Idea: Dating/Meeting Site In Real Life

Trigger: I went for another weekend to Boston. I was thinking about Artificial Intelligence and how I can make a simple Artificial Neural Network to learn some simple concept. How could I get in touch with someone that knows how to do that? I am in Boston after all, there are plenty of amazing colleges (MIT, Harvard blah blah) that have professors teaching this stuff. And as a matter of fact as I am walking around the streets of Boston, I am probably seeing them all around…except, I don’t know it.

The Problem: The big problem, I thought, was that no one knows anything about anyone on the streets. These are people that just come and go without giving you one bit of information (the look of a person is exception, which if you think about it is the prime way of meeting people online – pictures). At the same time, plenty of people that go past you in the grocery store are probably very interesting people with whom you can connect very well. The only way to find anything about strangers is to talk to them. But how do you know who to talk to? Should you act like a nuts job and talk to anyone?

The Idea: It would have been nice therefore to have a website where you can put specific information you are characterized with and information you are looking in other people. In my case I am looking for someone that is working with ANN. Once I setup those preferences I walk out to the open world. I carry a phone/watch/device that connects wirelessly to other such devices, checks the preferences of two people walking by each other and beeps if they match.


This way, I can walk around in CompUSA and meet ‘randomly’ a professor in ANN that was looking for a flat screen, he would probably be more than happy to talk about it, since he posted it on his profile for that specific reason. This taps into a totally new way of dating/meeting services, because it has the following very important advantages:
. . . (1) It is much more natural. There is a very big problem with dating sites: it’s the notion that if you are signing up on one, you are probably doing it out of despair b/c you have tried all your real life alternatives (or so you think). This moral underlying guilt prevents many people from using such services. But if you could meet someone in such a natural random way (on the street while shopping) then things look a whole lot different.
. . . (2) Confidentiality of information. There are many cases in which you want to make a piece of information available to the public but at the same time really only to certain people and not to others. Take a weird but true example – HIV positive person. He wants to find a date (most probably HIV positive too) so he has to state that fact and make it available to public. However it would have been nice if only the other HIV positive people new, rather than just about anyone that can exploit that information. Thus your device will only beep on the right occasions.

Difficulties: I discussed it for few days with Alek. We had the idea of making it work with cell phones because it will be easier to start the service. However, it turns out GPRS and bluetooth will not be a very likely option. Wifi could work if the area is fully covered, but again, I think cell phones are at a disadvantage. Also anything else that is more practical (a watch or a device specifically designed for the purpose) will be too expensive and will require investment and experience, neither of which we have. You got better ideas on execution, get in touch with me! You have that ready? I will definitely sign up!

Lessons From Valve’s Portal

I have always wanted to draw a parallel between a computer game and life/entrepreneurship. Here comes it:


I have been playing the awesomest game – Portal (trailer here) for some time – it’s a mind-bending first-person action-puzzle game. The challenge levels require some serious thought and flawless execution. The game kept reminding me of two very important things:

I. PUSHING LIMITS – as you complete any benchmark the bar is raised usually twice as high. This forces the following pattern of thinking:
(1) “This is impossible!” – after you just did your best to barely finish the level within 40 steps, you are now required to do same in 20! Hell it’s impossible!
(2) “This game has been tested this must be possible…”
(3) “What can be done?” – now starts the real thinking! Can you skip some parts of he whole puzzle? If not, can you execute them in a more efficient way? etc..
Every time you think you have reached the top this game reminds you, “No way buddy, not even half way!” stThen you keep climbing until you solve it. We don’t do this in real life. Most of the times we don’t push at all…

II. GIVING UP — in portal it is considerably easy to complete a challenge for one particular reason: every time you get to (1) , you immediately realize that (2) therefore you really don’t have problem (1). However in real life, when get stuck somewhere no one comes to tell you that what you think is actually impossible. It’s actually very unfortunate because as soon as people come against a problem that looks like impossible, they give up. It seems to me that the solution is to ask yourself, “Is there a chance that anyone can ever solve this problem in any way?” If the answer to this is NO then move on quickly to the next thing, but if the answer is yes, then you might want to consider if it’s worth trying to find the solution…

Idea: ScratchStretch

Trigger: I was walking on Times Square and I saw a huge advertisement that looked like a canvas with random drawings on it. I don’t remember what it was exactly, but I thought, “What if I could make a huge gynormous or endless canvas where everybody would be able to draw whatever they want. Somewhat like an endless graffiti? How about if you could purchase of your area? how about if you could add multimedia? How about if you allow user created flash applications? How about if you make it a real estate business?…”

How: I wanted to make it on my own, but needed time and money. Requires extensive communication with server and the mouse movements need to be well sync-ed with users. My friend Alek needed to help me with the backend, I was going to make the fronted with flash.

Mistake: It was nearly impossible to explain it. It takes me hours and hours to explain the complicated idea and the possibilities that arise. I need paper to draw, I need then to always answer many questions and often by these questions I would think that the person facing me totally does not understand what kinda of digital world I am talking about.

