Four tools/sites I use to quickly get projects off the ground

I love playing with new ideas and always want to test things out quick. However, new projects always demand more time and energy. Creating the right graphics, finding the correct keywords, gauging user interest are all easier said than done. As I was working on creating resources for a new app , I realized that I use a small sets of tools/websites for pretty most of my projects. These are the resources I share the most when someone is looking to get started on a new project.

Canva

This has clearly been my favorite site/tool in last couple of years. This user friendly and versatile graphic design tool as been my go to place for almost any project. I have created anything from app icon to logo, Facebook ads, presentations, book covers, and flyers. I have an idea or image of something beautiful I want to create, but when I actually sit down to create , it is far from the image I have in my head. However, Canva simplifies this for me with their templates for almost any kind of graphics I need. Most of Canva’s features are free but I pay for the premium service for the ease of being able to resize a graphic to any size I want.

Unsplash and Pixabay

I came across Unsplash couple years ago when I was looking for some stock photos and for a long time I could not believe it was for real. Both Unsplash and Pixabay have amazing quality photos for almost every need that are 100% free to use. Pixabay also has vectors and illustrations that are free to use, with an option to buy some paid ones alongside. Unsplash is definitely my go to place when I am looking for an image. I have struggled at times to medical or scientific images, but other than that the section is phenomenal. In fact, if you look at medium, majority of the blog header images are from Unsplash. Attribution is not necessary but recommended, and I happily do it. I also contribute some of my relevant images to the site so we can continue to grow this amazing site.

Google keyword tool

This is a place I go to check for demand and competition anytime I have a new Idea I want to explore. I like being able to see number of searches for a certain term and competition to gauge market interest. This is also nice when I am working on something of a regional interest as Keyword tool has the option to narrow the search by geography.

Google adwords and Facebook ads

Finally I used both google adwords and Facebook ads to quickly get feedback on a project from an unbiased audience as well as gauge user interest. Additionally, for an app, I run both google and FB ads to quickly get some downloads and use firebase analytics to start collecting data on how users are using the app and optimize. I realize that paid advertising might not be for everyone, but is an amazing way to get quick feedback. For example, If I had an idea for a new subscription business, let’s say spice of the month club. Before I put in a lot of time and money into the business, I could spend $100 worth of ads to drive traffic to a landing page and see if users are willing to pay. This could be anything from taking people to a email list to a survey to an actual checkout cart that has all the steps except the final pay button. For apps, I have noticed that driving traffic early helps the app get listed on new and coming lists and drive further traffic as well as quickly testing what is working and not.

My top 5 books of 2017

Screen Shot 2017-12-23 at 1.59.09 PM.png

Not too long ago, I was barely reading a book a year. Now, reading has become one of my favorite activities. In the last couple of years, I have finally discovered the joy of reading. To do better than last year, I started with a goal of 26 books this year (1 more than last year) but was able to surpass and read 36 books this year without much effort. I wanted to share my top five of the year. This is not by specific genre, so will be a mixture of fiction and non-fiction.

1. The Gene by Siddhartha Muhkarjee

I received this book as a Christmas gift and was the book I started the year with. I was taken aback by Mukharjee's brilliant ability to write about science as an exciting and engaging story. I have a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry and a Masters in Chemistry and as such many of the concepts were not new to me. What got me hooked from the beginning was the author's storytelling ability. I wish my teachers had been able to explain concepts in the way he did. It was beautiful how simply he could explain cell division, and DNA replication. Then with equal ease, he could tie how it fit with the history of gene.

2. The everything store by Brad Stone

The entrepreneur in me loves reading about history and biography of innovators. Brad stone gives a up close view of Jeff Bezos and Amazon in this easy to read book. The book surely was motivating. A good book to read especially when you feel stuck or you are not making much progress. A good reminder also of sacrifices you should be willing to make when you have a vision as large as Amazon's. While, I enjoyed the book, one thing was clear to me. I would never want to work at Amazon or create a company with similar culture. Of course, that also comes with the understanding that I am ok trading off some of the success for more time with friends and family.

3. Misbehaving, the making of behavioral economics by Richard Thaler

I love reading about decision science and this was a perfect book for anyone who enjoys the topic. If you have read, Thinking fast and slow or Predictably irrational, a lot of the concepts are similar. But the book is still filled with thought provoking experiments and really got me think. I found myself stopping to think and analyze every couple pages, which I loved. Thaler has countless examples of how we are supposed to think/act and how we actually do. I do not know if I got any better at some of those logics, but never the less, thoroughly enjoyed the book. On my list to read again!

