One of my favorite posts in the past month came from Chris Dixon. It is short and sweet, just the way I like a blog post. In the post Chris lays out three constituencies to the startup economy; business people, engineers, and hobbyists. And he makes the point that hobbyists are a great lens through which to see the future.

I love Paul Bucheit's edict to "live in the future". I totally agree that is the best way to find the things that will turn out to be the next big thing. Being a hobbyist is a great way to live in the future. And so I try to play around with all of this stuff in order to wrap my mind around it. You should too.

Chris lays out some things that hobbyists are playing around with a lot these days:

Today, the tech hobbies with momentum include: math-based currencies like Bitcoin, new software development tools like NoSQL databases, the internet of things, 3D printing, touch-free human/computer interfaces, and β€œartisanal” hardware like the kind you find on Kickstarter.

I am very pleased to say that we have investments in most of those hobbies and are working to make more.

But I also think that they may be the hobbies of the moment or even possibly the hobbies of the past few years. What are the hobbies that we should take on next? That is what I woke up thinking about this morning.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Pete Griffiths

    Do it yourself data science.

    1. fredwilson

      yessssssss. how do i engage in that?

      1. Paul Sanwald

        kaggle is a great platform in the DIY data science space.

        1. fredwilson

          yup. i know Kagglei guess what i am looking for is the blogger, or wordpress, or tumblr of data science

          1. Charlie Crystle

            sending an email

          2. Pete Griffiths

            Do you want to read about it or play with it?

          3. DanielHorowitz

            Datahero, Metamarkets and Keen IO are interesting companies in this space.

          4. ShanaC

            check out anaconda, which is a science python distribution – the free version could be seen as such

          5. Teemu Kurppa

            We are working on something close to this. Although we have dubbed it as “Excel for Touch Device Era”, but the larger vision is a platform for important numbers of your life.

      2. jmcaddell

        This is a bit of a variant of do-it-yourself data science, but I’ve been playing with the idea of personal analytics for a while. In other words, extending things like Fitbit or Nike+ to our inner lives. How can we measure our own happiness, contentment, learning, and use that information to tune our actions?

    2. Avi Deitcher

      Explain, please, Pete?

      1. Pete Griffiths

        Right now the mainstream of data science is focused on hard to use tools for big companies with truly huge amounts of data. But the kinds of tools that are being used to analyse such data are more broadly applicable. Right now however they are too hard to use. The trend will be easier to use pre-packaged tools that can be used by relatively unskilled people from which benefit may be derived, even from smaller data sets.Check out Datameer. http://www.datameer.com/?ut…The kinds of packaged offerings they are building are the kinds of tools that an interested hobbyist can play with.

        1. Charlie Crystle

          combined with access to archives of the firehoses it could be pretty powerful stuff

          1. Pete Griffiths

            Exactly right, Charlie. It’s the combination of these kinds of tools, with your data and access to big online databases that makes this next generation of data driven potentially explosive. Insights for the masses. We are starting to get some extremely sophisticated but easy to use software available from the cloud. E.g.http://about.wise.io/Machine Learning as a ServiceToday hobbyists. Tomorrow the world. πŸ™‚

          2. Charlie Crystle

            RhizaLabs gives something along these longs but for corporate–lots of overlays, custom data, public data across maps.Will be interesting to see what evolves… something simple and elegant enough for curious tinkers/learners

        2. Avi Deitcher

          Interesting. Datameer sounds more corporate than hobbyists, but sounds like it is heading down there.

          1. Pete Griffiths

            Their target market is certainly corporations – they can pay. But the ease of use of the tools makes them more broadly accessible. And Charlie is dead right about the ongoingly wider access to data bases and streams.

          2. Avi Deitcher

            Democratization/consumerization of data? There has been a real revolution in corporate IT over the last decade or so, with consumer tech leaving corporate tech in the dust, and thus driving demand for adoption of technologies by individual employees.Can you think of a use case for the data in the individual case that will drive backdoor adoption in the same way? Or do you think it can be made so easy to use and accessible, that a line marketer or salesperson will use it on their own and drive bottom-up demand inside sales/marketing/etc.?

          3. Pete Griffiths

            The original question was what a hobbyist could play with now rather than ‘the individual.’ i.e. a more than averagely enthusiastic early adopter.However, you ask a good question, Avi. I think the answer is yes. I think it will be usable in the ways you suggest and this could indeed drive bottom up demand.

          4. Avi Deitcher

            Good point. But, yes, it would be fascinating if that could happen.

          5. Charlie Crystle

            thanks for the dopamine hit

          6. Pete Griffiths


        3. pr0vctr

          what about understanding the underlying mathematical constructs of these tools – or – how do you ensure that the “relatively unskilled” people understand the true context of what they are seeing? you’d be surprised how many don’t truly understand the differences between median and mean. would love to get your thoughts… i completely agree about the power of data science innovation in the next few years.

          1. Pete Griffiths

            This is a great point.I totally agree that many (most?) don’t understand the math underlying their existing tools and that the math underlying some of the new tools will be impenetrable to most. In fact, the criteria for fitting one model rather than another are unclear even to those who have studied the math (meta studies to guide application are early stage)!To some degree even for experts application is an art rather than a science. But I still believe that there is benefit to be derived. A good example could be clustering analysis. If you can automatically classify and provide a good visualization it can aid intuition. The tools will be judged not by their mathematical underpinnings but by their perceived results and I suspect that they will be able to deliver worthwhile results in many real world cases. There is certainly a risk of artifacts, but I believe such tools could easily become popular.

