Ideas are like bellybuttons
Most of our waking moments, our minds run around creating little sparks of our awesome ideas! From a little paper clip to taking us to mars — someone’s spark has got us here.
Ideas in themselves, however, are not enough, they need to be coupled with the right execution, timing, and in case of commercial products a good market fit. Without the the optimal execution no matter how great an idea, it would not realize its full potential — and this is what separates great executors from rest of couch ideators.
Here are a shortlist of few ideas I was involved with over the past decade, where my execution wasn’t up to the mark, and someone else did a kickass job at building a similar product.
Almost a blockbuster JS framework
Life was bliss — for a while — however soon enough, our priorities changed, and I moved on to some other project. My Awesome Blockbuster JS Framework was lost into oblivion. Later some smart folks at Facebook released ReactJS, and the world of JS frameworks was never the same again.
Anonymous corporate messaging
There was a time, not so long ago, when anonymous messaging caught on like wildfire. There were half a dozen apps that allowed messaging anonymously to people around us. Most of them turned into cesspool, and to some degree of relief they are all gone now — including the one we built.
Taking a cue from the first few apps, our small team thought of doing an experiment within the corporate environment. Employees of an organization would be able to message each other with complete anonymity still knowing that each one of them were a verified colleague.
We quickly build a prototype for internal testing. About 1500 employees were let in to try it out, that created endless amusement for us. We added more features — channels, topics, hashtags, avatars, search and more around usability of the app. We also introduced org administration and creating verified conversations, if a person chooses to.
All that said and done, we really didn’t think of a concrete go to market strategy. Being anonymous has its charm to it, however at the time all anonymous apps were wrecking havoc across their user base. Rampant abuse, bullying, threats, and very little moderation and control, led all such apps to become a social nightmare. We saw this in the message streams flowing through our app as well, despite of the fact that everyone participating was a colleague who we may closely work with. To quote — give someone a mask and they show their true face — would be a pretty accurate description.
Eventually, we gave up, and shuttered the service within its limited run of a half year. We planned and rejected a host of moderation, abuse prevention and active control to org admins, but nothing at the time seemed good enough to justify the risk of putting out yet another anonymous platform. In hindsight, though, some of the fears might have been misplaced, as evidenced by Blind that launched anonymous corporate messaging about the time we shut down, and quite recently introduced AMA with verified individuals!
Slack Trello hybrid
You love staying updated with your team on Slack, and you love managing and staying on top of your tasks on Trello, then you’d love them together in a single app. Yeah, that was our pitch when we built the hybrid — one tab apart.
Within a couple of weeks of burning midnight oil we came up with a converged UI for messaging and managing tasks, and built a seamless integration across those two services. We could create tasks about what we were talking about, and then talk about tasks that we have created. We built notifications left and right, and integrated with most services that Slack integrated with.
It was a cheeky idea, and very hard for us to see where we could take it. People we tested it with, were all amused, but didn’t — at the time — see much value in such integration. As a result, we decided to move on and focus our attention onto other experimental stuff. Quite recently a relatively new service has raised millions to build a service exactly like that — here’s wishing good luck to Swit.io.
Managing your Prescriptions
At one time, this was the favorite thought exercise we did with potential senior hires. “How do we make it easier for old age people to refill, and follow schedule for their prescriptions”. As we started defining the MVP we realized that taking prescriptions is a difficult problem for mostly everyone. Overall any system should meet these basic requirements:
- Ability to sort the prescription based on the medicines and their schedule.
- Dispense the right prescription at the right time.
- Automate refills with pharmacies
We threw technology to solve it — a high tech dispenser that used modularly packed prescription medicines, with embedded code that would allow the dispenser to sort and dispense the correct doses at the right time. The machine would connect with phone or other ambient smart device for notifications.
Thankfully, this was just a thought exercise with an over the top plan which, luckily for us, we didn’t really execute on. Years later, this problem was solved with a much simpler and impeccably crafted user experience to deliver prescriptions by PillPack — which packed individual dosages with timestamps, in order of their consumption that simplified the sorting and dosage problems for everyone with a very simple delivery.
Ideas are like bellybuttons everyone has them — what we have less is the right execution to bring them to reality.