December 31, 2013

Hottest high tech startup ideas of 2014

In recent years, Silicon Valley fortunes have been made by taking yesterday's depressing ways to eke out a few bucks -- taking in lodgers, hacking a gypsy cab, selling your possessions, etc. -- and giving them a 21st Century gloss. For example, Lyft and Uber would appear to be taxicab companies that employ you to use your own car, not theirs, to pick up strangers and drive them around. But Uber spokespersons deny that, explaining that Uber is actually a "ride-sharing smartphone app," so it's, like, awesome. Plus, Uber has an ironic name. 

Similarly, airBnB enables you to turn your home into a boarding house. But, while you are scrubbing the toilet after your latest paying guest has departed, you can console yourself that some guys in Silicon Valley have made a fortune off this, so it's actually much more glamorous and buzzworthy than it might appear at the moment from your perspective (on your knees in front of your second bathroom's toilet bowl).

So, what are some moneymaking opportunities for 2014? The basic idea of the 21st Century is to take the most dismal economic modes of the past and put them on the latest technology. For example, the Sand State subprime mortgage boom of the last decade was basically Porfirio Diaz-era Mexican debt peonage amped up by putting all the contracts on computers so that Countrywide sales reps could ensnare the great-grandchildren of Zapata's followers in real time.

Here are some ideas for 2014's hottest mobile apps:

3Balls -- Need some quick cash? Why sell your prized possessions on eBay when you can use them as collateral for a loan? This app turns your smartphone into a Pawnshop in Your Pocket!

Lack-E -- Have you always dreamed of a week-long Vegas blowout? Now it can be yours! Imagine: a huge suite at the Trump Hotel Las Vegas, SUV limo, hookers, cocaine, everything you've ever wanted. And you don't have to pay one red cent. When it's over, you just become Mr. Trump's indentured servant for the next seven years. (Three day / four year packages are also available).

The Dickens -- Can't get a loan because you've gone bankrupt before? Feel like you have no collateral to offer? Don't be so unimaginative! You still have something to put on the line: your physical freedom. In this disruptive twist on the old tried and true motivational technique of debtor's prison, your banker permanently straps your GPS-equipped smartphone to your ankle. If you are late on a payment, your lender activates it and you simply never leave your house until your debts are paid off by your relatives. (When you think about it, don't they owe you?) Comes with a HuluPlus subscription so you can catch up on your Binge TV watching. (What happens if you try to sneak out? That's for us to worry about.)

Chim Chim Cher-ee -- Are there any small boys hanging around your house, not earning their keep? They probably don't mind getting dirty, right? Are they skinny and good at climbing? Just enter their maximum diameters into this app and soon they'll be rising to new heights in a time-honored career for boys.

Slave -- Credit card minimum payments getting you down? Mortgage lender threatening to repossess your home? Now you'll never have to worry about money again! Just download the new Slave app and sell yourself (or a family member) into slavery. It's a state of the art rendition of a time-tested solution to financial concerns. Just enter a few details about yourself (e.g., good teeth, strong back, poor map-reading skills) and the auction begins! Thousands of oil sheiks, Mauretanian camel drivers, and UN diplomats are bidding constantly. A few taps on your cell phone screen and you'll have food and lodging provided to you forever! And note that Slave has to be good for you because it has an ironic name. Or does it? Perhaps the name is meta-ironic, which sounds even better ... In any case, you'll never know until you try! (Also comes in Slayve for metalheads.)

Biens -- You know how in Frank Capra movies hobos are always huddled around campfires, morosely eating from cans of beans? Sure, back then the media made it look kind of sad, but Average Is Over. Now that you have a smartphone to provide 24/7 video entertainment, who needs to eat meat or live indoors? Biens the App opens the door to you and the rest of the Ninety Percent to become high-tech hobos. Imagine you and your loved ones huddled around your glowing smartphone watching Mad Men as you all cluck condescendingly at how Americans used to eat steak and live in houses while barely noticing the horrifying truth about life in America in 1960: they only had three networks to watch. Biens is the lifestyle for the 21st Century, a new (yet old) way of living that's both luminous and leguminous. (Actual beans for eating sold separately.)