  2. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Hobbies are passions – an escape. When combined with enabling one to be independent they are also liberating.Self-sustainability is key to the future.

    1. John Revay

      Agree w/ Passions comment

    1. fredwilson

      our analyst Zander did his Physics thesis at Princeton on that

  3. Avi Deitcher

    Read an article yesterday (Verge, I think?) about drones moving from defense contractors (MM of $$) to small businesses (KK of $$). But the model airplane business is moving up in capability and intersecting.You are in NYC. Go to the old airfield in Brooklyn (Floyd Bennett Field) on a summer Sunday and see what is going on there. Somehow, that will eventually feed into business. Not person transport. But package delivery? Surveillance? Something we are not seeing?Some other ideas coming….

    1. fredwilson

      that’s a great idea. any ideas on how drones will move from hobbies to business?

      1. Avi Deitcher

        I think if you went there and said, “drones”, they would get upset. They view drones as Predators, shoot-em-up things from “24.” They view theirs as R/C airplanes. But the distinction is becoming blurred. Heck, my kid had one that could fly at a few hundred feet (until his father crashed it! πŸ™‚ ).Several someones are going to come up with ways to use these things for different purposes, and one or a few is going to win. I suggested two above, not sure about the rest.

        1. fredwilson


      2. LE

        See http://www.draganfly.com/This is my hobby dating back to the 1980’s was the predecessor of drones – RcHelicopters back when there weren’t gyros and gps to control them and you had to build them from scratch and they ran on fuel instead of batteries. And while practicing when you crashed after the first tank you had to spend time and money rebuilding. My copter back in the 80’s was about $2000 in 80’s dollars.

        1. Avi Deitcher


          1. LE

            Interesting thing about flying the old gas choppers without the electronics that I found. Those labels on medicine that say not to operate machinery when on the medicine (like cold medicine)?I found that it was really difficult to fly when taking those medicines because they dulled your dexterity enough to create control problems. I would experience enough motor control degradation that I didn’t feel comfortable flying. Doesn’t appear to be as much of a problem with the equipment now with all the compensating electronics.

          2. Avi Deitcher

            So how long until those compensating electronics make their way into cars?

      3. BillSeitz

        JohnRobb had a series of posts a month or 2 ago about creating a P2P package delivery network with drones.

      4. Brandon Burns

        I think the Roomba was the original example. And the Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner.Some folks are going to snicker at that, and maybe they’re not what folks in this thread think of as drones, but these are the kind of drone people everywhere will pay for β€” and already are.

        1. Dan Sweet

          Agree on consumers being willing to shell out cash now for stuff that delivers value today. Look at the recent iRobot acquisition of Evolution Robotics. ER had super talented people and robots that could do all kinds of cool stuff but it seems the catalyst that got them bought was their floor cleaning robot the Mint: http://www.amazon.com/Evolu… (since rebranded as iRobot).

      5. Brian Randy Funk

        UAVs (drones) will revolutionize the remote sensing industry. Currently there is only one commercial satellite imagery company in the United States – DigitalGlobe (NYSE: DGI) which just finalized an acquisition of their only competitor GeoEye. This monopoly makes sense, just like satellite radio, because of the massive capital cost of launching things on top of rockets into space.However, the ability to use UAVs to automatically photograph the earth changes this dynamic completely. UAVs are obviously much cheaper and if fully automated could produce much more rapid imagery. Plus, a UAV can hover or circle around an area providing continual data versus a moving satellite which is only over a given area for a few seconds every 5 days.The biggest problems with UAVs – government regulations and privacy concerns. But make no mistake, in 5 – 10 years UAV remote sensing will be a multibillion dollar industry.

        1. Dan Sweet

          http://www.skyboximaging.com/ is also in the commercial satellite imaging space – Stanford startup – agree this will be a huge business.

      6. Rick Mason

        One of the biggest areas will be agriculture. I have worked with remote sensing technologies since the eighties, pre-digital. Took the passenger seat out of a Cessna and aimed a 35 mm camera through the inspection port. All of that moved to satellites but they have several problems:1. Too expensive to do more than three photos a growing season2. Clouds get in the way, often here in Michigan we had trouble getting a single shot that was clear in an entire growing season3. Impossible to do a quick follow up 24 hours later to react to events like weatherAs a result remote sensing hasn’t become a mainstream tool for farmers and is used mostly on high value crops. All that could change with drones.

      7. Dave W Baldwin

        It is matter of definition. Drones will become smaller and smaller allowing imagery and working tools for inside the biological along with developing even more special building materials. Of course that will go along with the ‘spying’ thing, but it is part of the bigger evolutionary step into total direction of trained cell components.AI will truly knock things over the edge.

    2. Carl Rahn Griffith

      A few months ago I read about a startup doing this, Avi – aimed at emerging markets with a lack of infrastructure – they were already experimenting with robot land-vehicles and unmanned small planes for delivering aid/goods to remote areas – can’t recall where I read it, though!

      1. Avi Deitcher

        If you find the article, please do post it here on the comment thread (or directly to me at avi [at] deitcher [dot] net. Fascinating. That is one of those leapfrogging technology uses we read about, where it makes services available where they were not before, as opposed to in developed countries, where it makes them better/cheaper/faster.

