Tag Archives: start ups

Got the Wrong Gift from Santa? How Much Should You Sell It For?

Have you ever wondered if you were getting ripped off on eBay?  Have you tried to sell something on Craigslist, but weren’t sure how to price it?

Pricenomics, a new Y Combinator Startup, can help.  Pricenomics crawls the web to compile a holistic price guide for a broad range of products, from bicycles to iPads.

Here’s how it works. Santa gave you an iPad 2 3G for Christmas. But you already have one, so you turn to Craigslist. How much should you ask for?

Visit the site and search for “iPad 2 3G.” Priceonomics gives you an estimate for how much you should sell it for, along with a range of prices it’s found on the internet. It then displays listings of other people selling that product.

Check it out:

Obviously, it works the other way as well; maybe you asked for a MacBook Air, but Santa didn’t deliver.  Pricenomics has browse-able guides for a range of products. If you’re looking to buy a Macbook Air, Pricenomics provides you with a comprehensive report of price estimates and sale listings.

There’s nothing fancy going on here – the website’s just quickly providing you with a lot of data, most of which you could have found on your own.

TechCrunch asked Pricenomics CEO Michael Flaxman why Pricenomics is different from other price guides.  He said,

“First, in almost all our verticals we’re the first price guide to exist. Want to know what a five-year old bicycle is worth? Good luck finding that! Second, our guides are generated by the collective knowledge of literally millions of people.  All the data is transparently available for everyone to see.  This gives us a credibility that doesn’t exist for the big car pricing sites.  This means that all of our guides are constantly updated automatically as we continue to index the web, so there’s no risk of our prices becoming stale.”

Pricenomics launched on December 21st. They may have missed the holiday blitz, but re-gift and resell season will soon be upon us.


Why You Should Name Your Child “Peter”

One of my favorite parts about the tech revolution is the sheer amount of data that we, as end users, generate.  I’m thrilled when companies or organizations use data, voluntarily offered by their users, to write impromptu market research reports.  It’s even more exciting when market research isn’t their core competency.

One of the best examples of this is OKCupid‘s OKTrends, which reports on “Dating research from OKCupid.”

Insights, LinkedIn‘s equivalent market research arm, published a report on their blog that analyzes names.  The report analyzes names of professionals using LinkedIn. Specifically, the report looks at what names are overrepresented in different professional areas, such as among sales reps, CEOs, engineers, or athletes.

The top CEO names, for men:

  1. Peter
  2. Bob
  3. Jack
  4. Bruce
  5. Fred

And for women:

  1. Deborah
  2. Sally
  3. Debra
  4. Cynthia
  5. Carolyn

LinkedIn identifies two trends. Among males, CEO names tend to be either short or shortened versions of popular first names.  This could be because nicknames are often used to denote friendliness or openness.  Conversely, female CEOs use their full name to project a more professional image.

Here’s the infographic.

Read LinkedIn’s full report.

Above and Tilted

Before you keep reading, take a moment to look at that photo.  What is it?

Seriously, think about it for a second.

Okay, have an idea?

It’s a coffee cup.

So what?  It turns out that most people, when they visualize an object, will visualize it from an above and tilted perspective.

A researcher named Palmer went all around the world and asked people to draw a coffee cup and the pictures above were what people drew. Notice the perspective of the cups. A few of them are “straight on”, but most are drawn from a perspective as if you are slightly above the cup looking down, and offset a little to the right or left. This has been dubbed the “canonical perspective”.  (via Business Insider)

Basically, the reason we do this is fairly obvious: we tend to most often see objects from above and tilted. The below coffee cups look a lot more familiar, because they’re drawn from a perspective we’re more likely to be familiar with.

However, here’s the surprising part.  Even when we don’t normally see objects from a canonical perspective, we imagine them that way.  This research has been done on many objects, such as small dogs or cats; we still recognize them best when viewed from up and tilted, even though we tend to look almost directly down on them.  Most people recognized a horse quickly when it was from the same above and tilted perspective, but who has ever routinely seen a horse from that angle?

Why is this interesting?  It is if you’re a graphic designer.

