till.com Articles

15 Startup Company Ideas

Donald Tilllman, Oct 28, 2016
Updated Jun 12, 2017

Over the last decade or so, I've put myself in a mindset of considering marketable solutions to the everyday problems we encounter. This actually happens a lot. So I'll try to keep an active list of them here.

"Better to light a candle than curse the darkness," as they say...

Perhaps you'll find these entertaining. If you are interested in starting a company that does something described here, give me call.

  1. Intelligent Traffic Signals

    Recent developments in transportation have included the electric car, driverless cars, and ride sharing. The missing piece is how to address the traffic problem.

    I describe a powerful solution here: Intelligent Traffic Signals.

  2. Blockchain Technology Based Electronic Voting System

    Even after 240 years, the United States is not that good at voting. We've seen examples of incompetence, confusion, errors, and fraud. We've seen electronic touch screens switch votes, people physically stuffing ballots, buses shipping people to vote across state lines, voting multiple times, and dead people voting. And this is regardless of the technology; whether electronic, scanned paper, punched paper, whatever.

    "This is the only country where a death certificate is valid voter ID." — Dennis Miller

    So there is a need for an efficient, robust, reliable voting system.

    Blockchain technology can be used as the foundation for a voting system that is publically verifiable in multiple ways without revealing peoples' actual votes. Voter ID and voter eligibility would be part of the package, as well as secure and verifiable delivery of the results.

    For transparency reasons, the guts of the system should probably be open source. The revenue comes from over 3000 counties in the US that would need all sorts of tools to operate an manage it.

  3. Wall Wart Eliminator

    ("Wall wart" is an engineering colloquialism for those dangly tangly AC adaptors that almost every electronic product uses.)

    Do you know why wall warts are so ubiquitous? As opposed to having the power supply built-in to the product. It's certainly not for product design elegance.

    UL requirements make testing and approval of AC powered products very slow and expensive. So wall warts are simply a way to get a product out the door quickly and inexpensively. The company that manufactures the wall wart gets UL approval, the new product ships with an off-the-shelf wall wart.

    And unfortunately the customer now has to deal with a mess of incompatible wall warts, subject to loss or connecting the wrong one, spaghetti wires all over, difficulty fitting into an outlet strip, and just a big mess.

    What's needed is a low-power standard for small electronic products that currently use wall warts, such as disk drives, modems, networking hubs, battery chargers, audio gear, and so forth.

    • A simple plug that's small, convenient, and robust.
    • Use 12V to be compatible with automobiles. (Call it a "new age cigarette lighter plug".)
    • UPS with a simple battery.
    • Some smarts to handle current limits or simple communications.

    USB connectors are sometimes used for their power connection, but they do not supply enough current. And USB is a bidirectional standard; we really need a single direction connector from power supply to power consumption.

    Or UL Labs could be fixed. Not holding my breath.

  4. iTunes for Classical Music

    Have you tried listening to any sort of classical music on iTunes? The experience is awful. There's no concept of a piece having multiple movements, iTunes is unable to present the title of the piece in a readable format, navigation is near impossible.

    It's bizarre to see classical music fans swear so much.

    So this would be an app that fixes all those problems and optimizes the music listening experience for classical music.

    An upside: If it gets popular, Apple might acquire the company for some ridiculous amount of money.

  5. Tide-Powered Deep Sea Desalination Machine

    Reverse Osmosis desalination plants need a lot of power, mostly to pump water up to the high pressure levels required, about 900psi for seawater.

    One idea is to take advantage of the sea's natural water pressure at greater depths. About 2000 ft below sea level should do it. But that's not enough, there needs to be a pressure difference, and to depressurize the output side by pumping the water up and out.

    Tidal power could be harnessed both to pump the desalinated water out and to increase the water pressure so the machine doesn't have to be sunk so deep.

    I like the idea of a self-powered device sitting below, and a pipe coming up out of the ocean supplying drinking water.

    (I'm just throwing this out as a quickie; I don't know anything about this field.)

