Business Idea/Advice/Questions

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by GorillaPaws, Dec 22, 2006.

  1. GorillaPaws macrumors 6502a

    GorillaPaws

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2003
    Location:
    Richmond, VA
    #1
    So I've got this "brilliant idea" for a business. I was wondering if you guys could give me an idea of what it would take to get started (as in the types of specialists I would want to talk to, a rough idea of the startup capital needed, general advice, etc.). I don't want to give out all the specifics, but I can give an analogous example that should give you the rough idea of what I have in mind, but in an unrelated field.

    Ok, so here it goes. Picture a touch screen kiosk in Border's bookstore where customers could search for books by title, genre, subject, author, hardcover/softcover, new/used etc. It would function similar to a Sheetz Kiosk, or the ones the airlines use. The kiosk would access a database like amazon where the data can be centrally updated (initially probably only a few thousand books would be needed, but the system would need to be able to expand to 100,000 or more as the service grew--being updated by a special online interface developed for the publishers to update their products). Users can have a free online account on the site where they can write reviews and rate books--similar to Amazon, however this would not be required for basic search functionality (i.e. anyone could walk up and use the basic search functions without having an account), only to enhance the experience for bibliophiles--ultimately, integration with MySpace and other peer-network services is planned. When the customer uses the kiosk at the Border's Bookstore, they would scan their border's card to log in and then would be able to get book recommendations based on their past purchases and reviews (kind of like how iTunes does it's recommendations) and also the recommendations of their peers (from the peer-to-peer integration). Ideally, the system would be able to interface with Border's inventory software, but then be able to expand to accommodate Barnes and Noble and other book retailers as the product becomes an industry standard. I do realize that this business would likely never work with books.

    Here's an example of how it works. John walks up to the kiosk, and has signed up with his free account. He walks into Border's and scans his card at the kiosk. The screen pops up "Welcome John". John presses the button onscreen to continue and is presented with many search options. John knows he wants a soft-cover Science-Fiction novel, but not much else. He selects to search by genre, and then selects the Science-Fiction button. From here he can choose the most popular in the genre, or in John's case he's got a button that says "Bob has 2 recommendations for Science-Fiction". Bob is a friend in John's MySpace network who also uses the free online portion of the book service. Curious to see what Bob's picks are, he clicks the button and sees the two titles A and B. John has already read a book by the author of A and rated it low so A has a low score next to it. Title B has a high score, since people that have similar tastes (they seem to rate books similarly to John or have a high correlation in reviews to John) have rated it highly. John taps Title B and the kiosk has a page with the book, it's description, a review from the NY times, an about the author tab and links to his other works. It also displays how many copies are available (or if none are in stock it will give an eta for when the next copy is due), and a photo of where it's located in the store. I hope that gives you a good idea of what I've got in mind (although my idea isn't for books, but something else).

    So what advice do you have to try to get something like this going? How difficult would it be to create the software for something like this? Is this the kind of thing you patent and sell to someone else? or is it the kind of thing you create a prototype kiosk and pitch to Borders, or even run a pilot experiment program with a local bookstore to get marketing data for the sales pitch to Borders? I'm also curious if the metadata features of OSX would make Mac Mini's a possible hardware candidate for these? What kind of capital are we talking to get something like this going in USD? 10,000's? 100,000's? 1,000,000's? How many programmers do I need to set up a system like this? and what kind of programmers do I want objective-C or database specialists? Any thoughts, suggestions, advice is welcome. I don't mind doing research, but I could use a push in the right direction (even if that direction is the drawing board). Thanks in advance for any advice you have to offer to this American-Dreamer.
     
  2. bozigle macrumors regular

    #2
    Hey before going to technical detail.

    There is very little feedback from customers (check how many amazon customer bother to do so) so narrowing the search might be hard.
    Article from NY or any news paper, despites being available freely on the web are not freely reusable and copyrights are still valid
    Directing the customer to a specific place in the store (book, grocery, dvd...) also imply that the store is keeping up to date the specific place of each product and this is no easy task nor much fun.

    As a developer i would say that this is no big task and a two team person might be able to program the whole thing in whatever language you (they)want in few months...

    bozigle
     
  3. GorillaPaws thread starter macrumors 6502a

    GorillaPaws

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2003
    Location:
    Richmond, VA
    #3
    Thanks for the feedback Bozigle. I totally understand the proprietary nature of newspaper reviews, and the rights to reuse that information would need to be secured and negotiated. Also, I was thinking that the reference to in store location could be more general, in the sense of Title A is in the Science-Fiction section, with a picture of the science fiction section highlighted (not necessarily the exact shelf--which I agree would be problematic to maintain as stores shift inventory). Both of those features were not really meant for the 1.0 version anyways.

    I was more interested in the basics at this point, but wanted to mention the long-term vision, in case that would influence how you would want to build the initial system (i.e. not make a simple system initially that would have to be completely re-designed when you wanted to implement those features at a later date). So you said a team of 2 could do fairly easily in a few months? Where would be a good place to start researching the technical aspects of a project like this--such as what kind of database would you want to build a system like this around?
     

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