Tuesday, November 30, 2010

6 Startup Ideas Every Nerd Has

Over the years I have spent a lot of time brainstorming startup ideas with people who are (asymptotically) as nerdy as me.  For some reasons, every time I brainstorm with a new set of people, the following ideas come up.  This suggests that either all nerds think alike, or alternatively, that they are unsolved problems that someone, someday, somewhere, may actually come up with a variant that hits big.

So, here is the list of 6 startup ideas every nerd eventually thinks of (but never seem to quite work):

1. A "Better" Dating Site.
  • When you spend all your time coding, you can't help but hope there are more efficient ways to meet the opposite sex.
  • Most variants of these end up being ideas guys would love (you can see ALL the girls, and THEY need to reach out to YOU), but that girls would never use.
  • Popular subvariant:  A tool that scans all the bars in the area so you can see the girl/guy ratio (or, more recently, "a mobile checkin service where guys can report guy/girl ratios".  Or, "lets scrape Facebook events and Foursquare for this data").
2. A Giant, Purposeless, Unfocused Machine Learning System.
  • Popular subvariant: We have built this awesome recommendation engine/collaborative filtering technology we will license to sites across the web to improve buying behavior on their site, and we will take a % cut of the uplift in their revenue
  • Popular subvariant:  Hey!  Lets apply it to music!

3. Social Travel
  • TripAdvisor sucks!  Let's have people write travel recommendations for specific sub niches (off the beaten path, traveling with a dog, cheap travel, etc).  
  • Popular subvarient: You can also ping your friends on Twitter and Facebook to ask them to write reviews for you! (Have your friends ever really wanted to write anything for you other then a snarky comment on your latest profile pix?)

4. The Future Success of My Friends Fund Idea
  • Subvariant 1: What if we all promised to put in 10% of our future earnings into a fund?  If just one of us does well, we will all be rich! (AKA if one of my friends makes it big, I can retire on their hard work!)
  • Subvariant 2:  Lets approach students at the top schools and offer to fund college in exchange for X% of their future earnings!

5. Craig's List Killer
  • "Lets start by adding a better search interface on top of Craig's List, then make it more social, then drain all their inventory onto our own site.  Aren't they a non-profit or something?  I doubt they would ever block us!"
6. Gaming Mechanics Applied To X Vertical

  • "We are totally going to revolutionize the music/energy/healthcare/social news/forestry/plastic surgery industry by adding gaming mechanics to it.  People freaking love badges - Foursquare proved that".

Any other ideas you see come up repeatedly?  Leave them in the comments section.

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