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Who Wants To Start An Important Startup?

Hey everyone - I made an initial version of this at the TC Disrupt Hackathon, see here: Memstash. It was build in 20 hours so it's obviously very very MVP, but we ended up winning trips to Paris as well as getting over 50k visitors and 5k signups (mostly via a Hacker News post).

I think that the response generally proves that there are definitely people interested in this sort of thing - but return traffic hasn't been great, which is understandable given how basic the functionality is. Anyway, would love to get your feedback on what I've built thus far.

Who Wants To Start An Important Startup?

Interesting. Thanks for pointing this out. I'm not sure whether this is necessarily a bad thing, but it's good to know that it is a known geek archetype.

Who Wants To Start An Important Startup?

This is great - I'm going to take a look through the code and see if I can get it running on a test server.

Who Wants To Start An Important Startup?

Persol, that list of competitors is massively helpful, thank you.

I'd love to hear more about your experiences, and to get a better of idea of exactly what you had built. I think what I have in mind is a more mass-audience version of SRS (see my response to Micaiah above) rather than a more traditional Anki-type system.

I'd love to know how you were monetizing the service, and if there are any screenshots of what the site looked like. Did you offer a mobile application? Did you try to push people to engage via push notifications at all? I think this is definitely a core part of a strategy that I'd push for. I think "gamifying" is also an interesting route, need to think about this angle a little more carefully though.

Who Wants To Start An Important Startup?

MIcaiah, thanks for the detailed and well thought-out response. I'll try and respond to some of your thoughts:

I imagine this would be very hard to monetize and get customers as-is.

As far as monetization goes, I think the best route would be to charge online education providers on per-API-call basis. The end goal would be to become something akin to the "Twilio of online learning." With a sufficiently developed system, I think it'll be possible to convince companies in the online learning space that this is a worthwhile value proposition for their users. End users who have committed to a particular online learning program are much more likely to be willing to use a spaced-repetition learning system to aid in their progress in a particular course.

Your emphasis though, would appear to be more oriented toward existing power users of SRS.

I think I gave the wrong impression here, I think I'd much rather target non-users of SRS. Building something simpler but more accessible seems like a more viable alternative. Gaining traction with average, non-SRSing users, and then later adding best-of-breed features to tempt online learning providers seems like a more reasonable approach.

The average user needs to be sold on the effectiveness of a product very fast, on the first usage (or perhaps even sooner!) in order for them to continue using. However, SRS software in general are almost by definition antithetical to that goal: Their benefits do not come until far into the future, worse still it's an undefined time in the future.

I've thought of a couple of simple use cases for this sort of platform that I think seem easy to build and quite compelling for an average non-SRS user:

  • Vocabulary expansion - For People looking to expand their vocabulary - a simple javascript bookmarklet that would allow users to learn the definitions of new words that they come across.
  • "Remember what you read" - It seems that given the number of things that an average person might hope to learn in a particular day, but which are instead soon forgotten, having a simple way to record those items would be quite immediately valuable. For example, as soon as I found Instapaper, I began saving documents that I wanted to read later. I could see a simple javascript bookmarklet for "things I've read online and want to commit to memory" being used in a similar fashion. This implementation would be a very, very crude version of SRS, but I think it could help get users on board.
  • Name-Face Identification - A tool that helps users learn the names of all the contacts in their LinkedIn or Facebook friends lists. Forgetting the names of acquaintances is a common problem, and an SRS program is an ideal solution.

Beginning with a simple, self-curated deck like the ones described above would also help to avoid the problem of not having good content for first-time users.

Very interested to hear feedback on the above.

Who Wants To Start An Important Startup?

I've just posted a couple of ideas that involve Anki-like systems, it'd be great to get your feedback. In general I think that anything that promotes wider use of spaced repetition and optimized learning techniques has massive societal.

Who Wants To Start An Important Startup?

In addition to my last idea, here's another thing I've been kicking around:


Problem: Anki is great, but the user interface is mediocre and it acts as a standalone application on the platform of your choice (desktop, mobile, etc).

Solution: A hosted version of Anki accompanied by a mobile application that allows users to enter items manually, capture items from the browser via a javascript bookmarklet, or allows third parties to submit information for users via an API. In essence this would amount to "learning as a service" and could eventually be extended beyond the feature set currently offered by Anki by including customized tests for different content types.

Current development: Very much in the idea stage. Interested in hearing what ideas people have around this.

Who Wants To Start An Important Startup?

I'm an entrepreneur looking to found or join my next project, so I'm particularly in interesting what people are thinking about and working on.

An Improved Platform for Reading

Problem: We forget almost everything that we read. Current reading platforms (e.g. Kindle, Instapaper, Nook, web browsers) are very crude at helping us make the most of the time we spend reading.

Solution: A platform that uses the latest in efficient learning techniques to improve the quality of recall from reading. By adding interactivity and enhancing the reading experiencing using techniques like active recall and spaced repetition, I think we can build a considerably better interface for reading articles, books, and papers.

Real-world implementation: I think that this sort of platform could be very easily built as a browser plugin and/or mobile app for tablets. As users read a document, they would be able to highlight, add notes, and share these annotations. If users want to memorize a sentence-long summary of a particular document or a particular quote, word, or note, they can select to do so. Summaries of the notes made during reading would then be emailed at the each of day, and push notifications would be used to aid users in memorizing selected text using spaced repetition.

Current development: At present this is very much at the idea stage. I'm an entrepreneur, developer and UI designer myself, and looking for people who'd be interested in helping me build this. I'm also very interested to know whether people would be interested in using such a solution, and any suggestions for improving the idea.