Your next worthless startup idea

Tonight I was walking home along Pearl Street with my friend Rajiv who was visiting from Vancouver. In these 5 blocks, Rajiv spit out about 5 ideas for startups. Rajiv will admit to you that he’s the programmer (and a very good one), not the business guy. So he won’t be upset when I tell you that most of his ideas were pretty damn cool things that nobody would ever pay for.

My friends often remark that it seems as if I have at least one startup idea per day. Startup ideas are not hard to come by. I have lots of good ones, and I give them away all the time. Once in a (great) while I hear a great startup idea. I think lots of people forget that this gets you about .001% of the way to building a successful company. Certainly it helps to have a great idea. But I’ve seen a hell of alot of great people take good ideas for startups and turn them into millions. It’s not just the idea: it’s the passion, the vision, the people involved, and the execution.

I recently read an interesting post in the OnStartups blog called “Startup ideas: Are bad ones better than good ones?” The author’s theory is that you want to have lots of bad ideas that you can easily reject rather than those pesky “good” ideas that you should reject but don’t in fear that they might just be great ideas after all. Good ideas are harder to distinguish from great ideas and are therefore dangerous. After all, you might spend 5 years working on one of them before coming up with the conclusion that it was not such a great idea after all.

So the obvious question is “How can I tell my good ideas from my great ideas?” Well, great ideas tend to have certain attributes. They tend to solve real problems that people already know they have. Often, they take something that you can already do and make it much cheaper, more reliable, or easier to use. Give your good and possibly great startup ideas these simple litmus tests. Of course, beware of false negatives – in some rare cases the very best ideas defy this logic.

So tell us all, what are your good startup ideas? Give them away. I know you won’t share your great ones.

file under: Blog, Startups