The Story: As we thought we had to get some funding. One of the few things we did was apply for Paul Graham did ask me some stuff after we submitted the application (which didn’t surprise me, given the very limited paragraphs in which we had to explain the idea). We didn’t get accepted for one reason or another. Between the feeling of rejection, the ambition, and the excitement we decided that we should try it out even if we didn’t get the funding. And so we started. It took us only 2, 3 days to give up. Over those days, we argued each trying to impose their own vision of how this idea can be done and what it should be like. It turns out it was so complicated in terms of concept that both of us founders had different idea to the point we didn’t even write one line of code before we let go. After all PG had made a good choice.

There was thousand ways of explaining it. “Social networking with a spatial perspective”, “Facebook on 3d”, “Drawing canvas where you could lay your web page at coordinates 300:320”, or “The useful Second Life.”

Every time I tried to explain it with a different term, it would confuse the listener even more. If I had it built maybe people would get the idea. But I can’t do it on my own, which is why I am posting it. It would look like a mix of GE’s drawing site,
Eric Deis’s experiment which works better when there are more people:
Google Maps:
and SwarmSketch:

If you could post a music player on Boston and hear it everywhere on the canves within a radius of 1000pixels it would be quit fun. If Nike posted an add at 400:400, then the value around it would appreciate due to traffic. And little by little, according to the content around, cities, villages of virtual information would emerge. A new market for spatial website management emerges. Instead of domains that are virtually attached by links, everything would be like in real world marked by dependency of distance.

This is how we tried to explain it at YC: A spatial application in the form of an unlimited interactive whiteboard, that is divided in X and Y coordinates. People will not only be able to freely roam and draw, but also upload music, images, videos as well as Flash applications anywhere on the surface. This way, users will be able to upload media, and also tools to modify it. As they create new content they will want to keep it by purchasing physical space on the X:Y plane. In time, popularity of owners, physical positioning, and content of the ???land??™ will create dependencies among the citizens of the now populated ???cities??™. Hopefully, we will be able at a later point to introduce Z dimension for 3D.”

I think its a cool idea, but its difficult to be done and its almost impossible to be explained. If you can get the idea, or if it sparks something similar of yours, and you think you can do it – please feel free – make it. I’d love to see it alive. Tons of money there!

Moral: Sometimes simple things may turn out to be a better choice…

Book: Good to Great

Good to Great
Jim Collins
Good to Great
ISBN-13: 978-0066620992

I bought this one because it was too red and it was EVERYWHERE. Every single BN and bookstore had it. So I finally wanted to get it and know that I am through with it. It actually is not bad. Jim Collins did a HUGE research to try to figure out why some companies are Great and why the rest of the companies are Good. By the former definition he means the companies that had a huge success/breakthrough and kept it for at least 15 years. A few very good points I want to highlight:

  • “[Executives that ignited transformation] first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it.” This is profound. We know that people are important, but this is truly taking it to the end. Not that it doesn’t matter what you do, but that if you have the right people on the bus, they will know what to do and where to drive it.
  • “We found no systematic pattern linking executive compensation to the process of going from good to great.” This is related to the previous bullet, because if you have the right people, the motivation will be coming from within and you wouldn’t have to waste money and energy in motivating them. Interesting, you would think that more money means more success…
  • He says something very important about the focus of the company – you need to figure out the one thing you can be best at, and drop everything else. Expanding business should be done only through expanding your core business [what you are already best at]. He calls that the hedgehog concept. True. Seth Godin says the same thing in the Dip. My review here.
  • For outsiders the jump in price of stock that doubles triples or quadruples market index seems fantastic, amazing, and instantaneous, but for the company, that breakthrough is just another small step in the many years of hard work and preparation. Jim Collins gives example with an egg – for people, the breaking up of the egg seems so exciting and momentary, but from the chick’s perspective, cracking the shell is just one little thing after all the transformation than went about to convert a yoke to a chicken. That reminds me of one of Marc Cuban‘s posts in which he says that you have to work had in preparation. One day when the opportunity comes, you will be able to grab it because you prepared for so long. True, true.

Those are all very good points. Collins also gives an abundance of examples that help illustrate and prove the points.

Dimmers And Light Bulbs

It seems that every time you build a product that has some level of innovation or daring vision, you get to discover things you never could imagine.

While I still haven’t tested this with web products, I made myself a gorgeous 5 bulb lamp that is sliding on strings stretched across the length of my room. It’s got a dimmer and a remote control for it. Here is how it looks.

Sliding Dimmer Lamp

It’s awesome, and it completely satisfies my light desires during day and night. But I want to share one observation that popped up – this lamp is now 16 months old and I haven’t had to change 1 bulb ever since it was made.

Have you ever sat in a room and suddenly a bulb goes…BANG! Nope. Bulbs just don’t like that. They emits light by running electricity through its thin filaments. Those filaments wear away after a while, and one day, when you switch the light with a click, the bulb explodes. This is because of the sharp influx of electricity that floods it when you switch the light. My lamp has a dimmer instead of an ON/OFF switch and this dimmer doesn’t have the option of switching ON instantaneously. That keeps the bulbs away.

Another reason, as stated on wikipedia is that 5% reduction in voltage more than doubles the life of a bulb.

Whatever the reason my bulbs are alive, there is no reason why people should be using regular switches instead of dimmers that will make their lives more comfortable, spare bulbs, and save electricity.