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          I don’t think is the link/s, Avi, but seems like pretty much the same story I recall reading about…http://www.techthefuture.co

          1. Avi Deitcher

            That is a fascinating approach, the use of decentralized independent hops. Not the one I would have taken, so all the more interesting.If each drone can carry 1kg, or 2.2lbs, at a rate of $1 per 40 miles of transportation (assuming they are doing fully loaded costs, something most inventors, hobbyists, and engineers miss), then it is not yet cost-effective compared to UPS in developed world, but well on its way, and very useful for undeveloped areas.Thank you for sharing!

    3. Pete Griffiths

      Great exam;le.

    4. takingpitches

      Nice – first thing that came to my mind was drones too.

    5. Dave W Baldwin

      On the money re the convergence.

    6. Matt A. Myers

      Package delivery The Hunger Games-style..

      1. Avi Deitcher

        LOL! Can we get rights from Suzanne Collins, and do delivery in little silver parachutes?

        1. ShanaC

          meh, they would get gross

          1. Avi Deitcher


  4. John Revay

    I always enjoy reading CDIXON’s blog, I agree short and sweet is best.Side note – “That is what I woke up thinking about this morning” – good that you have some good clean thinking while you are away skiing w/ you family – please have a safe return.

  5. Charlie Crystle

    I’ve been hacking on stuff for quite a bit of time–weekends and weekdays. At some point ya do gotta get out of the garage…

  6. kidmercury

    Atomic energyOnline media (yes, still!!!)3d printingWearable computingAmazon’s technical infrastructureLocal farming, urban farmingHomeopathy, naturopathy (hot trends as the disaster that is obamacare unfolds)Water desalination, water purification technologiesStem cell research

    1. Avi Deitcher

      Atomic energy? I assume you mean the real stuff, not my blog? :-)How does Atomic energy work in the hobby realm? Love to get my personal fusion reactor, but other than asking Doc Emmet Brown…

      1. Jeffrey Hartmann

        Fusion is actually VERY easy to do. You can build one if you have some electronics skills, lots of people do it. What is hard is to make any energy out of it. Philo Farnsworth had a design for a fusor that lots of people replicate. I was toying around with doing it at one time, I love nuclear energy.Kirk Sorensen is turning his hobby of looking through old documents from Oak Ridge into a real business in FLiBe energy, so I totally think Atomic Energy is a great hobby. I actually built some simple fusion simulations to learn a little more about atomic physics myself, there are lots of “strange” folks out there with crazy hobbies.

        1. Avi Deitcher

          Cool. So the problem isn’t doing it, but (a) scale and (b) getting more energy out than in. Mr. Fusion anyone?

    2. fredwilson

      are all of them or any of them hobbies?

      1. Brandon Burns

        I have tons of friends in the local/urban farming and DIY homeopathy movement. There’s something appealing about being a witchdoctor after work and on the weekends, growing your own vegetating and making concoctions and whatnot. Feels very “hobby” to me.

        1. kidmercury

          absolutely. it’s currently a hobby of mine.

          1. Brandon Burns

            And Buzzfeed has just made it painfully obvious why more people should pick up this hobby.11 Horrifying Facts About Your Fresh Groceries: http://www.buzzfeed.com/kev

      2. kidmercury

        maybe i’m unclear on what a hobby is — i’m thinking of it as something you can experiment with and be creative with — so i think they all can be…..but i think basically anything can be a hobby.

  7. Brandon Burns

    I think the reason hobbyists create the future is because they’re working on something that is fulfilling to them, whether it turns into a big business or not. Few things are more motivating than self-gratification.If I could create a 10 commandments based on what I’ve learned in my entrepreneurial adventures, focus on what you love would sit in the sacred top 3.Chasing the “next big hobby” may be fun to talk about, but what’s more interesting to me right now is how people can take everyday hobbies β€” cooking, travel, art, music, sports, building and making, etc. β€” and turn them into businesses. Maybe not the next “big” thing, but an army of people living their lives doing what they love, achieving fulfillment of the soul and the wallet at the same time. Kickstarter and other platforms are starting to make this possible, but there’s so much more room for growth.Albert Wenger touched on this “micro entrepreneurship” in his Thinking About Employment series: http://continuations.com/po

    1. LE

      “is because they’re working on something that is fulfilling to them, whether it turns into a big business or not.”Agree. And they like it enough to deal with the frustration, scarcity of information, and cost of doing it before it hits the mainstream and is accepted.They also don’t care whether others find it interesting or not or what others think. Not because they think they know something others don’t just because they don’t care. They can deal with the “oh he’s in the basement doing his thing” because people can’t understand something that isn’t mainstream. To them it seems “weird”. “No file available”.When I was younger I thought nothing of spending hours building (and inevitably rebuilding) my gas rc helicopters (GMP and Hirobo). [1]Later on when I didn’t have the time and needed something done I went to a field and found a hobbyist and asked if he would build the helicopter for me. He said sure and that he would charge me the ridiculously low price of $50 for what must have been 20 hours of work I’m sure.It took him a few months. When I met up to get the completed chopper he didn’t want any money at all. He didn’t even want the $50 which of course I gave to him.[1] (Or doing photography which of course turned into something that I made money on to start my first business.)

      1. Brandon Burns

        The other awesome part about hobbys β€” they make great stories like this one. And when it comes to selling a product, people buy into stories.

        1. takingpitches

          Yes – stories essential as well for motivating a team and sticking it out through the difficult times.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            Important for recruiting the team as well.

