Pinboard Blog

Pinboard Co-Prosperity Winners

Today I am delighted to announce the six projects I have selected for the inaugural round of the Pinboard Co-Prosperity Cloud.

I received 306 applications in total, many of them extremely strong, and narrowing them down to six was not easy. It meant saying no to some very good ideas, and I hope that many people who received a rejection will show me up by creating a successful small business anyway.

The six finalists represent a mix of projects that I think are tractable, useful, clever, and capable of bringing their creators financial independence. They are, in no specific order:

Alex "Skud" Bayley, Australia, Growstuff

Growstuff is a website where food gardeners will be able to track and share their food-growing efforts. A year ago I would have thought Skud's proposal a little idealistic, with its emphasis on process, collaboration, radical openness, and inclusiveness. But my brush with fandom a year ago (when a distributed group of volunteers responded to my call for feature requests by drafting a beautifully organized 50+ page Google doc in about 48 hours) has made a true believer out of me. Moreover, I think food gardening is a natural fit for the kind of community-first approach Skud wants to pursue. I jumped at the chance to pick a project coming out of this friendly, highly collaborative world, and I can't wait to see what it grows into.

Luiz Irber and Guilherme Castelao, Brazil. Low-bandwidth weather forecasts for sailors

If you've ever had to deal with marine weather forecasts, you will immediately see the appeal of this idea. Marine forecasts are poorly organized, often presented in graphical form only, and hard to get where you need them most (on the boat itself, where Internet access costs a fortune). Guilherme and Luiz want to package publicly-available data on currents, wind, and weather into a succinct forecast that sailors can have sent to them by email.

Right now, customized forecasts for boaters exist only at the luxury end of the spectrum, for people who can afford to go out on the water encrusted with expensive electronics. I particularly like that Luiz is a computer engineer in earth sciences, and Guilherme has a PhD in oceanography and is an avid sailor. These guys clearly know what they're up to, and their only remaining barrier to success has been a lack of $37.

Nik White, United States, Simple Cyber Security

Nik is a security guy who wants to offer pre-hardened machine images for cloud services like EC2, Rackspace and VMware. This is such an obviously useful idea that I can't believe it has not been done yet. Like in many areas of computer security, there is no middle ground right now between 'do it yourself for free' and 'pay tens of thousands of dollars to hire an expert'. Securing your own system is time-consuming and very easy to get wrong, and for some projects, you need to meet specific standards. Having canned, hardened AMIs from a trustworthy source fills this gap in the market, allows Nik to partially automate his expertise, and guarantees him a flow of consulting work as an adjunct to his main idea.

Lucas Howell, United States, Board game project

Lucas wants to build a site for fellow board game enthusiasts who want to keep track of their games, remember defeats and triumphs, and compare strategies. Right now this market is dominated by an old and somewhat sprawling site called BoardGameGeek, where the emphasis is more on discovering new games than keeping track of ones you've played in a structured format. BoardGameGeek is also plagued by performance issues and downtime. Lucas thinks there's a good opportunity here for a more focused site, and since these circumstances are almost exactly analogous to the ones that made me create Pinboard as a scrappy alternative to Delicious, I found his pitch persuasive. I also like the fact that Lucas is building something he really wants to use himself.

Bernard Huang, United States. Food By People

The idea behind food by people is a friendly and appealing one: let people sell their home baked goods online. Right now because of antiquated food safety laws this is only legal in 31 states. I believe this is an area that is ripe for regulatory reform, and I'm pleased to support a project that will push at those boundaries. If we can have quasi-legal pot sold online, then the complementary market for baked goods is obviously going to explode. Bernard already has two bakers using the site and making money, always a promising sign. I like the focus of his idea, and I like the idea of not having to pay a fortune to order a box of delicious cookies online.

Indy Griffiths, New Zealand, Parent Interviews

As Indy describes it, his project is "a website where schools sign up, set up an interview evening, and then parents can log in and book their interviews." It belongs to the group of unglamorous but essential education websites that are currently dominated by crapware. In the US, we have big and awful market leaders like In New Zealand, Indy has an established competitor who charges schools a fortune for a terrible user expereince. What particularly impressed me about Indy's idea is that he built a full mockup as part of his scholarship project, and now he's ready to try to make it a viable business. As a recent student, he knows firsthand both what the market needs, and just what makes schools hate the current offering as much as they do. He's clearly thought the idea through and is ready to go forth and sell.

I'll have more to say about each project in a future blog post. Thanks again to everyone who applied, and the many wonderful sponsors who have offered to donate services the winners.

And thanks especially to Jesse Vincent, Diane Person, Ann Hess, Conrad Heiney, Jeff Smith, and Britta Gustafson for helping me with the final selection. Any errors I made are my own, but there would have been more without these nice people.

Congratulations to the winners!

—maciej on January 13, 2013

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