Cool idea: Y Combinator “Request for Startups” (RFS) + one of our own

Andy and I spend a good amount of time talking about startup ideas we’d like to see at Founders Co-op. Sometimes we get so excited about an idea we start it ourselves, but that’s not something we can do every day.

So I was inspired the other day to hear that Y Combinator had initiated a “Request for Startups” program, where they outline a problem they’d like to see solved as an explicit invitation for prospective applicants to tackle. They’ve published two of these already:

Our themes tend to be a little less highfalutin’ but in the spirit of the game I thought I’d publish a topic we’re excited about with the same intent. If you’re a Seattle-based hacker and want to take a run at this, we’d love to chat…

  • Software Workflows for Personal Services

This is a general pattern, but our investment decision would be based on the specific vertical targeted with this pattern.

Professional service providers (e.g., doctors, physical therapists, career/life coaches, smoking cessation / weight loss counselors, etc.) monetize a finite resource: their time. Since the quality of their services is hard to evaluate in advance, some of these professions also have a difficult time standing out from the crowd of competing providers. And many of these professions assign tasks to their customers to be completed between sessions, as a way of both making and measuring progress.

We see *many* opportunities for an agile software development team with intimate knowledge of the workflows and needs of a particular service vertical to create software tools that:

  • Increase the perceived value of the service delivered
  • Support competitive differentiation and customer retention for the provider
  • Improve the odds that customer goals are achieved
  • Increase customer satisfaction and follow-on referrals

The general pattern for these software tools includes the following modules (some of which are more applicable than others to individual verticals):

  • Pre-service self-assessment – a questionnaire or test that establishes a baseline for the provider and customer against which later progress will be measured.
  • Session notes + prescription – a web-accessible record of each service experience, including session notes (discussion of goals and progress to date) and a prescription for tasks to be completed in preparation for the next session).
  • Prescription support – a web- and mobile-accessible task list that customers would use both to review assigned tasks, and to check them off (yielding an electronic record of actions taken between service sessions).
  • Push messaging – To increase between-session prescription compliance and generate incremental progress data points, generate outbound messages to the customer requesting prescribed action or real-time self-assessment.
  • Customer + service provider dashboard – web-accessible record of all interactions, prescriptions and completed tasks, with at-a-glance visualization(s) of progress over time.

Economically, the goal of a service following this pattern is to shift a portion of the perceived value of the service experience away from the face-to-face interaction and toward the software-mediated experience. The expectation is that the service provider would either (a) charge a higher service rate than competing providers, justified by the incremental layer of service, or (b) offer the software service as an incremental charge on top of their standard time-for-service agreement.

Want to take a swing at this? Drop us a line…