Apr 2, 2021

Five Startup Ideas #028

Easy bill payment, bottom-up software, and alt APIs.

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We're entering the final stretch of Season 2, with just one more edition ahead. Already, we've shared more than 100 startup ideas, sparking pitches with leading VCs, connections between potential founders, and conversations in the Generalist community. Awesome. But we're not done yet.

Last week, we released the second part of a collaboration with Out of Pocket, meaning that the RFS entries were healthcare focused. Annie Case's suggestion for "Male Birth Control" was the tearaway winner, followed by Chas Pulido's thoughts on "Enabling the Bioeconomy," and Jack Clancy's "Nike for Chronic Disease."

As a note, Members receive a bonus idea in today's edition. If you'd like to unlock special access, join here.

Let's get to it.

This edition is supported by Future...

It's almost time. Next week, I will attempt to run 5K in 30 minutes or less — a challenge for someone with historically leaden feet. Though a little daunted, I'm feeling good! This past week, I completed some nice varied interval sets. Wednesday's workout made me particularly optimistic with a good pace maintained. My coach Eddie has been invaluable in helping me adjust to changes in schedule (and weather), and ensuring I balance the desire to push myself and the need to recover.

The generous folks at Future have opened up a free trial to readers of The Generalist. If you'd like to get 45 days of personalized training for free, just respond to this email, and I'll hook you up. I'm also happy to answer any questions about my experience using the app — it has become a true go-to for me. That's not something I say lightly.

Simple bill payment

Using the camera as a payment processor

No matter how advanced technology seems to get, paying bills remains a pain. Even if you’re committed to saving paper and receiving notifications online, some invoice or another will inevitably wind up in your mailbox. 

Even when they arrive digitally, finding the login to a site you rarely visit and navigating a typically unintuitive flow makes for a poor user experience. 

I think there’s room for a 100x improvement, leveraging the camera. The user experience would be seamless: you open your camera, point it at the bill, and boom, the payment is handled. This could happen both digitally and with paper bills. This might sound like a fantasy, but I think it’s possible. OCR has reached the point where pulling data from images is feasible, and connecting with password management systems or in-device verification (Face ID) could handle the successive steps. 

It would be a magical product. 

Alda Leu Dennis, General Partner at Initialized Capital

Software to enable the bottom-up revolution

A new stack to power growth for Notion, Airtable, et al

Over the past 5-10 years, it’s become ever more apparent that the future of buying software is bottom-up. Individual users adopt Dropbox, Zoom, and other tools on their own, then evangelize them to the broader team.

Despite that fact, most sales and marketing software companies are built to serve vendors that sell top-down. That presents an opportunity: to build enablement software for bottom-up enterprise software companies. A company in the space would help companies like Notion handle marketing, monetization (sales), and customer success, rather than a top-down organization like Salesforce. 

What might that look like? I don’t have the answers, but here are some topics worth exploring. 

  • Marketing. Prosumer products often eschew significant paid spend or account-based marketing and are more focused on leveraging word of mouth, social media, and referrals. What marketing stack should companies like this use? Inbound and content marketing might tackle part of this, but do businesses like Notion or Airtable want to use Hubspot?
  • Sales enablement. Prosumer products are generally looking to sell to existing users. Would sales acceleration and analytic tools be built differently if the focus was on upselling rather than breaking into new accounts?
  • Customer success. With an audience that often looks more consumer than enterprise, does customer success look more like community management?

Bottom-up enterprise companies have fundamentally changed the game. There are so many opportunities to serve this new type of business better. 

Kevin Zhang, Partner at Bain Capital Ventures

Cook and eat with virtual friends

Online cooking and eating that fits into your remote workday

People are working from home more than ever. Finding time to eat, take a break, socialize, and meal plan are significantly more complicated when you aren't working in an office setting with others. 

I imagine a service where you could virtually join a group to chat over lunch on whatever topic you wanted. It could be within your company, or across your industry, at a scheduled time each day. 

It would force you to break out of your bubble and mix up your routine a bit. But more so, it would lay the foundation for new social interactions. It might lead to better professional networking, friendships, or something else. LunchClub is close to this but is more about 1:1 connections and is more formal.

A more fun variant of this could involve delivering cooking ingredients and having a virtual chef walk the group through preparing a meal. Observers could learn some new techniques and get advice. Plus, you’d have the benefit of eating healthier and not resorting to something you threw in the microwave.

Josh Elman, Product Manager

Pull over

Your road-tripping guide 

When you're on a road trip, you often pass interesting, beautiful, unique spots without a clue of what you're missing. Just ten minutes off the beaten track you might find a gorgeous waterfall, a quirky museum, a fantastic restaurant, or another hidden gem.

I would love for someone to build an app that surfaces these amazing places. It could either give me a heads-up ahead of time while planning my route, or notify me as I’m driving. I’d use this on every road trip.

Lenny Rachitsky, Founder of Lenny's Newsletter

API for alternative asset securitization

A plug-and-play application to securitize, fractionalize, and bundle

We’re witnessing a generational shift from an era of institutional dominance to a retail reckoning. The markets have only just begun to reflect this rebalancing of power. Tomorrow’s traders will look quite different than those of the past. Sidelined are the Hermès ties and bank business cards. On the rise are culturally woke GenZennials and on-the-go apps.

As it stands, legacy architecture does little to support this emerging investing class’s desires, particularly those operating at a smaller-scale. 

The solution? A new cohort of connectors primed to scale alongside the asset allocators of tomorrow. These APIs would enable apps to securitize, fractionalize, and bundle different assets. That would include sneakers, songs, art, collectibles, and more. These offerings would better accommodate the demands of culturally conscious and financially empowered investors.

Now I’m just counting down the days until my wish for a T Swift + Beyonce + Jennifer Lopez ETF becomes a reality…

Meera Clark, Principal at Obvious Ventures

Bonus: Cloudcase

A suitcase full of clothing and crap for your kids that gets shipped wherever you're traveling

Being a parent is terrible, and taking family vacations is especially terrible. Unlike the days in your 20's when you'd pack an hour before you left for a 6-month trek, packing for the weekend with kids takes hours upon hours, pounds and pounds above the luggage weight limits if you're flying, and frustration upon using-your-body-weight-to-close-the-car-trunk frustration.

Here's how Cloudcase would fix it:

  • You order a bunch of clothing and toys for your kid(s) and have it shipped to a Cloudcase facility.
  • They wash all the clothing for you and pack it in a suitcase, along with the toys.
  • When you book your trip, you have the suitcase shipped wherever you're going and picked up when you leave. 
  • Cloudcase then washes and folds, and stores the suitcase for your next trip.

While this may sound like an expensive service, consider that packing for family vacations with young kids is infinitely frustrating. It stands to reason you could subsequently charge parents infinity dollars.

Jonathan Libov, Founder of Antimatter Systems


As always, clues are available to those that would like them. Just respond to this email.

Clearly a student of tech history, Greg K was first to decipher last week's Coda. He was joined by Jil K, Aishwarya N, Sid J, Shobhit J, Hari A, Ben B, Joshua K, Trevor N, Sharveen K, Timothy F, Krishna N,Vivek J,  Prasanna D, Jim W, and Matthew L in peering into the past.

The answer? Fairchild Semiconductor, a seminal company in the history of Silicon Valley. Incidentally, I wrote about its influence in Sunday's briefing, here.

The Generalist’s work is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should always do your own research and consult advisors on these subjects. Our work may feature entities in which Generalist Capital, LLC or the author has invested.