Friday, June 1, 2007

Robots On Rails

The Four Hour Work Week's got many great ideas. One is the idea of a muse business:

It has to lend itself to automation within four weeks, and - when up and running - it can't require more than one day per week of management.

Can a business be used to change the world, like The Body Shop or Patagonia? Yes, but that isn't our goal here.

Can a business be used to cash out through an IPO or sale? Yes, but that isn't our goal either.

Our goal is simple: to create an automated vehicle for generating cash without consuming time. That's it. I will call this vehicle a "muse" whenever possible to separate it from the ambiguous term "business," which can refer to a lemonade stand or a Fortune 100 oil conglomerate - our objective is more limited and thus requires a more precise label.

The muse business is an automated business. The author of The Four Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss, automates his business with employees and efficient business processes, but that's not the only way to automate a business. Prototype ordering kiosks in test-market McDonald's are automating minimum-wage workers out of the equation [1, 2].

If you've ever bought gas with a credit card, you've done business with a machine.

Same goes for vending machines.

Most businesses on the Web that charge their customers money charge that money automatically. When you order a book on Amazon or set up a domain at Go Daddy, you're doing business with a machine. When you conduct transactions with other people through eBay, you're using the giant eBay machine to do it. Highrise and Basecamp are machines. There's really only two types of business models on the Web: advertizing, and creating machines for people to do business with. And if you're buying or selling advertizing on the Web, you're doing business with machines there too.

Building Web apps means building cash-generating robots.

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