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Wednesday
Aug132014

Buy It or Bank It

What could help you win the battle for your disposable income? 

Lots of people want your money. Some of them - like your landlord, your local utility, or the company that lent you money to buy your car or go to school - you just have to pay. But some of them have to fight over your disposable income, your discretionary spending. Retailers, restaurants, travel and entertainment companies, and even financial institutions all compete for the money you get to spend in a given month that isn’t already spoken for by essentials. This isn’t the kind of competition in which you, the spender, win out in the long term. Few of these companies are thinking about your financial wellbeing. They want to take as much of your money as they can right now, and they are very good at it. So good, in fact, that at least in the US, households are deep in debt from spending too much, and shallow in savings because even if it isn’t obvious who is winning the battle for your disposable income, we know who is losing: savings accounts. 

I guess it isn’t surprising that savings accounts are so low when credit card debt is so high. The same banks that will hold your savings also offer you credit cards. Though they need the savings in order to lend it to other people, they can charge you huge interest rates on the money you borrow through your credit cards, making credit cards very profitable. I see credit card ads all the time. When was the last time you saw are really good add for a savings account? This one from Prudential is the only one that comes to mind.  

I think Americans, and the people who would like to help them save money, could use some reinforcements in the battle for their disposable income. There should be an app for that. I would call Buy It or Bank It:

Buy It or Bank It would help its users decide whether or not to buy something by comparing the cost of the product to the cost of equivalent, cheaper products and suggesting to the user that they either buy the cheaper product and bank the difference, or buy the cheaper product and something else they need that costs less than the difference:

For example, if I were thinking of buying a fancy $75 shirt, Buy It or Bank It would inform me that I could buy a shirt that is basically just as nice for $50 and automatically put the difference into a retirement account so it will be worth $250 when I retire, or enough to buy 5 more shirts.

Or Buy It or Bank It might suggest buying the $50 shirt and a $20 hat that I have been thinking about buying and had put on a wish list, thereby helping me make my disposable income go a bit further and helping me snap out of the mindset that the $75 shirt is really special and “worth it”.

The app could present me with other options, like putting the $25 savings toward something on my wishlist that I can't afford now, or just putting the whole price of the shirt into savings after it shows me what that money could get me in the future. 

The key to this is showing people what else their money could buy - in terms of things they could buy now (the shirt or hat) or things they could buy later (a vacation, a house, a retirement) - to make saving money less abstract, essentially to make it feel like you are buying something when in fact you are saving for it. 

This would work best as an Amazon-related browser plugin that pops up something at the point of sale, suggesting alternatives and tapping your Amazon wishlist. It would also need to connect to a comparison shopping engine like Amazon’s or another company’s. 

And finally it would need to connect to your bank or retirement account, and this is where the app would make money: by partnering with banks that wanted to encourage good financial behavior and earning commissions on the deposits. 

This would be a win for everyone except credit card companies and people who sell useless, over-priced stuff. I hope someone gives it a shot. 

Saturday
Mar292014

Opening Up Not Stealth

Since we launched this blog a few years ago, we meant it to be a repository for ideas we didn't have time to build.

One of those ideas is opening up Not Stealth itself to a wider group of contributors.

Considering that one of us (David) is now working on building an idea (Artivest) that was first featured here years ago, Not Stealth has already demonstrated that putting ideas out into the world might have impact down the line in ways that we can't currently anticipate.

By opening up Not Stealth to a wider group of contibutors, we hope to leverage the power of community to generate more ideas than we can alone.

Some of these ideas will remain just that - daydreams or even too half-baked to ever be made a reality. However, we hope that some might potentially spark the flame in a budding entrepreneur out there who might want to run with it to make it a reality.

As entrepreneurs, we realize that ideas are just the beginning. Execution is the hard part.

Nevertheless, we welcome you to dream with us. Please let us know if you have interest.

We'll put this particular idea into action shortly.

-David and Michael

Thursday
Mar142013

Why Not Crowdfund an NFL Team for LA?

