stuff that’s more meaningful than buying a yacht
I do not claim any sort of ownership or copyright on any of these ideas so if you want to take one and run with it, please go for it. Let me know how it turns out and maybe I can help.
I haven’t quite made it to millionaire status yet but there’s still time. I’m 41 now and plan on retiring at 45. My early retirement may be taken up with Custom Data Organizer, the spreadsheet-replacement app I am currently building, so I can’t promise I will be able to dive right into one of these projects. However, I do fully intend to pick at least one of these items at some point and do everything in my power to make it happen.
- Make therapy great again
I want to start a marketing company that only takes mental-health related businesses as clients. The stated purpose of the company would be to redefine the public image surrounding counselors, therapists and other mental-health professionals to make it comfortable for people to seek and accept the help they need. We want therapy to be socially acceptable and emotionally comfortable for everyone.
But this will take more than an advertising and de-shaming campaign. We need a change to how therapy is conducted. We need to make it fun and inviting. We need to make it positive. We would employ “out-of-the-box thinkers” to find ways for therapists to experiment with new kinds of therapy, new places to conduct therapy and new ways to think about the whole process. We would also need to have rigorous scientific standards in how we track patient engagement and effectiveness. We must always be focused on patient success, not on sales.
- Abusive relationship interventions
This would work similarly to how drug interventions work except they would be for abusive relationships. Often times victims of abusive relationships don’t see a way out, even when they have lots of friends and family who would be willing to help them. If we had a professional mental-health team that could bring friends and family together to show these victims that they do have support, we could do for abusive relationships what professional interventionists do for drug addiction.
- Happy global warming maze
I would build a maze, like a corn maze, except out of semi-permanent walls. On these walls, covering everything within the maze, would be museum-quality information and images about global warming and environmental issues.
But here’s the catch: there would be absolutely no doom and gloom, “we’re all gonna die” environmentalism. Everything would be positive. We would have stories about how different places tackled their environmental problems and came out successful. We would pay tribute to the engineers who built solutions and to the social movements that made positive changes. We would have information about the economic benefits of green technologies. We would have engineering information about things like wind turbines and solar panels, designed for multiple different experience levels.
Naturally there would be an app that would go along with the maze for further interactivity.
- Subsidized vegetable stands in food desert convenience stores
We hear all this talk about food deserts and how people in certain areas of the city just don’t have good access to fruits and vegetables. But what they do almost always have is a convenience store. Convenience stores sell unhealthy things because that’s what brings them a profit. If we can have a non-profit organization that can offset that profit margin just enough to make it economically viable for convenience-stores to sell fruits and vegetables, we can change this problem on a large scale.
We would start by talking to owners of convenience stores and figuring out how much profit they actually make per square-foot, then we offer a service that will take a few square-feet of their store and fill it with fruits and vegetables. We will guarantee the store owner the same profit margins they’re making in the rest of the store. Anything above that we could split 50/50, or contracts could be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.
We will build an efficient delivery system to keep the produce stocked so that we are known for quality produce. We would design a self-contained shelving unit to efficiently hold and refrigerate a large array of produce in a very small space. It would include a camera or two so that the stocking service could simply look at the feed to determine what needs to be restocked and maybe so users could check out what’s available online before visiting the store. It would be totally hands-off for the store owner. They would not need to lift a finger beyond ringing people up for the purchases as they do for all their usual sales.
This idea uses capitalism to our advantage. With just a small amount of charitable contributions, we could change a huge industry in a positive way. With automation and efficiency, relationships with community leaders and local farmers and a good marketing strategy, this could even turn into something genuinely profitable.
- Experience music walk-through
This is a bit tricky to describe so bear with me.
This is essentially an amusement park/tourist attraction. It is a multi-room system of about 12 rooms, where you spend about 3 minutes in each room while listening to a high-budget musical that takes you through each room, with music synchronized to the experience.
So when you got to the attraction, you would stand in line to enter. While in line, you would download the app on your phone and put on your headphones. There would be something interesting and musical to keep people entertained while in line. Then when you got to the front the first set of doors would open and you’d walk into a caveman themed room. This room would have museum displays about ancient music and theories of how the very first music developed. The doors would close behind you and a voiceover would talk about the origin of music as the actual music begins.