38 comments:

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

So cynical.

But so right.

Anonymous said...

Personally I'm bothered plenty enough by the DOJ's Diversity app. It starts bleeping at me ominously whenever I stray into a one mile radius that is more than 80% Caucasian, and it rewards me with a pleasant little chirp when I help "desegregate" an area less than 20% white. And sure it only pays me a little bit and I risk being punched out, but times are tough for my gypsy cab side job since Uber came around.

Karl said...

i-Mephistopheles : assemble multiple online offers for your immortal soul!

Auntie Analogue said...


Based on Tyler Cowen's cheerful forecast I got my hi-tech startup going in the form of an app for increasingly unemployed, displaced, dispossessed, and massively multiculturally enriched Americans to order beans delivered hot and by the shovelful.

Dave Pinsen said...

Lyft more closely fits your gypsy cab description than uber.

David said...

Our family stepped off the boat in 1700. They probably paid for the trip by being indentured.

How proud they would be to know that their descendents can continue in that fine tradition, and in high-tech style too.

I hear a million (well, a thousand) outraged libertarians shouting, "It says INVOLUNTARY servitude...in other words, when government does it!!"

Corn said...

Hot Wheels= Neighbor/friend/relative fall behind on their car payments? With the new app Hot Wheels you may report the hiding place of that car to the repoman for a cash bounty.

Chief Seattle said...

Borro: The online pawn shop where you can hawk your car or jewelry from the comfort of wherever you happen to be sleeping with your smart phone. If enough people use it they'll be able to afford the "w".

Rent N Roll: Tired of tying up your cash in car tires that just sit around most of the day? Now for less than a fifth of the cost of buying, you can rent those tires for the month.

Concu: Find someone who can give your budding girl-child the upbringing a young lady deserves. And raise instant cash to pay off credit cards or buy tires to get to work.

Unfortunately the first two were already done in 2013. Happy New Year!



Harry Baldwin said...

Career opportunities for 2020 and beyond:
--Regional warlord
--Minions of above
--Grand Inquisitor
--Harem eunuch
--Itinerant firearms manufacture and repair
--Gold assayer
--Distiller of adult beverages
--Bandit chief
--Slave overseer
--Slave hunter
--Rat-catcher
--Tax collector
--Diversity manager

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that, and Happy New Year! I LOL'd at these. Especially the last "Beans" one. Speaking of which, did you see Arnold Kling's post on a discussion that Cowen and several other pundits had about Cowen's Average Is Over? Apparently Cowen offered "mood-altering drugs" as a long run "solution" to control the masses, presumably because beans and smartphones might not cut it. How long before Cowen calls for the Ninety Percent to be enslaved and locked up in cells and fed virtual reality simulations, like in The Matrix?

http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/the-toady-class-on-average-is-over/

"Random notes from a discussion of Tyler Cowen’s Average is Over:

...

What most concerns the discussants, including McArdle, William Galston, Jonathan Rauch, and Brink Lindsey, are the social implications of losing the middle class. (Hanson comments on this focus.) Tyler insists that societies will not fracture, nor will redistributionist demagogues take power. Factors favoring stability include aging, surveillance technology, the skill of the rich at controlling the political environment, nativism, NIMBYism, and the basic comfort achieved by the lower class....

Tyler says that in the long run mood-altering drugs may be a solution."

Steve Sailer said...

Soma

Reg Cæsar said...

Our family stepped off the boat in 1700. They probably paid for the trip by being indentured.

And they were undercutting the wages of my family, which had been here for three generations. "No Pilgrims need apply."

I hear a million (well, a thousand) outraged libertarians…

There are no libertarians. Certainly not those who teach at state colleges (because the endowments at private ones will only pay for socialists), hire immigrants at submedian wages (thus consigning them to Romney's subsidized 47%), and drive around on highways oblivious to how the land underneath was procured.

And not a single person on the planet believes that blacks have a right to defend their lives with handguns. That's beyond the capability of the human mind.

