How To Turn Your Personal LifeHack Into a Business or… How To Profit From Your Simple Ingenuity.

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Every once in a while we come up with a simple solution to an aggravating annoyance in our lives, and than wonder if it’s a good enough idea to make money from it. There is an interesting discussing on Hacker News about a “Thing” a blogger built for himself and was wondering how to market it. The blogger wrote about his problem and the solution here.

Problem: He lived in an apartment complex that had a gate that you could open with either a Key Card, or by dialing a number from a local area code to let in your friends or the pizza delivery guy when you are up stairs. Unfortunately for this fellow, he was an import from another town and didn’t have a local area code. So, for about a year, we used a bundled triple play plan with a local phone number just to be able to let people into his gated building, but eventually got fed up with the waste. So, he decided to write a simple software program to solve his problem.

Using what I assume was the Twilio API, he built an app. Here are his own words…

“So I did what I do. I built a thing.

The thing in question provides me with a local phone number and makes our apartment gate awesome. When someone calls it:

  1. Answers the call
  2. Prompts for their PIN (which is probably overkill, but was fun to make)
  3. Dials “9” if they’ve entered it correctly
  4. Sends both my wife and I a text message if access was granted

Now we don’t even have to be home waiting for the landline to ring to let our friends into the apartment complex.

But what about the pizza? Do you have to assign your pizza guy a PIN?

No. I simply tell the thing I’ve built that I’ll be expecting a pizza within the next hour and to let anyone who dials my apartment in.”

He went on to ask the Hacker News Community for advice on how to market his app to whoever might pay for it. The advice in Hacker News was pretty basic. Many people said sell it to landlords, and a few people said have the landlords sell it to their tenants. They love upsells, and this is a simple way to make a few extra bucks off the tenants. Some others mentioned trying to sell it to the gate buzzer manufacturer, and others discouraged that because it is a simple app to build, and they might just steal the idea.

Some users pointed out that a simple firmware update can wipe out the need for this app.

My advice off the cuff was to use it as a marketing tool for the local pizza deliver place, having them sponsor it for the tenants, with a built in feature that they have the easy access to the building and all other deliver services require dialing with a PIN, etc… I think it would not only create goodwill, a feeling of reciprocity from tenants, but it’s a local business that already has a relationship with some in the building. The unique selling proposition opportunity of being, “The Only Pizza Delivery Guy You Don’t Need To Open The Door For…” can be very compelling.

I chose this angle simply because they stand to profit the most from this access. The property owner doesn’t really benefit from it unless he sells it, which quite frankly would annoy many tenants… I already pay rent, and now I have to pay to get into the building?!” The tenant might pay for it, but the price point of $10/ a month is hardly a solution when you can get a free local number from google voice, or other cheap services… The pain point does not seem to be very high. I think this is a promotional item that will serve best as a marketing tool. Whether it’s to the landlords with the sales pitch, “A secure building that lets only your REAL friends in 🙂 or something of that nature.

Here is how I would approach monetizing a life hack idea like this.

Step 1: Make a list of every person that would potentially interact with this app. In this case, it is the tenant, the landlord, the tenants friends, delivery services, the gate buzzer manufacturer, maintenance crews, property managers, landlords, and probably others I can’t think of.

Step 2: Figure out who this problem aggravates the most, and try to put a price tag on eliminating that aggravation. In this case, the tenant is aggravated up to the point of having to call to open the gate. The Delivery guy is aggravated that he has to wait to get in, and maybe loses business because its a pain for tenants to let them in. The landlord is aggravated because he has angry tenants perhaps, and he has the same aggravation of letting his team in. The manufacturer can easily fix this, or build it as a new generation solution to help market his product to landlords.

Step 3: TALK TO PROSPECTS: Ask tenants how annoying this problem is for them. Ask landlords if using this would be an added salespitch to encourage tenants to move in or stay. Ask the Pizza Shop if this would help them market to the tenants more effectively.

Once you have some direction, you can start testing a minimum viable product on a local level with different models and see if you have model that people will pay for. Once you do, than you can worry about how to scale, how big the market it, etc…

Sometimes the math just doesn’t work out, and while what you built makes your life easier, it just doesn’t create enough value in the market…

I have yet to meet a company that didn’t discover other uses for their product once it touched consumers hands. This is why it’s so important to test the market, and see how people use it, etc… you would be surprised how this might end up pivoting into an analytics app for landlords to measure how often delivery guys come to their building to offer comarketing opportunities, or a friend to figure out how often which friends visit, etc…

Lots of cool ways this app can be fun… But it needs to be used to get to that point.


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About David Melamed

David Melamed is the Founder of Tenfold Traffic, a search and content marketing agency with over $50,000,000 of paid search experience and battle tested results in content development, premium content promotion and distribution, Link Profile Analysis, Multinational/Multilingual PPC and SEO, and Direct Response Copywriting.


  1. Rebecca Michaels says

    If you’re able to come up with something like this that makes your life simpler, there is probably a market for it and as you said, sometimes it doesn’t work out or translate the way you thought that it might, but it’s always worth a shot to experiment and see what you might be able to make money off. I have to admit, I actually find the apartment pin really appealing but I don’t have an apartment or any real reason to use it considering the only people that show up at my door are people I don’t want to see – people selling things, or the police, because I live in a pretty bad area. The selling proposition about the pizza guy also had me laughing quite a bit. It’s great that people are starting to become more aware of the market that their life hacks have, and I say that completely genuinely because I can benefit numerous ways from the products that might be soul because of someone’s moment on ingenuity.

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