The music in the first room of course would be simulations of the first ever music. After the 3 minutes, the doors on both ends of the room open. You walk into the second room as a new set of guests enter the caveman room. The music changes to something electronic. This second room would be filled with museum displays about music’s affect on the brain.
The third room could be about classical music and how music evolved over the centuries.
Another room would be dedicated to revolutions and how music has played a part in cultural shifts.
A room devoted to stadium rock (thunderstruck?).
Weird Al of course would be invited to help us design a humor in music room.
But the key to all of this would be the music that never pauses as the user walks through the experience, stopping in each room for exactly 3 minutes (or however long it turns out to be). The music would also need to be perfectly synchronized with the lights and effects in each of the room. There would be lasers and videos and maybe even a few animatronics, but it would all need to be synchronized with the music so the app would need to be heavily tested on a lot of different devices before construction even begins. If we can’t get the synchronization to work then we would need to bail on the whole project.
- Home gardening robot installation
I have for a long time wished for a low-cost backyard farming robot so I could have fresh backyard produce without actually having to learn to garden. I recently found this open-source creation that does exactly that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqYrAWssrrY&t=1347s. This can be created using off-the-shelf parts and a 3-d printer.
I would create a company or nonprofit that would build these for homeowners. We would make it easy and hassle-free and offer lessons on its use. We would also develop growing strategies specific to regions so we could go into someones backyard, give them a fully set-up robot (it’s really more like a 3-d printer), with commands already uploaded, a bag of seeds and a list of easy-to-follow instructions. Everything would be tailored to your climate to make growing your own vegetables incredibly easy and hands-off.
We would also, of course, contribute to the original open-source designs as we experiment. We would start developing a better AI, as it currently is designed to be pre-programmed, but with enough R&D you could continuously iterate better designs and build some AI that can actually identify vegetables and make its own decisions about plant care. There’s no reason gardening should be any more difficult than baking bread in a bread-maker.
Much like Tesla with solar energy and electric automobiles, our mission statement would be all about accelerating the adoption of practical automation for homeowners and small-scale gardeners. We want to give the power of automation and control of our food production back to the common person. Automation promises amazing things for humanity but we need to take steps to make sure those benefits are shared equally.
- Low-income stock market investing classes
A few years ago a major change occurred in the stock market and no one is talking about it. There are new trading services that allow people to trade on the stock market without fees. This fundamentally changes the stock market for low-income people and more people should be aware of this. Before these free services, most stock trading services would charge $5 or even $7 per transaction. This meant that with a $100 investment, you’re losing 5% or 7% just in fees. Before a few years ago, it simply was not good investing to put money into the stock market unless you were making $1000+ investments at a time.
But that’s all different now. It now makes financial sense for someone working a low-income job to take their extra money and trickle it into the stock market little bits at a time, making the same percentage return as the rich. But no one is doing this. The stock market is still intimidating for low-income people, even though it’s not nearly as complicated or as risky as people believe. Most people could be trading confidently with just a few one-hour classes. This is an amazing opportunity to uplift the people who really need it.
I would set up classes in churches and community centers to teach low-income and homeless people how to invest in the stock market. I would need to hire teachers as I’m not the right one to actually teach this. We could set up a system where people could buy vouchers from us to give to homeless people instead of cash, so that they could actually have some money invest. Depending on how it works we might only allow our students to take out dividend profits if their investment was through a donation.
This idea is kind of the one that I’m leaning toward as I think it could be done with a very small up-front investment and if it catches on, would have the best cost vs social benefit ratio.
- Police brutality research institute
I would start a research institute whose goal is to be an independent curator of all the police brutality and criminal justice corruption information we can possibly find. We would be rigorously scientific and dedicated to collecting all relevant information. We would aggressively collect as many police brutality stories from the internet and any other sources we can find and dump them all into a database that can be accessed by anyone.
We would also conduct studies on our data but our primary goal would simply be data collection and organization. We want to create a huge, convenient resource so that mental health professionals, defense lawyers, sociologists and justice reform enthusiasts have a central location for all their information.
One important aspect would be a national campaign to become the go-to place to report your police brutality incident, even if it needs to be anonymous. We would then have staff monitoring these reports to help connect people with lawyers, mental health professionals and other relevant services.
