The pain of academic writing spoke to last week's readers, with Dan Shipper's "Better grant writing software" taking top spot. A number of folks wrote in responding to that particular RFS — hopefully something will get made. Greg Isenberg's "Twitter for Close Friends," earned the silver.
The three startups I found most exciting this week...
- Contra, a social network for freelancers.
- Watershed, a platform to help enterprises cut carbon emissions.
- June, a data visualization tool that sits on top of Segment.
And to finish, a question of the week: what hard thing did you accomplish in the last 7 days?
Decentralized credit scoring
An accessible and transparent Experian
Credit reporting agencies are not the most beloved companies. Why is that the case? Well, consumers have to contend with a rather opaque process and subpar user experience. Worse, large credit reporting agencies like Transunion were found to have been misleading consumers, without mentioning the data breaches that afflicted firms like Equifax.
The result is that consumers rely on antiquated, expensive, insecure platforms. I think there’s a solution to be found in decentralizing the experience. By pushing data onto the blockchain, you should be able to secure it better (moving away from a single point of failure), create true anonymity, and provide transparency around the factors that influence a rating. You’d also be able to create a more holistic score, bringing in additional sources and shifting reliance away from large financial institutions.
There are a few projects in this space, but I think we’re just at the start of a revolution.
Tinder for personal productivity
A swipe-based UI to make menial tasks easier to accomplish
Tinder popularized a now standard user behavior: swiping. Though it’s proven particularly popular in dating, I think it has potential far beyond that application. I’d love to see it applied toward different spaces, for example, personal productivity.
One example: I want to clean my phone contacts. Right now, I have to scroll through a list one by one and decide who to delete. Even deleting a single contact requires 4-5 clicks. I would love to define a simple Tinder yes/no to do this instead. Import my contacts, define "swipe left" to be "delete" and "swipe right" to be "save.” It would get my address book cleaned up fast!
Another example: decide whether you need to take action after a meeting. The product would ingest data from my calendar, allowing me to swipe left or right on each event. Left = no action needed, right = open to-dos app so I can write one down.
Net/net: Tinder made this mechanism much more popular and demonstrated how efficient it could be. We need tools that help us bring these efficiency savings to other spheres.
Organs in space
Human organ manufacturing in microgravity
3D bioprinting in a gravity field is extremely difficult. Tissues are weak, and building traditional 3D printed support structures is insanely hard when working with tissue instead of metals or plastics.
Moving the manufacturing process to space might add some complexities, but it fundamentally changes the calculus. Bio-printing in microgravity removes the need for support structures. There is no gravity to cause the tissue to "flop over,” allowing you to print organs in space with technology that is readily available today.
The Illumina of proteomics
The central dogma of biology is “DNA transcribes RNA which translates to proteins." Illumina ($68B) gave us the ability to read DNA and 10X Genomics ($20B) is allowing us to read RNA activity at a single-cell level. But it’s the proteins they encode that ultimately dictate biological function.
That next level is a lot harder to interpret because whereas nucleic acid is a linear, base-four coding language, proteins are three-dimensional constructs. We can read their amino acid sequences today but don’t have a great understanding of how sequence dictates shape and how shape dictates function.
I believe each layer in this biological stack will be more valuable than its precursor. I own 10X stock under the view it will surpass Illumina’s EV, but an analogous company at the proteomics layer could ultimately be bigger than either.
Cross-border influencer brands
Importing personality-driven commerce
Rihanna and Savage, Kylie Jenner and Kylie Cosmetics, Michelle Phan and Ipsy — the list of successful influencer brands is long, as is the list of startups trying to get into the mix in the highly competitive US market.
Instead of jumping into that geography, where you have little negotiating power and influencers want total creative control (potentially slowing down your go-to-market), I think there’s an opportunity for experts in ex-US markets to “launch” influencers abroad.
First, use the fact that influencers probably aren't on local platforms like WeChat or Weibo as a wedge. You can start a partnership on equal footing, running their social presence on those platforms. Those who take off and gain an audience in the geography are the influencers you work with to launch physical and digital goods. Since you'll know the customer better than they will, you'll have an easier time bringing products to market while capitalizing on the enormous upside of monetizing a new geography.
Like last week, I'm going to leave today's Coda veiled in mystery. It could refer to a person, group of people, company, or phrase. Clues are available to those that would like them. Just respond to this email.
Who was first to respond last time around? The unstoppable Sid J, who has gotten every single Coda so far. He's building a dynasty. In hot pursuit, Jim W (also boasting a 100% record), Shane G, Eli K, Ron F, and Amy C.
The answer? Robinhood CEO, Vlad Tenev. Congratulations to all that played, and may the odds be in your favor this week.
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