Monday, April 16, 2012

My Life's Annoyances That May Stimulate Startup Ideas

Posted By: George Deeb - 4/16/2012


& Comment

Following  Lesson #112 on Startup Ideation, I started jotting down a few annoyances in my life that I wished were fixed.  If still thinking about what business to startup, I am hoping some of these ideas strike a similar chord for you.  And, hopefully, your startups can help me resolve some of these issues.


A.  Two Party System is Broken.  I really hate the two party system we have in the U.S., with the liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans slugging it out on each topic, grinding our government to a halt.  I feel most independents, like myself, are without a party that represents them, which I think would be "fiscally conservative, and socially liberal".  I believe adding a third party would end the perpetual 50/50 log jam in Congress, and in theory, each issue would have two/thirds support, getting things done faster.

B.  Campaign Finance Reform.  President Obama is forecasted to raise $1BN for his re-election campaign.  Really?  Isn't there a better use of those campaign monies, like for education, infrastructure, jobs, etc.??  Especially since elected officials will become hostage to their contributors, to help them with their special interests.  Campaigns should be capped, at a small reasonable level, and every aspiring voice should be put on an even playing field.

C.  Attract the Smartest Candidates.  Who wants to run their families through the public scrutiny of running for office?  Who wants to work for a very nominal government salary?  We need to figure out how to get our smartest people wanting to run our country, with the proper incentives in place.  Each election should not come down to the lesser of two evils, but instead, to somebody that really understands the issues at hand and can drive real solutions on the global stage. 

D.  Too Much Time Spent Campaigning.  In today's era of immediate information, do we really need candidates spending 1-2 years campaigning to get elected??  If you are in the House of Representatives, with two year terms, that means you are only getting real work done with 50% of your time in office, and trying to keep your job with the other 50% (suggesting longer terms, could get more work done).  If American Idol can get 40MM votes in one night, can't we do something similar in politics??  Get our politicians more time focused on issues that matter.


E.  Stale K-12 Curriculum.  As I watch my kids go through school, I am just dumbfounded that the subject matter has largely gone unchanged since I was a kid.  Kids in elementary school are still spending a fair amount of time learning about rocks, Native Americans, state capitals, U.S. Presidents, etc., as if the curriculum is in auto-pilot.  Nothing against these other subjects, but I think we need to reinvent our curriculum on things that really matter, to help prepare our kids for 21st century thinking and jobs.  How about classes on how to use Microsoft Office, how to code HTML, how to build a social media following or how to start a business.  Or, instead of having a U.S. centric mindset, incorporate how the U.S. fits within the global ecosystem of countries and cultures, given the global economy we are all now a part

F.  Need Age 0-5 Curriculum.  Over 80% of brain development is complete by the age of 5 years old.  Yet we don't start our education system until then.  I think we need to better emphasize pre-school development of our children, expanding curriculum starting with 2 and 3 year olds, if not sooner in some cases.

G.  Teachers Underpaid.  Our teachers are building the next generation of leaders for our country.  That sounds like a pretty important job, that should attract the best talent possible.  And, to attract the best talent, they need the proper financial incentives to take the job and make a good living.  It is disgusting professional athletes and celebrities get paid up to $25MM per year, and teachers struggle to make $50K per year.  What kind of message is that sending to our kids??

H.  Stop Bullying.  I just saw the documentary film Bully (good movie, by the way).  I was more upset with the inept school administrators and clueless parents, then I was with the bullies themselves.  Shouldn't there be a simple rule that says bullies will be put on probation for one offense, kicked out of class for two offenses and kicked out of school altogether for three offenses?  Put cameras on each school bus, classroom and hallway and let the video speak for itself.