        2. LE

          “people buy into stories.”Exactly. A wave of very successful books have had at their core “stories” instead of academic presentation which is difficult to follow. I actually have a wiki where I compile various stories of things I have experienced or things that I am thinking or have observed. The thread is actually called “the stories”. In a sense it is a hobby as well. When I started doing this I didn’t think how I would use it it just seemed like it was a good idea to write down things I had figured out, discovered or learned about business, people, or human nature because it helped me predict and operate in new situations.

    2. takingpitches

      Love your third paragraph!

      1. Brandon Burns


    3. fredwilson

      yesssss. for sure. we have been and will continue to invest in that in a major way.

    4. Ben Popper

      In the case of domestic “drones” (or if you prefer UAVs) hobbyist are actually given a legal exemption to experiment, innovate and fly, something commercial operations and law enforcement are currently banned from doing.A lot of technology that was heavily restricted ten years ago is now in the public domain thanks to the proliferation of smartphones. Hobbyists, especially in open source communities like DIY Drones, can now play and build with this equipment, and are really helping to drive the industry forward. Pretty amazing considering this stuff was the exclusive purview of defense contractors a decade ago.I wrote a bit about this interesting, hobbyist first paradigm yesterday. – http://www.theverge.com/201

      1. Brandon Burns

        I didn’t realize being a drone hobbyist used to be illegal. That’s a shame.Think how much further along and better our drone technology would be had kids been about to invent it in their garages 20 years ago. Not that it sucks now, but still, think of the lost possibilities.

      2. ShanaC

        that is super facinating

    5. Matt A. Myers

      Wouldn’t it be nice if we created a society / economy where people were doing what they loved the majority of the time?

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Indeed, Matt.Crass consumerism has screwed that ideal up but I believe we are entering a new phase of life/values – the transition is/will be painful, mind, but at least consumerism will be put into perspective and left to just the parvenu to pursue, one hopes…

      2. Brandon Burns

        its so sad when looking at it through that lens β€” that the majority of people don’t work on what they love. the majority. like, an overwhelming majority.doing things you don’t like to do should be an outlier case. not the majority case.

        1. ShanaC

          i love making cookies and drawing, but how many people do you need making cookies or drawing?True of many things in life – if everyone programmed and no one could make cookies, cookies would become expensive and a food innovation problem

          1. Brandon Burns

            Think of all the people who make cookies and draw but hate it. There are many. I’m sure there are thousands of people in the kitchens of bakeries across the country who’d rather be somewhere else. I’ve got 3 designers in a room with me right now who’d all rather do anything but draw right now.One man’s trash is another woman’s treasure. The thing is allocating work in such a way that more people get their treasure, and fewer people get what they consider trash.

          2. JamesHRH

            Hobby – job transition makes people realize that they don’t love drawing / baking cookies 8-10 hours a day.Passion is bogus axis for work focus: commitment is way better. Think about whether you can commit to what the work requires, not whether you love it.Work is about work. Love is about love.

          3. Brandon Burns

            i can’t commit to anything longterm so i guess i’m doomed. :o)

          4. JamesHRH

            It’s a treatable condition πŸ˜‰ !!!!

          5. ShanaC

            you can love your work, but you need to accept the structure around it being work versus love

          6. JamesHRH

            That is what I am driving at. People talk about passion, but it needs to be in context. Most people are passionate about things that are, at their heart, not productive work.A friend of mine says “the line in front of the door marker Getting Things Done is always short”.For sure, the most productive people have, at the core of their working lives, a passion for an aspect of the work.But I don’t think people spend enough time on the deliverables that create success.

          7. sprugman

            “Drawing” as I suspect Shana envisioned it, and corporate design as I suspect your three co-workers were doing are related, but vastly different things. Not that you don’t have a point, but the purpose and context of a task has an enormous impact on how one feels about it.

          8. pointsnfigures

            Do a Kickstarter and send me some cookies

          9. Brandon Burns

            lol.i’ll chip in, too!

          10. ShanaC

            boyfriend is doing a kickstarter, if you guys insist, i’ll convince him to let one of the rewards be dark chocolate sables (they’ll survive the shipping and being sent overnight/2 days will intensify the chocolate taste)

        2. takingpitches

          Yes, doesn’t have to be that way. a lot of times we love what we do but hate the structure in which we do it.for example, i loved my geeky law practice, but just hated what the law firm structure had become.talent elevation platforms like kickstarter in the arts, but others in other areas, have the potential to bring that enjoyment back by changing the existing revenue flows and the stagnating institutions that mediate them.

          1. Brandon Burns

            so true. i come from advertising and agency-side product design, industries full of artists who often times hate executing their art because of the framework within which they’re forced to do it.and the thing is, for every animator working on UI and hating it, there’s a UI designer doing animations and hating it, too. if there were an easy way to facilitate swaps, or just help people find the right framework within which they can do what they love in the way they love to do it.

        3. FlavioGomes

          Trick I think, is find multiple things to love. Earlier in life I tried converting a hobby into a business. Started hating the hobby. A few false starts and eventually found something I loved doing which incidentally got me back into loving my hobbies again.

      3. takingpitches

        Brandon already said it but that’s why I love kickstarter.

      4. CJ

        It’s called Google.That said, I’m loving my job. I love getting up and coming to work. It’s amazing how freeing that is.

