t’s funny that I sometimes write for Vietcetera.com, which often has interviews with some of the most promising entrepreneurs in Vietnam. I’ve always harboured dreams of heading a startup, but I’ve never seen any of my numerous inventive, highly practical ideas come to their fruition. 


Here are a few of those ideas. Again, shockingly, none of these have made it to the real world, because of a lack of funding, because they were ahead of their times, or because… well, for some I still hold out hope… 

A website ahead of its time: whathepho.com

I came up with the idea in 2001, after college graduation, immediately after the first internet crash, so the timing was bad. Whathepho.com was supposed to branch out from its humble beginnings as an online review site of all the Pho restaurants in the United States. Fully realised, it would have been a lifestyle guide and an online cultural nexus for all Vietnamese Americans. A hip e-zine that offers tips on how to successfully navigate the educational and professional world as a minority in this country, whathepho would teach its readers how to deal with a more “subtle” form of racism, how to handle tiresome expectations from positive stereotypes, and constant parental pressure to overachieve. A style guide, etc…would follow, then perhaps even life coaching. My friends and I never followed up with the idea, though I did write my first review of a Pho restaurant, for Pho Pasteur in Boston’s Chinatown, and had a fun time doing it.

Sustainable solutions 1: The Good Workout

I had the idea for The Good Workout while watching the film Superman vs. Batman. As I watched the scene when Bruce Wayne did Crossfit to prepare to fight Superman, I thought: “not only is it unlikely that crossfit will be the difference maker in such a fight, trying to kill Superman at all is rather wasteful of Batman’s significant do gooder talent.”

I’d like The Good Workout to be an app that allows three different constituents to connect: Clients who want to workout as well as do service, personal trainers that want to train and do community service, and in-need communities that could use physical labor (the elderly moving flats, snowed in homes, tire stores, etc…). The community in need specifies the physical labor needed, including how many people and a rough time frame for completion. The trainer sees it pop up on her feed, and can swipe right if she likes, to pick up the activity. She then has 24 hours to program a compelling workout program. Once done, up it pops for possible clients to like. The clients pay a price to join if they like the workout, and once enough spots are filled, we’ve got a workout!

Things are moved, squats are squatted, a workout is worked out, trainer is paid. Afterwards everyone can rate each other. No extraneous gym equipment need be constructed or used. 

Sustainable solutions 2:
Vicky’s & Victor’s Second Hand Intimates

My friends and I start a rock band. With time, and after significant practice, we play well enough to perform some of our own songs at small venues: dive bars, local cafes, open mics, etc… One day, a producer from a big record company stops by and hears us play in a local joint in town. Impressed, he signs us to a yyuuuge contract. We begin to play bigger venues. Then, we tour, nationally first, internationally soon after. We even visit Hong Kong and play in the same venue where Madonna played.

It turns out that, at our sold out, mesmerising concerts, the crowds consistently go wild. Many of our fans throw their intimates at the stage, as fans often do to show fervour and devotion to their band in spontaneous exuberance: shirts, pants, brassieres, trinkets, etc…

We collect these items and start a second hand clothing shop, Vicky’s and Victor’s Second Hand Intimates, selling them at cost or slightly above. There would be additional value placed on items that were thrown away at a historically good concert, whose previous owners would have felt immediate regret upon losing them, and who might in turn become customers of their own clothing. Some of the proceeds go to develop promising but overlooked bands, to give them a second chance. Pay it forward.

Plan B: Not start a band. Instead, collect thrown clothes from fans of successful bands’ concerts and resell them at our store. Rock and roll concerts become more sustainable and eco-friendly. 

Further research needed: the idea below probably needs further research.

Abstrain: Better abs and glutes training through constipation: 

During constipation, one’s glutes tighten, one’s abs contract and de-contract in an interminably long, strenuous routine. The strain one feels when one experiences it is monumental, multiple times greater than what one can feel doing hundreds of reps of crunches or squats. Sometimes, after a tough, lengthy movement, there is that feeling of delicious soreness in both glutes and abs. That feeling is the sign of a real workout.

At Abstrain, we design for our clients a personalized diet of red meat, cheese, milk, and other non-fibrous ingredients that will lead to hours working one’s lower ab muscles in futility, perhaps even, in anger.  For people who tense up at gluten, Abstrain nutritionists (abstrainers) will include the exact amount of it, as needed, in their meals.  Abstrain utilizes your abdomen’s natural flexional and extensional processes as it works to tug and pull, prod and push, ply and squeeze its way to turning coals (flabby abs) to diamond (taut six pack abs). 

Too lazy or undisciplined to go to the gym? This workout won’t give you an option. Abstrain: isn’t it time to clench your teeth, and grit your way to a fitter you?

Dystopian visions: Some final ideas for the near future 

Idriveaway: (in collaboration with Will’s friends… while on the road)
In the near future, most of our cars will engage in self driving, due to fears of human errors causing accidents and also to examiners failing too many capable drivers.

We humans can still drive, of course, but it will be a luxury, and has to be paid for each time. Most people will need to pay a small fee to switch their car to manual – meaning, a car operated by a man. If you’re a particularly bad driver, however, you pay more. The better you drive, the less you pay.  This serves to keep bad driving off the road as well as fund our robotic cars future.

CaptioneryWe take selfies and photographs at a near constant rate, then post them on social media sites we belong to. What we lack, always, are quality captions to follow these digitally filtered, curated pieces of perfection! Our captions are cliche laden, conveying little pathos or wit. We need specifically curated texts for our best photos. Where can we turn, but to literature!

Captionery is an app that will comb through the archives of all of humanity’s literary texts available on the public domain (free for the taking!) to come up with the most apt quotation to include with your photo (or dating profile, if that’s your thing).

The app will read your photograph, determine its tone, message, the emotion each person is feeling, and pair the whole ensemble with the most fitting literary quotation. If you’re looking to make a poignant, hand crafted card for a specific occasion, you just take a photo, scan it using the app, and out comes the most pitch perfect Shakespearean or Austen quote to elicit laughter, or tears, all written in your own cursive! Captionery: “We find the profound so you don’t have to.” 


Celebrity Poke Go: Wealthy folks sometimes must go through such great lengths to get their son and daughter a celebrity performer to come perform at their birthday or other special occasions. Their assistants of assistants call other assistants, schedules are confirmed and broken, people are bothered, plans change, and the appearance doesn’t always occur.

This app cuts through the little middle people and allows both celebrities to make themselves available for appearances and for parents and kids to spot the nearest celebrity, catch them, and compete with others to get the best and most famous!

Using actual money from their accounts to buy lure modules, celebrities can be tempted to the spot and “captured”, then made to do things celebrities typically do – pose, take pictures with, sing (if musical), make video clips. Celebrities are given fame rankings, as parents and children are given a worth percentile, and the value/cost of the activities the celebrities perform will also be included in the point system.

Venture capitalists out there, contact me and let’s get cracking on these!

Copyright. Phan. 2016