Anonymous said...

http://www.theverge.com/2013/12/29/5253226/nsa-cia-fbi-laptop-usb-plant-spy

http://gothamist.com/2013/12/29/the_nsa_uses_windows_error_messages.php

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/12/31/nsa_weapons_catalogue_promises_pwnage_at_the_speed_of_light/

Chicago said...

'Adventures in the World's Oldest Profession for Men and Women: how to succeed in prostitution and avoid the usual pitfalls.' Useful survival advice needed for the coming brave new world.

Anonymous said...

Tyler says that in the long run mood-altering drugs may be a solution.

The increasingly "inevitablist" attitude the elites have toward marijuana legalization seems related to this kind thinking.

Reg Cæsar said...


What most concerns the discussants, including [Andrea?] McArdle, William Galston, Jonathan Rauch, and Brink Lindsey, are the social implications of losing the middle class.

That Jonathan Rauch? The guy who wrote a whole book supporting "same-sex marriage"?

Never mind the middle class. There is only one tribe on Earth so primitive, so backward, as not to perceive a difference in importance between marriage and buggery. And that tribe is modern white folks.

Auntie Analogue said...


At this point in mass habituation of a cornucopia of medications unknown thirty years ago, at this point of Big Pharma pressure-hawking that med deluge, at this point of doctors & psychiatrists prescribing liberally from that vast arsenal of mood-altering drugs, marijuana legalization is like a drop in the ocean.

Legalizing weed is nothing more than the state doing what it did when the state wiped out the numbers racket, by the simple switcheroo of having the state run the numbers racket in assorted forms of lotteries. And those two are not the only rackets that the state runs (one the biggest of these is printing currency).

Anonymous said...

Legalizing weed is nothing more than the state doing what it did when the state wiped out the numbers racket, by the simple switcheroo of having the state run the numbers racket in assorted forms of lotteries. And those two are not the only rackets that the state runs (one the biggest of these is printing currency).

And states make a big deal about how the lotteries will be used to fund education. It looks like it'll be the same with marijuana:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-31/pot-shops-in-denver-open-door-to-578-million-in-sales.html

"Colorado projects $578.1 million a year in combined wholesale and retail marijuana sales to yield $67 million in tax revenue, according to the Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly. Wholesale transactions taxed at 15 percent will finance school construction, while the retail levy of 10 percent will fund regulation of the industry."

So basically poor people are being fleeced to pay for schools increasingly filled with poor students who will grow up to be poor people who buy lottery tickets and weed and fund the next generation of schools for poor children.

Anonymous said...

That was truly Mencken'esque...

Congratulations and Happy New Year!!

Anonymous said...

>> 'Adventures in the World's Oldest Profession for Men and Women: how to succeed in prostitution and avoid the usual pitfalls.' Useful survival advice needed for the coming brave new world.



Canada Supreme Court beat you to it.

Anonymous said...

What about Caplan!

A brand new app that takes you back to the world of the 1st millenium AD. You see, all you have to do is put in an ad - which by miracle of modern communications- is posted in Nigeria, Congo, Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh, East Timor all the 'under-developed' locations of the world in fact, in which you ask for an 'indentured servant' to come and live with you at 'minimum wage', the 'minimum wage' by the laws of 'free market libertarianism' really is a 'minimum wage' - it is local standards of course, and is payable direct to the 'indentured servants' parents or someone 'resembling' the parents.
As the originator of the software will tell you, that cash lump sum will no doubt 'save a life' back home, so is 'fully justified'.
Yup, and the 'indentured servant' is duty bound to look after all your household needs whether for for the home, body or whatever. Oh, and if they choose to 'run away' which 'liberatrains' no doubt would agree with, they will have nowhere else to go since the market in 'indentured servants' has been flooded!

Such a great idea! the magic of the free market kidney op for them and a scrubbed floor and a few 'naughties' for you! How has Caplan! only re-disovered the great wisdom of the ancients after such a long absence?, I mean, how did they get it all right and we had gotten it all wrong?, well modern technology has changed all that for you!

Anonymous said...

FleshFarm - This app helps you identify the regions best suited to supply the ever increasing demand for prostitutes and/or kidneys, and calculate ROI for various strategies to overcome traditionalist resistance to sexual liberation and/or free enterprise.

