Essay


13 Startup Ideas

Startup ideas aren’t actually a scarce resource. In fact, they’re only becoming more abundant — as the world moves faster and more new businesses are created, more novel niches appear for profitable, productive companies. With that in mind, we asked YC alumni and staff for startup ideas that they wish existed but aren’t currently working on.

The Hidden Forces Behind Toutiao: China’s Content King

Toutiao, one of the flagship products of Bytedance, may be the largest app you’ve never heard of–it’s like every news feed you read, YouTube, and TechMeme in one. Without any explicit user inputs, social graph, or product purchase history to rely on, Toutiao offers a personalized, high quality-content feed for each user that is powered by machine and deep learning algorithms.

The Customization Curve

A few months ago, I was talking to a startup about how individual customers wanted them to do different things. I think about this optimization as operating along three variables: cost of customization, happiness generated, and cost to support that customization. The goal is to find a level of customization that makes as many customers as possible happy while not incurring support costs – through personnel or burn – that would kill your company.

Why Should I Start a Startup?

A lot of people ask themselves why they should start a startup. My answer to why you should start a startup is simple: there is a certain type of person who only works at their peak capacity when there is no predictable path to follow, the odds of success are low, and they have to take personal responsibility for failure (the opposite of most jobs at a large company).

The Evolution of Chat Apps for the Service Economy

Facebook and Apple (recently announced Business Chat) are now both vying for the same goal of owning the conversation between businesses and their clients. These conversations are so valuable because for the platform through which the communication is transmitted, incredible amounts of data and attention can be obtained not just of the consumer, but of the business as well. Data + attention = monetization.

Making Culture a Tangible Metric

Startups are always changing, evolving, growing (hopefully). Whether it’s the business plan, or the broader team dynamic; startups mobilize themselves like genetic algorithms, iterating towards the best scheme for market. So how are you supposed to build a good culture that can evolve and grow with a similarly evolving startup?

Thoughts on Insurance

Two years ago, I printed up Chubb’s 10k and started reading. As I read Chubb’s financials, industry reports, Warren Buffet’s letters, and various blogs I came to realize that the insurance industry was both far more complex and rife with opportunity than I’d assumed. While I’ve always been attracted to fractured and regulated markets, nothing quite mimics insurance in its scope, nuance, and size. I wasn’t the only person thinking about this, as the number of recent insurance tech companies indicates.

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