The number of emails, type of subscription, how often they are opened and what things are being clicked on.

And users need a very easy way to stop the emails.

I’m willing to pay for this. Probably as much as $20 per month. A free version should be offered too that’s add supported and maybe doesn’t have the analytics.

I’m frankly amazed that Feedburner chose to partner with Feedblitz to do this instead of building it themselves. It wouldn’t be that hard to build. And the Feedblitz interface disaster wouldn’t be detracting from the Feedburner brand.

3. Portable Reputations

eBay’s Feedback system is arguably their biggest asset. Even with its flaws, it is one the biggest drivers of trust between two people buying and selling who’ve never met and never will. But it’s a closed system, usable only within eBay and only for eBay transactions. We need an internet-wide identity and feedback system that any reputable application can tap into, both pulling and pushing data.

A couple of companies have taken tentative steps in this direction, but they have until now kept the data in their own silo, demanding people come to their site to provide feedback. I reviewed iKarma, one of these, in October and practically begged them to change their business model. So far they haven’t. Opinity is much the same, although they offer partners the opportunity to tap into the data. These centralized data plays have no chance on today’s internet. Why even bother.

Here’s what we need – a referee and a scorekeeper. Open (I didn’t say free, mind you) APIs in and out, not just links to feedback scores. Figure out the rules (keep it flexible) and let other applications feed the database. Somebody please build this. Or eBay, open up your Feedback API.

I’m not alone in pleading for this. See what Rob Hof and others have to say as well.

4. Tailored Local Offers (via RSS)

Build a website. Let users give as much or as little demographic and personal information as they wish. Partner with a big sales force that already has access to local businesses (citisearch, yellow pages, whoever). Offer me (via email, website and RSS) special offers from local merchants. $5 off a pizza. Free first time dry cleaning. A cup of coffee. Whatever. I’ll eat it up (and so will everyone else).

5. Facebook, in other countries

Somebody‘s gonna do it. Why not you?

6. Free Music

Music will someday be legally free. There is just no other way. Artists, label and promoters will need to make money in other ways.

Limited edition cds and dvds. Concerts. Tshirts. Whatever. Face reality and do it sooner rather than later.

7. Open Source Yellow Pages

YellowWikis is sort of on the right path, but drop the wiki aspect (as I’ve said before, wiki’s are hammers, but not everything is a nail), add tagging and make it open source. Or at least open APIs in and out. Make money from local ads and premium listings.

8. Podcast Transcriptions

Podcasters need transciptions. Many people don’t have the time or inclination to listen to every podcast they want to. Search engines can’t index the content. Transctiptions fix both problems.

Hire transcribers in a low cost country. Offer podcasters reasonably priced transcriptions (bonus: in multiple languages). I’m thinking $10 per half hour. Partner with the podcast directories, search engines and tool providers. Mint money.

9. Decentralized Review Aggregation

There are millions of passionate reviews of every product and thing you can think of sitting out there in the blogosphere. Don’t try to get people to re-write all this stuff. Leverage tagging, RSS and, eventually, microformats to aggregate it and make it searchable/findable. Wonderfully, chaotically decentralized. Ad supported.

10. Build Something Cool with SSE

Figure out how to leverage this before everyone else does and build something beautiful and amazing.

UPDATE: Richard MacManus adds a few ideas of his own.

UPDATE: Adam Marsh adds my startups into Nivi’s/Ethan’s matrix, using numsum. Wow, numsum is pretty cool.

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