- Teach children psychology
I haven’t really fleshed out this idea, but I strongly believe that psychology needs to be a basic type of learning in schools. It’s just as important as reading or math. I could start an independent school to teach psychology to children but then it would only be for rich kids. Preferably I would have some kind of campaign to make a change to our public schools but that is a daunting task. I don’t know. I don’t really have a plan for this, but it’s so important that I’m including it anyway.
- Self defense for women wine tasting party
One of the best books I’ve ever read is called The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker, a book about conflict management and defending against and de-escalating violence. We would take the concepts from this book and any other conflict management sources we can to create classes for women that cover the gamut of conflict management and violence. We would cover predicting it, defending against it, both physically and verbally, recovery, and how to help your traumatized friends. We would also delve into the psychology of why people commit violence to put a human face on the aggressors.
Our secret secondary mission would be to offer a safe space for women to talk about their experiences with violence and to offer them advice and connect them with mental health services.
The trick here is that we make the whole thing fun. It would be a completely new way of teaching this kind of thing. The classes would be designed around games, storytelling and other forms of interactivity. We would be hired to come to peoples homes like a tupperware party. It would NOT involve traditional fear tactics that you hear when police conduct safety classes. The goal would be to give women the information and the confidence to stand up for themselves in tense situations while making the learning experience genuinely enjoyable. It could easily include food and wine or other regular party aspects. The instructors would need to be extremely dynamic in how they teach, allowing the mood of the party to guide the activities.
Note: the idea is not to exclude men. I am aware that men are statistically more likely to become victims of violence. However, we must acknowledge that men and women approach violence very differently and creating a class that works for both simultaneously would be tricky at best. So all our research and strategies would be from the perspective of self defense for women and we would be marketed toward women, but we certainly would not have any rules against men attending if the people hiring us wanted to include them.
- Cost-effective theme park
I would create a trail through the woods and work with local artists to build dollhouses, castles, figures and other visual treats designed around the trees. We would build an app that could use GPS or near field communication to tell stories about the artwork as people walk through the trail. We would work with local musicians who could write music to go along with the stories, offering a way for otherwise unknown local authors and musicians to promote their work. We could potentially create multiple different sets of stories and songs, giving guests a different experience each time they walk the trail.
There would also be a light show after dark, like those Christmas lights that can synchronize to music. Unfortunately it may not be possible to utilize the visitors own devices AND have decent synchronization so it may require actual physical speakers.
We may also have rickshaw rentals.
- Board game center for kids
A board game restaurant, pub and community center rolled into one. The mission statement would be all about providing a safe place for low-income teenagers to come and play board games, essentially for free. The pub and restaurant would make as much money as it could, but the youth section would always be free and accept donations.
We would want to do more than just provide tables and a wall of games to choose from. We would run parties and contests, teach game-related classes and make a special point to showcase any games developed by locals. We would have a recommendation system so that gaming novices have an easy way to find games that fit their personality and a system to connect people to other players. Much of this could be done through an app.
- Collect parenting information from kids
This would be another research project type of thing, this time all about parenting. However, most parenting research is done from the parents perspective. I would want to research what kids have to say about it. What are their goals are and how their parents treat them and what their opinions are on how different parenting strategies work.
- Trash cleanup holiday
I would get churches, schools, businesses and community leaders to agree on a holiday, probably a Friday in the springtime where everyone would clean up trash for a few hours during the day, taking the second half of the day off work or school, then converge at night to have some sort of celebration. Different organizations would have different kinds of celebrations so there would be no singular theme so different cultures, families and organizations could celebrate Trash Cleanup Day in their own ways. It would require a reasonable investment in trash bags, grabbers, and gloves to hand out to participating churches and businesses, but otherwise would be a very cost-effective and enjoyable way to clean up the community and show community spirit.
- Gwynne Shotwell cartoon documentary for girls
Gwynne Shotwell is the President and Chief Operations Officer of SpaceX. Many space nerds claim SpaceX never could have survived without her. I would make a ~45 minute documentary targeted toward young girls that would be a mix of cartoons and real life depictions of Gwynne, with a particular focus on the emotions she felt along her career path and how she views the engineering and space industries.