We tend to go through our lives, head down, plugging away at the things we do to pay our bills, to entertain us, to keep in shape, to connect with our community and to stimulate our minds. This is the best way I can describe life in the modern era. We use technology to attempt to better our existence, but I believe in hindsight these will be seen as the dark ages. We're suffering through inefficiencies in order to embrace the possibility of better living through technology, but we're far from there.
Last year I had an idea. A clear vision, that made my heart race and kept me up at nights with child-like excitement that I may have found my way to contribute to the collective. A solution to a problem. A big problem. The right solution.
I shared my idea with a handful of my circle and it was deemed a great idea, for the most part. I enlisted my greater community to guide me is moving this idea forward and connect me to others that could help complete the vision. I sat in front of a handful of generous colleagues in the venture capital world who would help me to refine this idea and take steps towards building something.
One of my advisors put me in touch with a lovely and talented young lad named Ben. Ben is a rising star in the tech world and holds the attention of many people through his popular reporting and musings on the business of tech. Ben flipped for the idea and saw a better future as a result of it. We instantly clicked and decided to partner and get down to business.
I quickly learned that most technology startups need to be bootstrapped to create a product, any product, before any investor will talk to you. It's the way things are done now. Ideas don't float like in the days of bubble and bloat. You need a tangible representation of your ability to build and create. I leaned that a startup is best founded by the general personality types of a designer, a distributor and a developer. We needed a developer.
I soon learned that many of the great software developers are poached early-on to work for Google or Facebook. And those with experience often start their own projects. I went to "Founder Dating" events to track down engineering talent and realized that there are many many people who are trying to fulfill their dreams of better living through technology. I learned that most people don't go very far with it.
Ben and I hit a wall. This idea was just too good to let it slip away, but neither of us were able to find an entrepreneurial-minded engineer co-founder. We had to pay our bills. We gently let the idea slip. I took the summer off to hang out with my son. Ben starting looking around for other things.
Whilst exploring the world of internet startups, two of my advisors told me about a similar concept that was under development by a team of young, enthusiastic and well-connected silicon valley / Berkeley minds. I was intrigued. Truth be told, after twenty years of doing the entrepreneurial heavy lifting, I was ready to consider a back seat. Perhaps my next pathway was on the shoulders of those smarter and more aggressive than I?
The idea that I had last year, the one that kept me up at nights and that offered better living through technology was essentially directed at this problem... The thing we lack most right now in our daily attempts to use technology to get what we want, is relevancy. We search, research, click, dig, read, review, filter, sort, gauge, judge, ask, refine, share, borrow, test, report, compare, and on and on. Then, after all of this, we decide. It all just seems like we've given ourselves information overload through the likes of Google and Yelp and we've complicated life rather than simplify it. Technology is not helping us.
There are a lot of people trying to solve this problem. Unfortunately, I think most of them have missed the target. I won't get into specifics and only time will tell who floats to the top. Sure there are many ways to skin a cat (by the way, how much do I LOVE this phrase and hate cats at the same time!), so time will tell who has the secret sauce. Enter Ness.
Ness is short for Likeness (http://likeness.com) and is answering the problem in the exact way I envisioned, perhaps even better. They are using machine learning to predict human behavior and suggest solutions to the shit over which we obsess and waste time. The idea is that everybody has their own "Ness". I have AdamNess, you have YourNess. It's the thing that defines us. It's what separates us from each other. Yet we overlap, we cross-pollinate, we share and influence and make similar choices. So, Ness understands who we are and who others are enough to recommend things we'll likely like.
Their first demonstration of this technology is in the Ness Dining Guide iPhone application (link to iTunes). Check it out. See how it does for you. I'd love to hear what you think. Why? Because the Zealot is entering the workforce again. Yes, so you've probably figured out that this post is a pitch in support of my current employer (currently as a consultant). But I don't shill for just any company. These guys are the real deal and I believe in this thing. So, I'm giving you the inside scoop. Go get yours.
There are many ways this technology could help us beyond food: books, movies, events, travel, etc...Ultimately Ness can change the way we make decisions. In theory, if something knew us well enough to narrow our choices, technology would actually make our lives easier. It's a simple concept with a complicated solution. It's the current tech holy grail.
So off I go into that goodNess. I shall continue to muse to you, my loyals. And perhaps one of these days I'll get back to talking about restaurants or food. Or, maybe, you won't need me anymore if Ness does its job.