4. Beartown Fredrik Backman

I like to read fiction and non-fiction book at the same time. Usually reading non-fiction during morning/day and fiction at night. I read Fredrik's first book, A man called Ove last year and he has quickly become my favorite writer. Beartown was another exceptional book by Backman. Set around a small town tied together by Hockey, this is an engaging read taking on love and culture. Backman brilliantly takes us on a tour of a this small town and humanity at the same time. Even though Backman's books are translated from Swedish, his beautiful expressions are still crystal clear. I found myself highlighting so many phrases that made an impact.

5. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I first found out about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie couple years ago from her TED video titled a power of single story and have been following her writing since. This story of a Nigerian student settling in the US, hit close to home for me. I could relate to the lot experiences with those of mine when I first came to this country from Nepal.

My full 2017 reading list is on Goodreads

Why futures trading might be bad news for Bitcoin short term

rick-tap-110126.jpg

Unless you are living under the rock, you have seen the increasing popularity of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Whether it is just simple Supply and demand or plain old fear of missing out, cryptocurrencies have seen over 1000% increase just this year. However, I feel like some of the recent mainstream acceptance is likely to send the prices down for a while.

Here is my logic behind why bitcoin might take some short term beating or more accurately a correction. One of the main reasons I see this coming is from the opening of bitcoin futures trading. Both CBOE global markets and CME group launched futures trading recently. Historically, when investors feel like something is overpriced or overvalued, they will bet on it to go down using futures trading. This had not been possible for bitcoin so far.

Now, with the introduction of bitcoin futures trading it would not be least bit surprising if investors started making large bets on bitcoin prices to fall and even starting selling sprees to get the ball rolling. 

Even though the futures trading is only for bitcoin and not other cryptocurrencies, the fall of one will also very likely create a network effect of people starting to sell other cryptocurrencies. Given, that a lot of people who had been buying bitcoin or similar digital currencies were simply jumping on the bandwagon without full understanding, they will likely start selling their holdings of other digital currencies as well when bitcoin starts falling. Like any supply and demand in investment, the more people sell the lower the price could get. 

Good thing about the futures market is, at  certain point the big investors will also decide that the price has dropped enough and start making bets for it increase and slowly sending it back up.

For now, all we can do is wait and see when and how everything will unfold. Historically, investors like to sell equity and hold cash before the holidays. Given that, bitcoin futures trading opened up right before the holidays, we could very likely see a major correction right before. 

Of course, these are just my opinions from the outside. 

On Finding New Business Ideas- Seven Ideation Tips

                                                               Photo by  rawpixel.com  on  Unsplash

                                                              Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Where do you find new business ideas? That's a question that comes up often when I am chatting with friends and family looking to explore entrepreneurship. The second most common statement I hear in this discussion is something along the line of how everything has already been done/built and there is not many good ideas left. In this post I will go over five places/ways to find new business ideas. I will also touch on why finding something similar to what you want to build already exists in the market is actually a good thing. In my opinion there is no shortage of business ideas. Ideas matter but what matters more is successful execution. 

Let me begin with a disclaimer, I am by no means an expert in coming up with good ideas or in no way this list a complete list. These are merely my observations. The ideas listed below are just to provide a framework to start thinking and not a list of ideas. You can spend these frameworks to come up with dozens of ideas pretty quick. I will provide examples where possible to get you thinking, but it is ultimately up to you to spend time to come up with the ideas.


- Build something with open data

Data.gov is an excellent resource of free government data that you can use to build a product or service. Sites/Apps like realtor.com, Zillow, Zocdoc, Product Recalls rely heavily on open data for their platform. You can find data about everything from Finance to Science & Research. 

-Search the APP store

Spend some time on the app store to see trending and popular apps in a category you are interested in. Next, go through the  reviews to see what are five most common complaints or five most requested feature . Do some research into the feasibility of those features. If you can solve the problem for enough people there is an opportunity to build a product around it. You will also notice that there are usually more than a handful of apps providing a very similar service. The marketplace is huge. The audience is diverse, this means there is usually room for more than one big player. Don't let competition discourage you.