If you want to use icons at your web site or in your web or software application that people will recognize, then you might want to use this perspective. This is probably not so critical if you are using a well known logo, for example, the logo for itunes or Firefox, but becomes important if the icon is not as familiar, such as recognizing below that one of the logos is of a truck, or a photo printer.

Palmer, S. E., Rosch, E., and Chase, P. (1981). “Canonical Perspective and the Perception of Objects.” In Long, J., and Baddeley, A.  (Eds.), Attention and performance IX, Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.  H/T Business Insider.

You Knew It All Along

Hindsight Bias, as we learned a few days ago, is “the inclination to see events that have occurred as being more predictable than they were before they took place.”  If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is.  In common parlance, we call it “20/20 Hindsight.”

For those of us who are of the nerdier persuasion, we may have seen the recent xkcd comic called “Business Idea.”

Our main stick-figure protagonist is found suffering from a severe case of Hindsight Bias.  In this comic, he’s found a company that’s capitalizing on a business idea he had “like five years ago.” He’s now getting compensated for his brilliance. (Click for larger image)


Hindsight Bias: if only we got paid for it in real life.

Iterative Innovation or: The Marshmallow Theory

We’re afraid of failure.  This makes sense – failure is a frightening concept.  Nobody likes putting themselves out there and being disappointed with the outcome.

However, we, as a society, are too afraid of failure.

Sometimes, we are so afraid of failure that we procrastinate.  Often, we call this “research,” “planning,” or “preparation.” None of those words, unfortunately, is “implementation.”

Because we’re afraid of our initiative failing, we push off executing our plans for far too long.

Failure is useful; it points out areas of improvement.  One of the best arguments I’ve seen in favor of failure is in Tom Wujec’s TED talk: “Build a Tower, Build a Team.”

In the talk, Wujec describes a team building exercise, during which teams attempt to build the tallest tower using only dry spaghetti, a yard of tape, and one marshmallow, which has to be on top of the structure.  In this exercise, business executives do terribly – they spend a lot of time figuring out who the team lead’s going to be and planning their strategy.  Fortunately, architects and engineers do quite well – they understand how to build stable structures.

Surprisingly, kindergarteners end up building some of the tallest structures.

“What kindergarteners do differently, is that they start with the marshmallow, and they build prototypes, successive prototypes, always keeping the marshmallow on top, so they have multiple times to fix ill built prototypes along the way. So designers recognize this type of collaboration as the essence of the iterative process. And with each version, kids get instant feedback about what works and what doesn’t work.”

Wujec is pointing out the necessity of beginning with the end in mind.  In this case, that’s the marshmallow.  However, there’s another factor at play here: kindergarteners aren’t afraid of failure.

Kindergarteners start building immediately, and when their structure collapses, they build another one.  And another one.  And another one.  And each time, they’re improving their structure, because now they’ve experimented with what doesn’t work.

Now, I’m not advocating striving to fail.  As Warren Buffet said, “You want to learn from experience, but you want to learn from other people’s experience when you can.”

However, stop procrastinating.  Planning only goes so far.  Research, like everything else, has diminishing marginal returns.  Put your plan into action.

Failure is not the only way to learn.  Nor is it the end of your project.  But it’s definitely a pretty good place to start.

“Most Likely to Succeed” at #Failcon

While visiting the Demo Room, we had the opportunity to look at a variety of different StartUps.  Later, using our phones, we voted via text message on the ones we thought were “Most Likely To Succeed.” Here are the winners.
  1. Mogotix – Paperless event tickets.
  2. MyNextCustomer – Measures calls and leads from a variety of sources, like Paid Search, SEO, Social, Offline campaigns.
  3. CardMunch – Take a picture of a business card with your phone; it turns into a virtual contact.


Community Management: Failing to Connect

The final panel was on “Community Management: Failing to Connect.” David Spark from Spark Media Solutions moderated.

I didn’t really understand what Community Management was before this panel.  Apparently, this area focuses on communication between the company and the users/buyers, especially when those users/buyers are angry. A few take-away messages:

  • Humor is very difficult – be careful!
  • Have a blog presence and a social presence.  Get your whole team involved.
  • Fall in love with everyone.
  • Be honest with your users.

One of the panelists summed up community management succinctly:  “”The internet is angry, so we just talk to it.”