      5. Charlie Crystle


    6. Brandon Burns

      In the Onion today:”Find the thing you enjoy doing more than anything else, your one true passion, and do it for the rest of your life on nights and weekends when you’re exhausted and cranky and just want to go to bed.”http://www.theonion.com/art…

    7. falicon

      Love it! I am a huge fan of taking my personal pain points and turning them into businesses (or at least solid, useful, projects)…having a personal need/desire to search through conversations lead me to build gawk.it.And one of the things I spend a lot of my free time on is helping coach my kids in the various sports they are involved in…myself and a number of the other coaches were spending so much time just getting organized and trying to put together good practices that I decided to finally build out my http://coachwizard.com concept…using this season to flesh it completely out, seed the system with quality content, alpha test, and tweak it so by next season (fall sports) it can start to generate revenue (from subscriptions).If I took the time to break down most of my other projects, they would all reveal some personal need/desire/hobby that I wanted to fix…then decided it could/should be something to help more than just me (and if possible, turn a nice profit too) πŸ˜‰

      1. Brandon Burns

        I think you’re doing more than turning pain points into businesses, Kevin. I think you truly love the things you’re building.I point out that difference because I found the “focus on pain points” advice to start a business to, ultimately, mislead me. I’m a UX designer, and I can figure out how to solve almost any pain point with an interface. However, for example, just because I hate all the calendar apps I use, and would have fun designing a new one in a weekend because I like solving problems with design, it doesn’t mean I want to run all the details of a calendar app company for the foreseeable future.You’re probably equipped to build applications to solve a myriad of problems, Kevin, but it’s pretty clear to me that the pain points you’ve chosen are ones you’re passionate about, personally. I think that’s something different.

        1. falicon

          True…at least the ones I bother to talk about publicly…I actually have a massive number of personal projects that I’ve built wasn’t passionate about…some are still live, but none are used much by anyone…including me! πŸ˜‰

      2. Charlie Crystle

        coachwizard looks really useful…think this might be it

        1. falicon

          Thanks – I have been thinking about a version of this system for over nine years now but I finally built the core of it at that startup weekend in Lancaster…without that dedicated hack time I would prob still just be thinking about how to start this one (it was a very ambitious set of tools for one dev to put together)

    8. David Petersen

      Focusing on what you love is another way of saying follow your passion.Which sounds like noble goal, but I think Mark Cuban does a good job of providing an alternative viewpoint in his ‘Don’t Follow your Passion Follow Your Effort’ blog post: http://blogmaverick.com/201…The central idea is that you usually come to love whatever you are good at.Personally, I love solving problems and building things, so I can work on anything challenging and feel satisfied.

      1. Brandon Burns

        I understand Mark’s point, but if his argument is you’ll succeed in the areas where you work hard, why not work hard in the areas you’re passionate about?

        1. David Petersen

          I think his point is that if you feel passionate about something like ancient mongolian history or playing video games, you should instead put your effort towards something more productive. Making video games might not be fun at first, but with enough effort it might be even more fun than playing them.

    9. Jeffrey Hartmann

      I think the best entrepreneur’s start out scratching an itch they personally have. I have a distinct feeling from hanging out around here that most of the creators on this blog have a current or past project that fits this bill. You can’t be more passionate about something then if you really want something created for your own use or to solve a problem you experience. It also gives you great direction, and I think this is sometimes missed when people go entirely data driven on what they build and pivot too early. If you have an itch, you have a vision in my mind. And vision is where it is at for me.

  8. JimHirshfield

    Pre-computer hobbies I had as a kid: coin and stamp collecting, guitar playing, and taking stuff apart (sometimes back together again).Sometimes these are niche…and therefore, not sure how big the market would be. For example, a future app/marketplace for coin collectors?

    1. karen_e

      I totally wish I could find my old stamp collection. My grandpa contributed to it. Kills me.

      1. JimHirshfield


    2. kidmercury

      niche is the next big thing

      1. raycote

        because really that where we all live ?

        1. kidmercury

          i think that’s a very valid reason, although i think it’s also because it’s the only place that’s truly defensible. as businesses scale they trade small markets for big ones. if you’re a startup, your best chance is to focus on a small market. ergo, the startup’s heroic quest is largely about creating new niches.

      2. falicon

        and it always will be.

        1. kidmercury


    3. Charlie Crystle

      is there not now?

      1. JimHirshfield

        I do not know. Was hoping you could Google that for me. ;-)Seriously tho, I haven’t cracked open the coin collection in ages. So there’s no urgency.

    1. fredwilson


      1. Carl Rahn Griffith




  9. Richard

    It is in the early stages, but biotech hobbyists / hacking of DNA / Bioinformatics is coming.

    1. fredwilson

      how can one get involved in that?

      1. Richard

        Biopunk by Marten Wohlsen is a good place to start.

        1. fredwilson


          1. pointsnfigures

            jumpsimulation.org. this will be a pretty cool medical hacking space.

        2. JamesHRH

          A friend works @ Life. You can basically sequence a genome for < $1000 now. Customized / hobbyized bio everything coming soon, no?

      2. Jason Kelly

        I’d start with a class at Genspace in NYC: http://genspace.org/events/… There is a biotech crash course this Sunday.

      3. Cindy Wu

        The 18-22 year old synthetic biologists congregate at MIT every Fall (http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…. A few summers ago, our team created an anthrax treatment using a videogame called fold.it and published in JBC. We tested and designed 87 different mutants in a summer on a budget of a few thousand dollars. The year after, we created a probiotic for gluten intolerance and cloned GFP into yeast to make glowing beer.