 

- Geographic translation/adaptation

Build a service/app that is popular in location A but has not gained popularity in location B. For example, my home country of Nepal does not have a lot of products and apps that are popular in US. Build a local version where it makes sense. Keep the local culture and infrastructure in mind. It does not make much sense to try to build a Facebook for Nepal. But building a Nepali version of Yelp or Uber might make more sense. Of course do your research, but look at the ideas that way. Within the US, Microbrewery culture is big in states are like Colorado and Oregon. Think of other geographic clusters with similar demographics what might welcome similar ideas. There is no shortage of companies building services similar to Uber and Airbnb in their home market. 

- Adaptation from one industry to others

For example in health care, see if there are ideas/tools/apps that are popular in human medicine that can be taken to veterinary medicine and vice versa. When the wearables market took off in human fitness, it took no time for companies to start creating similar product for dogs and cats. Look at the example of Fitbit to Fitbark. Technology penetration happens at varying speed for different industries. Most schools still make their students purchase textbooks that cost close to $200 when free to cheap options are available from OpenStax. Textbooks are no new idea, but offering digital versions at a low cost is revolutionary for educating the future generation. With how long it has taken teachers to move away  from traditional books, the room for innovation and expansion is endless. Finance, Legal, Real estate, education, health care are all in different stages of technology adaptation in their respective fields. 

- Build an existing service/product to target a niche market

There is no shortage of calendar apps out there, and most are one size fits all. However, a dentist, a real estate agent, and college student might have different needs and ways how they use their calendar. Solving a problem for specific niche and marketing to that niche is a great way to create a an existing product for a new market. For example, when we started Kduo Production, there were no shortage of international radio apps. When I built an app for Nepal, I learned that users enjoy a customized experience, they like having a product catered directly to the niche. We took this learning and started creating radio apps for lot of other smaller countries, most were not in anyone's radar. The users could have easily listened to their home country's radio from any number of radio aggregator apps, but most still chose to use the one that was specific to their country. 

-Scratch your own itch

Fulfill your own curiosity or solve a problem for yourself. If there is a a problem that you have been looking a solution for, chances are there are others with similar problems. Do some research and see if there is demand. 

-Get out of your comfort zone/Outsider view

It is often easy to get used to the way of doing things when you become so ingrained in what you do. Getting outside of your comfort zone helps you see things from different perspective. For example, as a Chemist if all i do is hang around other chemist, read about chemistry and only go to chemistry conferences, I will miss out on the technology advances in other industry that might help with workflow in a chemistry lab. When I see numerous timer apps in the app store, I think of how a simple modification of one of those apps with pre built set of timers can be incorporated into a protocol. We often hear do not bring problems without solutions but we need to hear about problems without solutions to get the outsider view. An accountant might not know how to fix an issue in the chemistry lab but he/she might notice something that has become second nature to me. Getting outside of our comfort zone to become an outsider is a great way to find new ideas. 

Of course, before you begin, do some market research. Talk to to friends and family, do online research, create a minimal viable product and get feedback. There is no shortage of ideas out there!

 

 


Similar Articles

Productivity?

About a year ago this time, I was working a full time job with over an hour commute each way. I was in the middle of my MBA program and was doing all the day to day activities for our mobile app business. A year later now, I have quit my job to turn all my focus to growing the business. My classes are not as demanding as last year and we have three part time help to help with a lot of day to day activities of the Business. With all that extra time, I was hoping to be at the peak of my productivity and get a lot more done than what I was able to a year ago. However, the truth is that I feel like I was more productive and getting more done when I hardly had a spare minute. I have less focus and feel as if I am constantly achieving less than what I was a year ago .

I am starting to realize that my brain is more productive when there is a time crunch and a deadline. Even though, I am not a  big fan of structure, It seems that I cant do away with all the structure and minimal structure  might just be what I need to restore my productivity. I recently, read the book "Flow" by Mihali Chikcent Mihaly, and his definition of Flow hit close to home for me. Mihali defines Flow as a state of mind

Wikipedia Flow

In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

Flow theory postulates three conditions that have to be met to achieve a flow state:

  1. One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress. This adds direction and structure to the task.
  2. The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows them to adjust their performance to maintain the flow state.
  3. One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and their own perceived skills. One must have confidence in one's ability to complete the task at hand.

It seems I was having easier time achieving state of flow last year. With limited time, my goals were clear and I could not afford to be scattered very often. I had that good balance between stress and productivity.

I have been going through a lot of blog posts about productivity and habits lately and been trying to implement few small changes in my daily habits. Two changes that have made the most impact so far are:

  1. Use of the App productive to create a routine and build habit.
  2. Setting concrete deadlines with tasks and subtasks.