Jose is a former colleague of mine (Motorola…), experienced business developer and social entrepreneur. His new startup LifeVenture.me has a mission. It « will make the wisdom of the world’s citizens searchable and actionable » by capturing the memories and wisdom of ageing persons on a tablet. You should check the video presenting his iPad app here.
The topic of his new venture sounds very much exciting and I can relate to it. In a few days this month, my grandfather will be exactly 100 years old ! It will be a huge family celebration and he certainly will enjoy it even though he will claim he is in his 101st year now and we are one year late (as he always says at his birthday celebrations).
He wrote his memoirs. My sister and my mother compiled them as a family book along with some pictures of him. We had it printed about 50 times and every family member got its book. We also regularly celebrate him with sorts of « derived » family products such as a tee-shirt with the portraits of his children, grand-children and grand-grand-children printed all over the back of the shirt.
The daughter of my grandfather (i.e. my mother) has been building our family tree online for years. His other daughter (my aunt) tried to start a public writer freelance career lately. Her old customers want to have their memories written by means of her interviewing them and the audio then being transcribed and edited.
My other grandfather died without written memories and his son (my father) and I do regret this.
As a member of a somewhat large latin-styled family, I sometimes have discussions with my parents and relatives about how to best share the collective wisdom of our elders and build on it. But we haven’t found any convenient-enough solution. Writing memories and compiling memoirs is quite a hard and tedious process. It also sounds vain to some (hence possibly the reason why my other grandfather didn’t bother writing his).
Some thoughts about the LifeVenture app now :
At first glance (I just watched the video and the iPad app has not been released yet), the process of filling the questionnaire sounds a bit tedious and a bit cumbersome. Especially given the fact that once it’s filled you can’t go back to it. I can guess this questionnaire may relate to the experience of Jose in the field of personal health records management. Couldn’t writing one’s memories rather be turned into an enjoyable and social or familial activity through some sort of gamified interviewing process ? Maybe it would give more opportunities to have conversations and visits from grand-children who would get a solid collective project to share with their ancestor. I remember having had cumbersome conversations with my now-gone grandmother on the phone. What to ask her beside how she feels (bad…) and how her day was (as the day before…) ?
It also makes me think of these japanese community organizations where younger adults visit elders in the neighbourhood and ask them to make paper flowers which are then sold even though the price does not cover the cost of the visit and hide the real reason of this system : getting a solid excuse for multiplying social activities with some isolated ageing persons. Good excuses are important sometimes.
Maybe the LifeVenture app would also give the opportunity to distribute all sorts of derived personalized products for the birthday or christmas of the ageing person or for family celebrations. Another business model option may also be to have the app act as some kind of controlled marketplace for « public writers » who would offer families the option of having memories recorded, transcribed and edited through the app. These writers may be living in developping countries and offer low cost services. Such a business model may also create jobs for people in the need, Samasource-styled. Interviews may be recorded and controlled in order to prevent abuse of older people. Interviewers may require some accreditation and privacy should be strictly enforced.
Some more suggestions for entrepreneurs such as Jose, from my recent experience founding Wecena and then at the Cned innovation department : has he heard about the « lean startup » movement ? he must have. Did he take 30 minutes to write down his business assumptions under the form of a business model canvas ? He should have. Does he start his new venture by validating his assumptions about customers problems before building his iPad app ? He most probably should. Does he try to get pre-sales for his app before building it ? He should. Does he read Steve Blank’s blog ? He should ! Did he follow the Lean Launchpad MOOC and buy Steve Blank’s Startup’s Owner Manual ? He may find them much useful even as the experienced entrepreneur and business developper he is.
You’ve got it : I am now a big fan of Steve Blank’s take on how to search for a valid business model. I sincerely regret not having known this when I launched my 2nd startup 4 years ago. Maybe my love for the Lean Startup hype is making me blind and won’t last long. I don’t think so but time will tell. Meanwhile I’d be more than happy hearing from Jose on such topics.
Jose, let’s have a call soon so that I can share with you my enthusiasm about your project ! See you soon, Jose !