The past, present, and future of the Internet and technology is founded on the risky ideas of entrepreneurs who dared to come up with something they truly believed the world needed. Unfortunately they can’t just believe it; they need to convince other people to believe in it too. And sometimes, if they want to make their dream a reality, they have to persuade venture capitalists to give them money using only the idea they have.
On Quora, Michael Wolfe compiled a list of some of the most ridiculous startup ideas that eventually became successful. The Airspace altered some of the pitches Wolfe came up with and removed the names of the companies. See if you can guess which ideas are worth millions (and in some cases: billions) of dollars today.
1. We are going to build a file sharing and syncing solution when the market has a dozen of them that no one uses, supported by big companies like Microsoft. It will only do one thing well, and you’ll have to move all of your content to use it.
2. The world needs yet another Myspace or Friendster except several years late. We’ll only open it up to a few thousand overworked, anti-social, Ivy Leaguers. Everyone else will then join because Harvard students are so cool.
3. We’ll sell books online, even though users are still scared to use credit cards on the web. The shipping costs will eat up any money people save. They’ll do it for the convenience, even though they have to wait a week for the book.
4. Airlines are cool. Let’s start one. How hard could it be? We’ll differentiate with a funny safety video and by not being assholes.
5. It will be ugly and it will be free… except for the hookers.
6. We’ll build arcane analytics software, put the company in California, hire a bunch of new college grad engineers, many of them immigrants, hire no sales reps, and close giant deals with D.C.-based defense and intelligence agencies!
7. Give us all of your bank, brokerage, and credit card information. We’ll give it back to you with nice fonts. To make you feel richer, we’ll make them green.
8. A brand new operating system that doesn’t run a single one of the millions of applications that have been developed for Mac OS, Windows, or Linux. Only Apple can build apps for it. It won’t have cut and paste.
9. We are building the world’s 20th search engine at a time when most of the others have been abandoned as being commoditized money losers. We’ll strip out all of the ad-supported news and portal features so you won’t be distracted from using the free search stuff.
10. Filters! That’s right, we got filters! No, perhaps you don’t understand us. F-I-L-T-E-R-S. Filters. Yeah. Boom.
11. Software engineers will pay monthly fees for the rest of their lives in order to create free software out of other free software!
12. It is like email, SMS, or RSS. Except it does a lot less. It will be used mostly by geeks at first, followed by Britney Spears and Charlie Sheen.
13. People will use their insecure AOL and Yahoo email addresses to pay each other real money, backed by a non-bank with a cute name run by 20-somethings.
14. How about a professional social network, aimed at busy 30- and 40-somethings. They will use it once every 5 years when they go job searching.
15. Instead of just building batteries and selling them to Detroit, we are going to build our own cars from scratch plus own the distribution network. During a recession and a cleantech backlash.
16. If NASA can do it, so can we! It ain’t rocket science.
17. We are going to build a better web browser, even though 90% of the world’s computers already have a free one built in. One guy will do most of the work.
1: Dropbox. 2: Facebook. 3: Amazon. 4: Virgin Atlantic. 5: Craigslist. 6: Palantir. 7: Mint. 8: iOS. 9: Google. 10: Instagram. 11: Github. 12: Twitter. 13: Paypal. 14: LinkedIn. 15: Tesla Motors. 16: SpaceX. 17: Firefox