On the way back from my always-incredible annual trip to Austin for SXSWi I was chatting with a couple of comedians about how awesome it is to have a good football team in my hometown with the Houston Texans. As I reminisced of childhood memories of having the Houston Oilers taken away, one of the comedians brought up how sad it was that there is no NFL team in Los Angeles. We all agreed.

Then he said: "Why don't we do a kickstarter project for an LA Football Team?" 

We all laughed. (These were some funny comedians). 

But then, I asked him: "Why not do a kickstarter project for an NFL team for LA?"

I was serious. 

So I emailed a few smart friends about it, and there don't seem to be any obvious ungetoverable problems besides the cost, reaching millions of people who love the NFL and LA, some regulatory stuff, getting a stadium...logistical things. 

One of my favorite things about SXSWi is that you get to meet and learn from some of the most innovative and passionate people in the world. One of those people, Elon Musk, was a keynote speaker at one of the few sessions I made a point of attending. 

When asked why he built Space X, which has already sent ships to outer-space (!) he said: "Because NASA was taking too long to get to Mars."

If you are like me and love Football and LA, you probably feel the same way about the NFL. They are taking too long to get a football team to LA.

So I ask you: Why Not Crowdfund an NFL Team for LA?

Thursday
Nov102011

Salad Bar

How do you make a Salad in bar form? I want to be able to eat a salad the way I eat an Odwalla bar: With one hand, walking down the street, while texting someone on my phone, not sitting down, with two hands, carefully trying to stuff the big floppy leaves into my mouth without looking like a cow or making a mess. 

This is less a business idea than a call for an invention, but the implications could be huge. I really do believe that a big part of why people don't eat their vegetables is because it is inconvenient. It requires prep and clean up and focused attention during the act. Delicious, sure, but in a hurry or stressed as we often are, it just doesn't happen. 

You could pack a lot of salad into a pocket-sized bar. I am imagining someone will figure out how to freeze dry, candy, or condense a huge bowl of salad and tasty dressing into something that can be sold at the grocery counter as an impulse buy right next to the candy. Freshness is a huge challenge, so maybe you freeze them or keep them in the cooler next to the smoothies. Odwalla/Fresh Samantha/Naked showed us that people will pay $4 for something that tastes good and seems healthy, and the recent craze of $11 fresh green juices shows there is even more headroom here, even if that price would put Salad Bar out of reach of most folks. Clearly there is a market here, and an opportunity to help people eat a little healthier, if someone can just figure out how to actually make one.

Scientists? Amature chefs? Gastrotechnologists? Let's make this one happen.

Wednesday
Oct122011

Bespoke Wrist Watches Over the Web



In my opinion, there are only two kinds of great watches: The cheap, classic looking, functional, everyday watch (like the $30 Timex “Weekender” I just bought from from Amazon) and the kind you merely look after for the next generation (I do not own one of these). In between there are countless makers and labels of watches that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars but are likely made of commodity components and justify their price points with overdone retail experiences and New Yorker advertisements heavy on yachts and classic race cars. Most of these watches are not special, they are just kind of expensive.

For the same money or less I suspect you could design a watch that while lacking a dubious Swiss heritage and attendant pretense, would be unique to you and therefor, in some sense, timeless. Online customization tools are common in other consumer products (cars, shoes, computers, even homes) but after a short look around, I couldn’t find a decent one for watches.

This isn’t the kind of high-concept idea we usually discuss here at Not Stealth, but I thought it’s accessibility would stir some conversation.

I want to be able to log into a website and choose from several different movements, a wide range of case shapes and finishes, different materials and colors of strap or bracelet, the shapes and colors of the hands and face, and even the font the of numbers. I would pay at least $200 dollars for a watch that I designed, even if ultimately it didn’t look very different from one I could have bought off-the-peg, so to speak. This Bespoke Watch Company could add some social features such as highlighting and naming people’s designs for others to buy, and offering follow-up service or sales of parts of color variations on the original.

The need for something like this is compounded by the fact that younger people are mainly using their phones to tell time. This puts pressure on watch companies to give people another reason to buy a watch, such as self expression. Swatch did this well, but in a very 20th Century way, mass produced, disposable/collectible way. The time for the custom wrist watch has certainly come. Why doesn’t this exist already?