  6. Tiny Personal Device

    A small personal device that can perform a limited number of useful functions: 'finds your iPhone, functions as a key for identity and secure operations, key for electronics locks, ...

  7. Facebook Meme Repellant

    "A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its boots."
    — Mark Twain (probably)

    Facebook memes can efficiently propagate lies faster than just about anything. They are terse, have visual impact, leave an impression, and drop down the timeline and out of sight before anybody can debunk them. Which is why you often seem them weaponized for political purposes.

    This is a crowd source system that catalogs memes and offers debunking assistance.

    Say one of your idiot Facebook friends posts a nasty meme chock full of falsehoods cooked up by strategic political operatives. It's a lot of work to research the source of the meme, find the specific errors in the information, and post a reasonable debunking worded in such a way you don't start a race war.

    So this would include a Facebook app where you click on the offending meme, the app grabs the image and/or reference, sends it to a server where we cross check it against a database, return a set of debunking information, references, Snopes articles, etc., and also a few recommended reply texts applicable to various Facebook relationships.

    The database would be maintained by people who care about these things with a set of curators. If a user clicks on a meme that can't be found in the database, the crowd is alerted.

    The system could even track the propagation of memes introduced into the Facebook ecosystem.

  8. 21st Century Black Box

    Finding the black box after an aircraft crash is always a major drama. Instead, create a new kind of black box that continuously sends flight data to the cloud.

    (I'm just throwing this out as a quickie; I don't know anything about this field.)

  9. Retail Kickstarter Stores

    Open up a franchise of Kickstarter/Indie-GoGo retail stores. (Since Radio Shack went bankrupt, you could probably lease their stores for cheap.)

    Kickstarter products could be displayed, and demonstrated. Customers could see them in real life and try them out. And folks doing Kickstarter projects could compile customer reactions, get input. Questionable products could be proven to work.

    For some reason board games are very popular on Kickstarter. So a section of the store would be devoted to board games.

    And of course a special section for perpetual motion machines. (Heh-heh...)

  10. iTunes for Sheet Music

    Musicians have always needed access to sheet music. And they'll often get by with minimal versions -- "'Got a gig, need to get the chords down."

    Jazzers have always had the Fake Books, and the Real Books. In the early 90's the Usenet groups published "tabs"; files including chords and lyrics and solos in a tabulature format. The Usenet tabs were gathered, expanded, and are now published on web sites.

    Two problems: these sources are rarely accurate, and the composer receives nothing.

    So there's an opportunity for accurate sheet music, composer approved, with performance notes, delivered digitally for a minimal price, like iTunes, with the composer receiving a royalty.

  11. Modular Audio Signal Processing System

    I'm currently doing this. Musicians use an awful lot of electronic devices (preamps, compressors, filter, echoes, equalizers, etc.). And they often connect up 5, 10, or more of them, and the result is 20 problems in areas electrical, mechanical, and usability.

    A modular system specifically designed for audio signal processing eliminates all those problems and can support an awesome user experience.

  12. New Music Format

    People pay roughly zero for music in a downloadable format. Why? Because music is culture, and bits are devoid of culture.

    In my article A New Business Model for the Music Industry I describe a simple music delivery format that fully supports the cultural elements of music.

  13. 21st Century Pipe Organ

    The visceral experience of a physical pipe organ is unmatched. But they are crazy expensive to purchase, install, and maintain, so we are seeing fewer pipe organs in churches, theaters, and halls.

    I'm currently writing up the details, but this would be an actual pipe organ of modular construction, so it can be built incrementally over time, some ranks with real pipes, some synthesized, wireless links, intelligent airflow management.

    I'm writing up the details...

  14. Hitchhiking App

    Bring back hitchhiking! Like Uber, but free, revenue from ads. Weirdly enough, the app could fix the two major problems with hitchhiking; catching a ride from a crazy and picking up a crazy for a ride.

  15. Mutual Fund Tool

    Predicts the value of a mutual fund performance before close by charting the holdings. Prototype works.

I'll be adding more to these over time.

Copyright 2017 J. Donald Tillman
email: don@till.com
web page: http://www.till.com