    2. kidmercury


    3. Brandon Burns

      well that certainly blows my mind!

    4. ShanaC

      definitely. You already can engineer ecoli in high school to glow in the dark and be mildly antibiotic resistant* – why not do it at home*This is now an ap bio lab

      1. robertdesideri

        Yep. Created a biofuel in the lab space beneath her loftbed!http://www.smartplanet.com/…Is that _at_home_ enough?

    5. raycote

      I caught the tail-end of a TV show outlining the top 10 things most likely to cause the extinction of humans.Their pick for #1 was “SYNTHETIC LIFE”Hobbyists hacking DNA could certainly accelerate that process ?Talk about hacking that can take on a life of its own !When we hack DNA we are literally hacking our own operational substrate at a level of networked-complexity far beyond our ability to comprehend the massive cascade of self-replecating, distributively-redundant, unintended consequences.EDIT:”Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”Maybe developing tools that allow everyone to hack a recombinant, DNA-like, internet-of-things into life-like neural-networks of distributive social functions would be a good place to gain some foundational knowledge before everyone jumps right into the basement and starts messing with our own life-sustaining DNA substrate.And by the way, when can we expect a “HYPER CARD LIKE” stage that provides us mere mortals with a drag-and-drop environment for building out neural-net-like data-gathering/control-stuctures that leverage that internet-of-things for our personal hacking satisfaction?Can’t some of you developers out there get right on that, just reach out and press that big red “EASY BOTTON” and get this done ;-)JUST FOR EMPHASIS !:-):-):-):-)

      1. Richard

        that’s what they said about books in 1440

    6. Jeffrey Hartmann

      When I was a kid I wanted to be a geneticist and cure AIDS, and did some basic projects in school to give antibiotic resistance to bacteria. I would love to get to hack virus’s like they are doing now using HIV to deliver cancer cures, this is something I really love. I can’t wait to see how things play out here, I think once we can read/write genetic code at a reasonable level as a species great things will happen.I have Ankylosing Spondylitis (auto immune arthritis of the back), wouldn’t it be awesome if I could alter some stem cells extracted from my body, kill off my immune system like they do for leukemia patients, and replace it with a healthy one? If I ever get to be ‘king’ as they say, I’m so starting a foundation to do this sort of stuff.

  10. Jack Barcroft

    I like it, keep our feet in the clouds and our eyes foward.

  11. Cynthia Schames

    How about shopping? It’s arguably the favorite hobby for many women, and we’ve already seen big disruptions via venues like eBay, Amazon and Etsy. Right now at my startup AbbeyPost (shameless plug), we’re working with some extremely complex computing technologies to bring an entirely new dimension to ecommerce for a certain sector of the women’s apparel market. Although our focus is tight, the tech will potentially revolutionize the entire online shopping experience, both for buyers and for sellers.And just like my last successful startup, this grew out of a hobby for me.

    1. LE

      “Right now at my startup AbbeyPost (shameless plug), we’re working with some extremely complex computing technologies”Explain. What I’m seeing is that the site is based on this http://www.agriya.com/ ??Where ?? means if I am seeing this it’s possible others might draw the same conclusion.

  12. LE

    “What are the hobbies that we should take on next?”Just like you have an activist in residence you could use a few people or a person [2] in residence whose sole purpose is to alert you to things, or to follow up on ideas, or to research further concepts that come over the transom and prepare a summary report like the briefing the President gets daily . [1][1] Things on this blog, things you read, things people tell you about.[2] At my first business I had a guy “Mike” that did some of these things for me (not discovery but more or less follow up on ideas I had). He was the one that did the legwork and research that led to the publicity stunt that landed a small blurb on our company on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and many other 1 in 10 projects.

    1. Brandon Burns

      Just yesterday I was having a convo about 1 big difference between big companies and small companies: big companies have the luxury of paying people to do preemptive research and tasks, where as small companies don’t have the bandwidth and have to play catch up.The specific case in that convo was how big ad agencies have art buyers, and small ones don’t. Art buyers spend their days researching and meeting with photographers, directors, tech providers, etc., keeping up on what’s out there so when a creative director walks into their office and says “I need to shoot a video that feel like a Katheryn Bigalow war movie” or “Nike+ like app”, they know who to go to.Small companies can’t afford to have those kinds of people. But maybe they could have a research drone instead.

      1. LE

        Agree that it is certainly more in the budget for a large company to do this.But I think this is also a matter of attitude [2]In an operation like USV, or any small operation you have to spend money to make money. Hiring someone as I’ve described (or even an intern) doesn’t seem to be a stretch for USV finance wise.This is not the same as someone who is eaking out a profit of $200k in the 15 person business deciding to spend $40k of that $200k on “pure research”. In the case of USV it is an edge.To me this is the classic “lead the horse to water” problem. And depends on whether the person viewing the opportunity has the seat of the pants feel and insight to see the value in doing this (or any creative idea not mainstream) and is willing to take a chance on an idea like this. [1] It’s also one of the reasons that I like spending my own money I don’t have to convince anyone else that my ideas make sense. A process that can be futile when the person simply isn’t on the same page with respect to what I am thinking or the way that I think.[1] Before they see others do the same and have the social proof to know it’s a good idea. In order to succeed you have to be able to recognize opportunities before there is social proof from your peers (just like niche hobbies).[2] and of course finding the right person to do the job.