Svigor said...

Would it have been passe (or too redundant)?

Vegan -- Meat is so 20th century. Save money and the environment by giving meat the boot. This app tells you how much better you are than the carnivores as you lose muscle and bone mass, and key micronutrients. Which is a good thing, because muscle and bone mass are key to hate crimes like "defending" yourself from Diversity, while micronutrients are at the heart of the cognition gap. etc.

Mallet -- with just a few self-applications of our ground-breaking handle-and-head technology, you can single-handedly do your part to close the IQ gap...

Steve, you probably should have worked up one for Nice White (Single) Lady Teachers, too. Fewer white babies, more NWL teachers not saving the ghetto, etc.

E. Rekshun said...

While actual slavery ended almost 150 years ago in America, some modern-day Americans still cling to slavery as an excuse for anti-social behavior. A new "slavery" mobile app might perpetuate more anti-social behavior including, but not limited to, the "Knockout Game."

Who Moved My Beans? said...

For the truly self-sacrificing family man, there's Windfall, the app that provides real-time selection of an optimal life insurance policy and arranges a, ah, legally non-suicidal cause of death for oneself to allow for one's family's collection of said insurance windfall. Guaranteed middle-class lifestyle for your family or your money back.

And Malcolm Gladwell is proud to introduce Prodigy 10,000, the app the creates a personalized schedule to become a world class chess-master, violinist, or airport bestseller writer through 10,000 hours of practice. If after 10,000 hours you haven't achieved mastery, Malcolm himself guarantees a full refund of the app's $4.99 a month fee.

Anonymous said...

Apparently it's not just beans. Cowen also advocates building shantytowns and favelas in the US, and pushing old people into 400 sq. ft. homes (20ftX20ft room basically).

http://www.parapundit.com/archives/009351.html

"Want to get a sense of how much life in the US of A is changing and how that bodes for the shrinking middle class and growing lower classes? Read Tyler Cowen's book Average Is Over. He works out a lot of the consequences of the decline in demand for all but the most cognitively able. Tyler sees the need to build very cheap communities for the lower classes like those found in Rio de Janeiro favelas and El Paso's sister city Cuidad Juarez. He pictures 400 square feet homes for the elderly poor. Given that the ranks of the elderly poor look set to grow as the working age poor retire (and notice I did not just say "working poor") Tyler is correct about the necessity. Says Tyler:

"Many people will be horrified at this thought. How dare you propose we stuff our elderly into shantytowns? Maybe they are right to be upset, although recall that no one is being forced to live in these places. Some people might prefer to live there. I might prefer to live there if my income were low enough.""

Anonymous said...

"Tax-E", this app will make it possible for you to report on your neighbours' hidden taxes. Film/record suspicious behaviour & send it to your local autority. You'll be like a civil servant & bounty hunter.

Which brings us to the brand new startup "Bountly". The old West might be gone, but it'll return with a vengeance. Help "New Americans" in no-go areas to arrest fugutives who now live there. Crowdfund the effort to get yourself your own sidekick.

"Ekco", spelled echo, is a much-needed solution for companies with a bad rep, lobbys, politicians or foreign governments to help them defend their position in online comment threats -- an online echo chamber of yes-men/persons. They need your help. Complaining never got anyone paid, but disinfo will! Do it anonymously, do it smart, give up your bitcoin address now.

E. Rekshun said...

"Colorado projects $578.1 million a year in combined wholesale and retail marijuana sales to yield $67 million in tax revenue, according to the Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly...while the retail levy of 10 percent will fund regulation of the industry."

So, Colorado should be the next great place for seeking a state job as a paper-pusher.

pat said...

Of course selling your self into slavery was once common. In fact it was the way ahead for talented but impecunious free men in the Roman Empire.

For many Roman poor slavery led to prosperity. It was a form of apprenticeship and a way to get an education. It was different in the early Republic but in the Empire they had to restrict manumission. Too many prosperous Romans were freeing their slaves and setting them up in business as clients. For many talented and ambitious slaves their masters were only too eager to set them up as a cobbler or a inn keeper. The Patron shared the profits and the freedman did all the work.

