Jonathan Brun

4 free business ideas to start 2011 off

Here are 4 crazy ideas, let me know what you think.

Membership for restaurants

Restaurants have cash flow problems, patrons often hesitate to go out because of cost. How about a membership (or time-share) system for restaurants. You create a subscription for restaurants where you pay a monthly fee and get x number of meals (table d’hôte – fixed meny). This allows for restaurants to improve cash-flow and for patrons to go more often. There are supper clubs for hard-core foodies, bit this would be for the normal folk.


Government, like many large organizations, are wasteful. How about we create a website to list the budgets of different government institutions and ask people to vote if they think the budget is worth it. Each institution should have to justify itself in relation to its budget, purpose and impact. As anarchists say, we should constantly question why an institution with power exists and if it no longer lives up to its requests, the institution should be changed or scrapped. Right now, budgets are hard to visualize. Where and why tax payers money goes is a mystery to even the most hardened government official. With this website, the people coulees vote on whether or not they agree with the budget in proportion to the justification.

TED Talk of the Week

When TED started out, they put out 1-3 talks a week, now, there is close to 1 a day. Sadly, I am having a hard time keeping up. Concurrent to the increase in talks, there has been a decrease in consistency. You still have some amazing gems that rock your world, but many talks are now average. What if we set-up a very simple website that allowed people to vote on their favourite talk of the week and propose a winner. This would allow some filtering and perhaps make the real gems stand out.

Contests Aggregator

There is tons of free stuff out there to be had. Local papers often offer movie premiere tickets, raffles give away gift cards and other contests offer innumerable items. Many people, sometimes elderly, spend their time combing through the papers, applying and winning these items. How about we build a simple aggregator for contests for free trips, movie tickets and other items commonly offered by newspapers and promo companies are offered. The site would be membership based with a 15 day trial period.

Published on December 28, 2010

The next quiet revolution – how Wikileaks, Open-Data and Citizen expectations will change the world

Things change quickly. Prior to the 1960s, Quebec was run by Maurice Duplessis and the Catholic Church. Upon his death in 1960, a radical change in government took place as power over health care, education, and much of Quebec society, perviously held by the Catholic Church, was ripped away and given to a democratically elected government. This non-violent revolution took place in the span of one decade and lay the foundation for today’s society. Just as that revolution saw the power move from one shadow government, the Catholic Church, to a more representative government, today’s shift transfers power from the hidden parts of our government back to the people.

Western governments are crippled with debt, which simply means they are trying to do too much with too little. You can argue their management is inefficient, the systems are too old or they are not competent – either way, the people are tired of it and are demanding change. Citizens live in a connected, digitized world with email, Facebook, and other amazing tools. When citizens, especially young ones, arrive at a government website, a hospital or a public school, they fail to understand how they are run so inefficiently. Of course, these institutions have inherited decades of legacy technology and practices, but that is still not a satisfactory answer. The people have expectations and governments are failing to live up to them.

Three major pressures are coming down on governments around the wold – Citizen expectations, Open-Data and Wikileaks.

Citizen expectations are born out of their daily lives. They communicate through email, Facebook and Twitter, see photos and have access to amazing tools. They consequently expect governments to rapidly embrace these same tools to improve the standard of living and better deliver existing services. However, governments are often burdened with so much responsibility they cannot easily pivot and change according to new technology. It is thus important for governments to begin offering the raw data so that third parties – citizen’s, non-profits and business can help deliver services to society. This raw data feed is a new trend that is rapidly growing into the global Open-Data movement.

The Open-Data movement, of which I am part, requests that governments offer their information in a format that can be reused and turned into practical tools. Advocates of open-data want governments to open up their databases of information so that citizens can peer inside, see problems and help fix them. Citizens want governments to embrace crowd-sourcing, leverage experts in their communities and be more efficient. While many governments resist, we should remember the cries of outrage when parliament was first required to publish the Hansard, it is now consider obvious that parliament would act in a transparent manner for all citizens to see.

The third force acting on governments today is fear, fear of Wikileaks. Wikileaks illegally takes information from governments (and corporations) and exposes it for all the world to see. Even in democratic countries, governments have little experience with full and complete transparency. In many ways, the elected government is a superficial level of a shadow government which runs continuously through election cycles and whose power is out of sight of most citizens. It manages the society through meetings, diplomacy, statistics and more. In fact, Assange and Wikileaks want to pull the structure of secrecy out from underneath government bureaucracies. By removing the secrecy of their communication, Wikileaks forces them to either revert to secrecy, which slows down their operations, or open-up, which forces them to act in a moral and appropriate way. The best summary of Wikileaks’ motivation can be found here.

The traditional, semi-closed, hierarchical bureaucratic government institution has served well for over 40 years, but it is time to change. Citizen expectations, Open-Data and Wikileaks will change it by increasing transparency, efficiency and fundamentally making it more representative of the citizenship. Make no qualms about it, society is undergoing a revolution, but a quiet one. The power structure we have now will radically change as citizens and organizations push for honesty through transparency.

Published on December 9, 2010