      2. ShanaC

        I wish I was that guy. Seems like a fun job

  13. Jorge M. Torres

    DIY bio is really interesting. Check out Genspace in Brooklyn. They do classes, events, etc. for adults and kids.

  14. karen_e

    My hobby is reading AVC nearly every day. The content is pretty far removed from my daily life and business dealings, yet it’s fun and full of brain teasers. When the 10th anniversary comes along this fall, I will be able to say I’ve been hobbyin’ along with you all along.

    1. ShanaC

      πŸ™‚ oh it started out that way for me too

  15. Richard

    Look at the pseudo hobbyists, the PHDs, particularly in Engineering.

  16. jason wright


  17. Paul Sanwald

    for me, playing around with the vast array of programming languages that I have discovered in the past few years is a big one: clojure, go, prolog, and similar. from a platform perspective, I am bearish on tools and platforms that dictate language choices, and bullish on platforms that don’t (github, for example, doesn’t care what language your repo is in).I think we are in the very very early stages of true collaboration on the net. as a musician, I’d love to jam with a bass player or drummer somewhere, but there’s no real platform to do that in real time (although I do love soundcloud). hmmm.I say that because most open source software, to me, is about sharing and collaboration, because we as people love to share and collaborate. contributing to, and being a part of, open source has taken off hugely in the past 10 years.

    1. robertdesideri

      Paul, remember Justin Frankel? He did a musicians collab pipe. Might have been wrong time, perhaps time to dust it off. His timing on winamp was good, though πŸ™‚

      1. Paul Sanwald

        rob, just found it! http://www.cockos.com/ninjam/really cool, thanks for the tip. I’ve long respected justin’s work, winamp was my first mp3 player and reaper is really cool.

  18. takingpitches

    Citizen Cartography.People are working to map North Korea on Google Maps, NYPL has a program to help it “rectify” old maps in its collection, people are helping map developing third-world slums, mapping data sets — accident, food, biking, whatever — onto maps, etc…

    1. Brandon Burns

      The DPRK map stuff is so cool. People there are proving that when there’s a will, there’s a way.

    2. fredwilson

      i love maps and i agree that mapping is an awesome hobby

    3. rmchrQB

      and maps of your own networks, and your influence on them, and their returns back to you. Ripple effects -> data visualization

    4. Ed Freyfogle

      This is already happening big time, see http://www.openstreetmap.org By making geodata freely and easily available it has unleashed lots of geo innovation. So far that has been somewhat confined to the digital realm, but hopefully also soon to the physical. I blogged about this recently here:http://freyfogle.tumblr.com

  19. Dan Conway

    An augmented reality looking glass screen that overlooks my backyard where my purchased digital menagerie interacts with my real world.

  20. William Mougayar

    I like the word Tinkering to describe what hobbiests do. Many of the world’s greatest inventions were accidental & happened when the inventors were tinkering with something else,- eg penicillin, champagne, gravity, etc…Keep tinkering my friends.I am a tinkerer. Actually, I am tinkering with something right now that I might unveil in 3-4 weeks. Maybe it’ll be more than a tinkering.The big trend is DIY. DIY is in.

    1. Brandon Burns

      I don’t think DIY ever went out of style. People are just being more public, communal and entrepreneurial with their tinkering nowadays.

      1. William Mougayar

        Yes, it was accelerated to many fields.

  21. Dave W Baldwin

    As materials change at more rapid pace, the latter teens offer endless opportunities and raw material for the hobbyist delivering a beyond belief 20’s.

    1. ShanaC

      i can’t decide if this image is really cool or really odd

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        It looks sad to me. I mean the first one.

    2. Dave W Baldwin

      This reply was supposed to be @shana…Answer? Both. Yes, it puts in the sexism, yet the faster evolution per bot will be toward feminine due to healthcare and so on where the patient/customer will feel more comfortable. The evolution of material will enable a synthetic that has less ridge and more smooth and so on. The AI at that point will dumbfound those that can only live in DM of today.Besides, what is the real difference between above and what we have today?

  22. ShanaC

    Game design.Food productionVideoSome of the areas others are thinking about – eg biohackingyou need to have probably completed some college in the area for the exposure (I shana, probably couldn’t biohack)

  23. Dorian Dargan

    new personal transportation devicessound consumption by vibrationfood hacking

  24. DanielHorowitz

    – I think the “Quantified self” is a pretty important area. – I also think citizen science, diy science will be big. From crowdfunding your experiment, to outsourcing part of the experiment to democratizing access to costly instruments…)- Open ROV is pretty cool – Open source underwater robot – http://openrov.com/- Investing in Startups/small and local businesses (Crowdfunding…)- Daily Fantasy Sports- I think farming will become more popular and I think there is a ton of potential with drones as well.

    1. fredwilson

      all of these are awesome

  25. Antony Evans

    There’s a growing movement towards DIY Bio (Think Genspace in New York and Biocurious in California). The rate at which the cost of reading and printing DNA is dropping means that this could become something very major. I asked one of the leading synthetic biologists (George Church at Harvard) where the field would be in five years and he said it would be impossible to predict as there would be a 100,000 fold cost decrease in the underlying technologies… that’s 7 times faster than Moore’s law!!You can see my interview with him here: http://tmblr.co/ZgwW5uVqPW2W“What we cannot create, we do not understand”



      1. Antony Evans

        This email address has been overloaded with spam emails, please contact me via Facebook or one of my other email addresses if you would like to ensure I read your message. Antony

  26. awaldstein

    To me a ‘hobby’ in your vernacular is something you can build without funding and let it take it’s own path and the market will unfold or not.Once you fund it, the dynamics change.