Slaves, even those who worked in the brutal latifundae, out competed free men. They were not subject to military conscription. So the legions were filled with free native Italians who bred if at all abroad while the slaves who often were from conquered lands filled up Rome and Italy with their progeny. Rome gradually became more cosmopolitan and less Italian.

The authorities also had to constrain all the free young men from selling themselves into slavery so as to become gladiators. Being a gladiator was very attractive to young Romans even if you had to endure whippings and brandings. No slave in Antonine times - the period of the movie - had to be a gladiator. Which is why I always wondered why Russell Crow - if he disliked being a gladiator - didn't just quit?

Since freemen couldn't be tortured and torture was necessary for financial audits, all finance was handled by slaves or freedmen. That why so many of the richest Romans were freedmen.

Slavery in the Islamic world also was no impediment to wealth and power. The Circassians (white) slaves were particularly prized in slave orders like the Makelukes and Janissaries. Men from these orders ruled several Islamic countries.

The only slaves that seemed never to have prospered anywhere were black slaves from Africa. So is it 'the legacy of slavery' that has oppressed them or the 'legacy of black genes'?

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

Who needs the upkeep and hassle of a permanent home? You can live the modern version of the Gypsy life through full-time timesharing! Live in vacation resorts for under $3000 per month!

Mr. Anon said...

"Karl said...

i-Mephistopheles : assemble multiple online offers for your immortal soul!"

Damn! Beat me to it. I was going to call it Mefysto, or some such - the purposefully ironic misspelling is important in order to appeal to the hipster pajama-boy demographic.

John Stossel did a show a few weeks ago on government regulations, in which he featured Lyft and Uber and the ire they have drawn from the taxi-cab guild. It was good old fashioned libertarian outrage, and - sure - on a purely free-market, screw-those-government-regulators-and-monopolists basis, I can dig his point. But he completely glided over the fact that these new trends probably represent a decline in living standards for the American public.

Anonymous said...

Genius. But it's not just tech that's embracing this New Normal.

Example 1: Residential architecture has set its sights much, MUCH lower, too: the tiny house movement* rebrands the shanty-town / Hooverville as something trendy and hip. Ditto the micro-apartments soon to debut in SF & NY.

Example 2: And food: today's NYT breathlessly announces that buying half the meat is cool, and shares awesome things to do with leftover vegetables. This is what life has come to for young white people after only 5/8 of the Obama reign.

Anywhere young hipsters can be found, someone will be trying to sell them Cool. The growth industry for 2014 will be to Coolify the new normal of shockingly lowered expectations.

* Dubbing it a "movement" increases cred 100-fold

Anonymous said...

The problem with slavery is you have to maintain the slave during economic downturns.

Anonymous said...

Our family stepped off the boat in 1700. They probably paid for the trip by being indentured.

Well, I found out that my ancestors did also come to Virginia by 1700 and the other side to Mass through the Utleys and Ashbys as early as 1630 maybe through the Ashbys. I have Anthony Ashby of Salem Ma as a ancestor. He had a tavern and was probably a shoemaker since he paid a debt in boots and shoes. He accuse someone of witchcraft. One of the few early settlers that is more middle class for the time that there is some information on.

Anonymous said...

While I can't argue with the premise, I'm happy to report $40,000 of new income for renting my house in the last 6 months, and $18,000 in pending business on New Years day. I have no problem changing sheets. Thanks Airbnb!

Anonymous said...

The problem with slavery is you have to maintain the slave during economic downturns.

A character in one of V.S. Naipaul's novels complains about having to support his family's inherited slaves and says he'd much rather have "proper hire-and-fire people".

Cennbeorc

Renault said...

Sites like Airbnb and VRBO are absolutely fantastic, especially when you're traveling to a busy city. Why stay in a shitty, overpriced, sterile hotel when you can rent someone's apartment for half the cost?

Eric Jacobus said...

Here's an app idea - turn your iPhone into a stun gun! Run the app when you're walking around West Oakland not looking where you're going, and when it detects someone else's face in the camera, it dumps the entire battery charge into the metal frame.