I.  Losing Our PHD Edge.  Countries like India and China are pumping out PHDs at multiples of those earned by Americans, many of which are schooled right here in our U.S. universities.  But, due to U.S. immigration rules and otherwise, many of these students go back to their home countries to build their careers and end up competing against us.  That doesn't make any sense to me.  We have the best universities in the world and we should keep that talent all here in the U.S., regardless of their country of origin.  We have to start thinking like a scrappy underdog here, and not rest on our laurels. 


J.  Way Too Bloated, In All the Wrong Places.  Our country is straddled with tons of debt and huge budget deficits.  But, it is very difficult to cut government jobs, since they comprise 10% of the U.S. workforce.  And, if you cut half of these jobs to rightsize government, it would take U.S. unemployment rates back up to over 13%, which would send the economy back into a tailspin.  But, at the same time, tech companies are struggling to find good tech talent.  Seems like we can retrain government workers with the much needed tech skills, and knock off two birds with one stone.

K.  Paying for Services We Will Never Benefit From.  I have been contributing to government services like Social Security and Medicare my entire adult life, and both programs are near bankrupt, making it very unlikely I will ever benefit from such programs by the time I get to the age of needing them.  And, if we stop paying into the system, the current beneficiaries will suffer.  We have to figure out affordable plans that actually work.

L.  Crumbling Infrastructure.  Largely built decades ago, we simply do not have the budgets to replace all the roads, bridges, electrical grids, communications systems, etc. that need to be upgraded to modern standards.  If we don't make this a priority, we will all be scratching our heads asking how we let their demise happen (as compared to spending billions on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan).

M. Major Tax Reform Needed.  The tax code is simply too complicated for the average American.  I shouldn't have to hire an expensive accountant each year to help me navigate the current tax laws, pages of tax filings and all the supporting documents needed.  Not to mention all the IRS jobs that are required to fulfill this broken system.  I waste almost a week of my life each year, dealing with my taxes.  Somebody figure this out . . . please!!


N.  Birth Lottery is Not Fair.  A person's financial and social fate is largely set from the day they are born.  Were you born to an affluent family with loving parents and access to great schools?  Or, were you born to a poor family with a single mom on drugs dependent on inferior schools?  I think everyone deserves a fair chance regardless of their personal circumstances.  America was built on the shoulders of a strong middle class, which is quickly evaporating.  I think we need to figure out how to bridge that gap.

O.  Job Search is Broken.  Where do I even start here!!??  Why are we still using paper resumes, instead of online videos.  Why don't technologies automatically sort applications and prioritize candidates, with no human intervention until much later in the process?  Why do we all submit oodles of online resumes, to never get any responses, given the tons of clutter in the marketplace?  Why are we told to leverage our networks to find new jobs, but other than LinkedIn, there aren't many useful tools that help you learn how best to build and leverage your network?  Why do recruiters like to label people in very narrow buckets, making it more difficult for jacks-of-all-trade to compete on an equal footing?  Why does it feel like it is an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality with the recruiters?  And, so on!!  Lots of great startups in development here.  Let's hope they figure this out.

P.  Healthcare is Broken.  There are so many inefficiencies in the healthcare system it makes my stomach turn. Major reforms are needed in malpractice claim caps, to lower malpractice insurance premiums, to lower fees charged by doctors. Major integration of disparate patient data systems are needed to avoid duplicative medical testing costs (although some progress is being made to this regard, but not fast enough). Power needs to shift from the health insurance companies, back to the patients and their doctors, to keep costs down, get the best service and attract the next generation of doctors where they can actually make a good living again. Obamacare and a bankrupt Medicare will continue to put additional strains on an already broken system. 

Q.  Traffic.   Our roads were built to support a population half of the size our cities are housing today.  It shouldn't take 60 minutes to drive 15 miles on the highway, during rush hour.  That is lost productivity time, better spent elsewhere.  Add roads, new lanes, second levels, whatever.  Just give us back our 90 minutes a day of lost time.

I may add more to this list over time, but this is a good place to start.  Understanding a lot of this can be fixed by public policy, let's see what interesting startups out there can tackle some of this.

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