Tag Archives: idea

My Fiasco with Creating Software that Saves Electricity

In September 2014 I decided to stop active development of Fotrel and create a new product instead. This time I wanted to build software in environmental area. I envisioned software that would help to make the Earth cleaner somehow.

I was inspired by Peachjar company. They built a software solution that helps environment by reducing amount of paper flyers that kids bring from school.

Some ideas that I have considered:

  • Software for marine biologists
  • Software that helps solar panel installers
  • Planning software for garden designers

I decided to build software that would help people to save electricity. Most of electricity is produced by coal power plants that pollute air and increase global warming.

Power plant in Belchatow

Following Lean Startup methodology I conducted a lot of client interviews. People were generally interested in saving electricity. The problem was that I wanted to create a software solution, without any hardware component.

Finally I settled on software that would monitor electricity usage by integrating with smart meters.

Also I decided to build my audience first. I have created a registration page. On that page I offered “5 Easy Tips to Save Electricity” report. People would have to enter their email address to receive it by email. This is how I would build my subscriber list of people interested in saving electricity.

I got few subscribers that way but not many. That page didn’t rank high in Google search and I couldn’t get others to share the link to my page with their list.

In April 2015 I have read an influential book “The 7 Day Startup” by Dan Norris. The main idea of the book is to launch new product or service very quickly to learn if it’s something that people would buy.

One idea from the book struck me: if you are building your first product it’s going to be very hard to create something unique and visionary. You can’t afford to be Steve Jobs, not yet. You have to wait until you launch one or two successful products.

As the first product idea it’s much better to stick to something that people already pay money for. That’s when I realized that people don’t spend money on saving electricity. So it’s going to be tough for me as a single developer to build something revolutionary in that area, something that would change people’s habit.

In the end I decided to give up on my idea. Surprisingly I experienced enormous sense of relief. I felt much better after making that decision.

Lesson learnt: make the cycle to test my ideas much shorter by launching new products very quickly. I highly recommend reading The 7 Day Startup book – it’s very short but powerful.

How I Did Not Make Thousands of Dollars by Creating Google Chrome Extension

Not long ago a friend of mine approached me with this idea: build a software that would export LinkedIn search results to Excel. Apparently many recruiters and sales people are using LinkedIn for prospecting – finding potential buyers and candidates. They can search but there is no easy way to export results to CRM that they are using.

At first I was hesitant. I thought that this software would essentially fill a hole in LinkedIn. At any point of time, I thought, LinkedIn would implement this missing piece of functionality and we will be out of business.

However, as it turns out LinkedIn has no intention to add exporting functionality because they have products that fill this need: LinkedIn Recruiter and Sales Navigator. They are very expensive, by the way.

Also, there is a company that has exactly this and they are doing good. My friend talked to some recruiters and all of them told him that they use that product to export search result to Excel.

At about same time I’ve read ‘7 Day Startup’ book by Dan Norris. It’s a fantastic book, short and inspiring. The main idea is to create a product or service very quickly and launch it to see if people would buy it. So I got very excited about this. Competitor product was quite expensive – about $20 per month. I thought I could whip up a solution very quickly and charge less. If people start buying it we could decide how to ramp it up.

My idea was to create a Google Chrome extension that would scrape search results from LinkedIn website. Users would perform search as usual on LinkedIn, then click a small button in toolbar and get results in a text box. Then they would copy and paste results to Excel and from there they’d be able to do whatever they want with them.


What’s great is that Google has a special store for Chrome extensions. They even take care of charging money. People can buy an extension using Google Wallet.

Google also makes it easy to offer a trial experience. My idea was to let people to export just 20 results and then ask them to buy the full version if they want all results.

So feeling enthusiastic about this thing I have created my first extension in just one week. I published it on the Google Chrome Store and set the price to $19. The next step was to drive some traffic to the listing page.

I decided to make a YouTube video with the title “How to export LinkedIn search results to Excel”. People that search for that phrase would watch the video, find my extension and give it a try.

And then I remembered that I wanted to check LinkedIn user agreement to see if I can get away with scraping their website. The agreement couldn’t be more clear:

8.2. Don’ts. You agree that you will not:

Scrape or copy profiles and information of others through any means (including crawlers, browser plugins and add-ons, and any other technology or manual work);

Wow! I realized that by publishing this video I would essentially teach people how to do something that breaks LinkedIn user agreement. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Also, even though I wouldn’t violate the agreement myself (I just provide a tool) people would violate it by using my tool.

So I decided to back out of this project. It just didn’t feel right to me. I’m glad I didn’t spend long time working on it. Also, at least now I know how to create Google Chrome extensions.

Lesson learned: check website’s user agreement before creating a tool that scrapes it.