    1. falicon

      Agree.As you know, building services is one of my hobbies…most do not turn out to be businesses, but a few do (and once they do, they move from hobby phase to something else entirely).

  27. pointsnfigures

    Whimseybox.com is a craft site. They went through TechStars in Chicago and are based in Houston, TX. Great entrepreneur-but I was shocked at the amount of engagement they had.

  28. Josh

    Fred, have you looked at Local Motors? Thousands of hobbyists coming together to design cars.

    1. fredwilson

      yes, very cool.

  29. Yalim K. Gerger

    I think Jeff Hawking is turning his hobby into a revolution right in front of our eyes and very few people are talking about it. Numenta and their product Grok is taking machine learning, AI and big data to a whole new level. Worth to take a look: https://www.numenta.com/

  30. andyidsinga

    software engineers making hardware.

  31. Bruce Warila

    Hacking serenity… I ski moguls, aggressively, and near trees. I was thinking yesterday that nothing empties your head like worrying about the next fifty feet of hill. If you think about anything else, your’e toast. People are forgetting what it’s like to have mere moments without distractions (where clarity exists). It’s a hobby of mine to pursue these situations. I think we are going to see more and more ideas, apps, and businesses built on top of enabling serenity.

    1. fredwilson

      been skiing trees and bumps for the past three days. i haven’t been in as good a frame of mind in months

      1. Bruce Warila

        Most don’t realize this, but the best skiing in the northeast will be over the next 60 days. Can’t wait for 55+ degree mogul skiing in VT and Maine. Spring skiing is going to be fantastic this year.



  33. joeagliozzo

    Diet, nutrition, personalized workouts, lifelong mobility and health. Organic and “grass fed” eaters, crossfitters, MWod’ers all are seen as fringe but in the future even more than wealth, those who stay healthy, vigorous and capable will be admired and emulated. This ties in to FitBit, etc. as well as 23andMe where people want to take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing as well as track their results over time.

  34. howardlindzon

    Awesome in its simplicity. If you dont have any hobby I dont know how you can develop the passion that makes hobbyists the futurists and the people that change industries.

  35. howardlindzon

    I am thinking about golf and fasholgy harder than ever. Max’s hobbies are the future

    1. fredwilson

      what is fasholgy?

      1. howardlindzon

        Fashology I write about on my blog. Oakley was my fave to lead this but they sold to luxottica and left a void. It is the melding of fashion with technology. I wont buy Apple glasses, but I would love Oakley glasses powered by Apple products or google products. I think these industries marry in interesting ways going forward

        1. fredwilson

          got it. makes perfect sense

  36. Luke Chamberlin

    Get a crazy haircut or die your hair blue or something.People will treat you differently in two distinct ways: either they will be warmer and friendlier toward you, or they will give you dirty looks and silently mumble under their breaths why can’t you just get a normal haircut like everyone else.The first group of people will invent the future. Hang out with them.

  37. ivanhoff

    What is the difference between a hobbyist and an entrepreneur? Both groups try to solve a “problem” that has not been properly solved yet.

    1. Charlie Crystle

      the entrepreneur makes it into a business

      1. fredwilson


  38. Stephen Alfris

    I read this Chris Dixon post and really liked it as well.I think the reason Hobbisits are so successful is that, almost by default, they have that all important “energy for the process”The key issue though is that so many hobbies are just that, and thus difficult to turn into a business

    1. fredwilson

      these did come up in other parts of this thread. and i agree that this is big

  39. Dan Sweet

    I’ve been thinking about this recently from the perspective of a parent. What are the things I might buy/hobbies I might facilitate that will set my kids up to be more successful than their peers?A common thread in the first generation of successful tech entrepreneurs was simply access to the hardware and time to experiment. Read Gladwell’s Outliers if you haven’t yet for some great anecdotes along these lines.My dad dropped almost $4k on a Gateway PC setup back in 1990 when his annual salary was maybe $30k/yr because he was into computers. 15-20 years behind that earlier generation, that early access still had me way ahead of most of my peers for quite a while. I’m really curious what that parallel big investment would be today.

    1. fredwilson

      the back in the day fun friday from last week is a perfect example of that

  40. Teemu Kurppa

    Biohacking and self-measurement. Quantified Self movement is on the rise and people are interested in semi-scientific self-experimentation.

  41. Yepi Friv

    Very nice. I feel very good

  42. andrewparker

    The geekiest geeks I know consistently get fired up about two things: the new programming language Julia (its like matlab or octave, but nicer and more functional) and Probabilistic Graphical Models (PGMs — see Daphne Koller’s coursera class).

    1. fredwilson

      do you think Julia can be the blogger of data science?

  43. Cinque Mcfarlane-Blake

    I dont know if you would call this a hobby, but right now with a friend i’m mining facebook open-graph for public data, doing seo on peoples names and crowd sourcing personality information from people. It’s been fun so far because it’s like a psychology experiment + data mining at the same time. Only been at it for about 8 months, but we’re still growing it so thats kinda cool for us, but its tiresome trying to think of new ways to beat open graph limits with the limited resources we have.

  44. kizi

    Agree. And they like it enough to deal with the frustration, scarcity of information, and cost of doing it before it hits the mainstream and is accepted.