Matt Gornick

Simple ideas can be profitable

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on October 3, 2010
I love receiving (and giving) feedback on startup ideas, pitches, and product demos.  It allows people to look for ways to improve their product as well as see their startup from objective eyes.  I think the biggest deterrent to creative feedback comes from people that discount ideas simply because … they appear to be simple.

I love this quote from Paul Graham's Essay "How to Start a Startup" (http://paulgraham.com/start.html):
"In particular, you don't need a brilliant idea to start a startup around. The way a startup makes money is to offer people better technology than they have now. But what people have now is often so bad that it doesn't take brilliance to do better."

In my experience, some people like to think that all the easy problems have already been solved and thus you should only look at solving the huge and complex problems.  Unbeknown to most, there are tons of horrible (any annoying) solutions for rather simple problems.  Additionally, these companies might have completely solved the problem wrong to begin with and it is just up to you to create a simple and elegant solution.

Here are some great examples:
  • Groupon (http://www.groupon.com/) – People have been able to get coupons before, but never before has a website made it so easy and enjoyable to look at deals and new venues in your city.  The solution is amazingly simple so much so that thousands of Groupon clones are starting to take over internet.  Great idea, simple solution, $1+ billion company.
  • 37signals (http://37signals.com/) – For those using MS Project, you know the pain and angst that is involved with doing the most simple task.  37signals didn't set out to destroy MS Project, but rather just focus on the customers that just wanted to manage a small team or project.  The overhead and headaches of MS Project allowed 37signals to solve the problem the correct way.  
  • Inventables (http://www.inventables.com/) – For years, people scoured big material books, bids, and online to find things like 'squishy magnets' or 'water proof coatings' when building new products such as cars, running shoes, airplanes, etc.  Inventables is changing the way people find these unique materials buy offering a digital marketplace for buyers and sellers to interact and discover new materials.  Buying materials isn't anything new, but enabling people to easily find and buy them is.
  • Snuggie (www.getsnuggie.com/) – As most people on this earth already know, the Snuggie is amazingly well-known and is an incredibly simple idea (essentially a backwards robe or a blanket with sleeves).  Not only was this idea easy to create, manufacture, steal, and reproduce (if someone was so inclined), but it was a wild success and has generated millions of sales.
In a quote from Twitter user heathwblack, "Sometimes the best inventions don't reinvent the wheel, they just make it roll better."

Tips for Traveling Overseas

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on October 3, 2010
There was a blog post recently on How To Travel more Intelligently (http://stu.mp/2010/10/howto-travel-more-intelligently.html), so it inspired me to jot down some of the tricks I employed on my travels.  I recently traveled to Italy and spent an amazing 10 days sight seeing, soaking up culture and history, and meeting some of my relatives who lived in Asiago, Italy.  

I put together some quick tips I used to save myself some headaches in overseas travel.

1. US Dollar -> Euro:  While in the US it is easy to rack up fees at your local bank to get US Dollars converted into the currency of your traveling country.  To give yourself a break, Charles Schwab has an Investor Checking Account with all of the ATM fees waved.  A small tip that I found out was that they also don't charge currency conversion so you can go to an ATM in Italy and get out Euros at the US/Euro exchange rate without any fees.  

2. Money Belt – Everyone I talked to mentioned the pickpockets in Rome and around Termini Station.  To mitigate the risk getting items stolen, I picked up a money belt on Amazon.  This one worked really well for my trip, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00007FCI1/ref=oss_product.

3. Small Combination Locks – I locked my backpack while I was walking around the cities to once again mitigate the risk of someone digging through my backpack and stealing my stuff.

4. Rick Steve's Podcasts + Tips – http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/packlight.htm  I downloaded all of the podcasts for the cities we were staying in so I had some background into the history, culture, and sightseeing locations.  It was amazing to walk into the Uffizi Gallery and have some background knowledge of all of the works of art.

5. Tim Ferris Tips: My sister and I made it through 10 days on only 1 piece of carry on luggage that we shared.  Try to pack as light as physically possible and only bring the absolute essentials.  You'd be surprised how little you can survive on while traveling.  Also every city has a Walgreens-like location, so you can buy anything that you forget or is above 3oz.  Check out Tim Ferris's blog for packing light.  http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2007/07/11/how-to-travel-the-world-with-10-pounds-or-less-plus-how-to-negotiate-convertibles-and-luxury-treehouses/

5. Skype – International calling is quite expensive.  I believe Italy to the US was somewhere around $1.50 per minute for my iPhone on AT&T.  To save money and still stay in touch with my family and friends back home, I have the Skype Unlimited plan which I paid around $30/year to call any US number without any extra charges.  I connected my iPhone to a hotel available wi-fi network and was able to call the US without any additional charges.  One phone call makes up the cost of the Skype Unlimited plan.

6. Travel Agent – Some people like to be more spontaneous and travel without any sort of plans in mind.  Because we wanted to visit 4 cities (Rome, Florence, Venice, and Milan) in 10 days as well as visit our relatives, we had to plan more diligently.  A travel agent was a massive help and allowed us the luxury of having train tickets organized and purchased in advance as well as detailed notes about all the locations.  Our travel agent, Nancy, also organized the hotels we were staying at so that they were centrally located to all the sites that we wanted to see.

Good luck on your future travels.

The love or the money: Measuring Job Happiness

Posted in Uncategorized by mgornick on October 3, 2010
I watched a really good TED talk on the "Happy Planet Index" (posted by my friend Sam Johnson http://asamjohnson.posterous.com/are-we-happy) and it got me thinking about how we as a society rate ourselves.  Especially right out of college, most people care about 1 number and that is their yearly salary.  It might be time to rethink that notion and think about what we actually love to do.  There is a great list of successful people that do their job because they love it rather than love the money (e.g. Steve Jobs and his $1/year salary).  It seems that while living in one of the richest and most privileged nations in the world with the infrastructure to reasonably employ any skilled worker, we should be able to enjoy our work.

Are you working at your job because of the love or the money?