I think everyone has had the experience of brainstorming a “great” dotcom business idea over drinks with friends. There were more than a few good and bad ideas thrown around the offices of The Industry Standard as the editors learned that the companies we were covering didn’t always deserve to make as much money as they did.
I had another one recently that was kind of interesting, though not really new in any way, so I thought I might just post it here and see if anything comes of it. I haven’t come up with a name for it, yet:
ProductX is a toy exchange network for parents of small children. It consists of a directory of toys available for members; a profile for each toy with ratings, comments, and user submitted videos; a queue for each member to track which toys will be shipped next; and a distribution system for receiving, storing and shipping toys. Anyone can become a member by contributing X toy(s) and paying a monthly fee. The toy contribution will be donated to charity. After joining, a member can select any 3 toys available from the directory. Members can only keep 3 toys at any one time and must return a toy to receive the next toy from this or her queue.
There was a variation on this theme that was also interesting that involved essentially ‘platformizing’ a swap system like this. That way you could focus member networks on specific types of products of similar value.
And just to put some perspective on my thinking here, these are some of the other ideas I’ve either heard, contributed to or invented myself (not telling which is which) and about when they were conceived:
- ThingThunk.com (2005). The ultimate product review directory. Inspired by Wikipedia, ThingThunk allows anyone to add a product, rate a product, comment, submit video, etc. It’s the ultimate shopping assistant where you can get advice from other people who have actually bought and used a particular product.
- Bioconomist.com (2005). The Industry Standard of the biotech industry. Insider analysis, heavy-hitting journalism, industry metrics, deal tracking and job listings.
- Makingamockery.com (2002). Jack Ass meets Gong Show online. People submit videos of themselves doing stupid things. Users vote for favorite stunts, but, more importantly, users can request stunts. Successfully performed requests win cash prizes and appear on the accompanying weekly TV show. (I’m now realizing as I type this that it’s more like Jack Ass meets Y! Answers.)
- PublishingPilot.com (2001). A UK-based CMS and hosting environment for small businesses to crank out web sites without having to know anything about anything. (I got some momentum behind this one including a somewhat high-powered board of directors before my personal bank account ran dry and MovableType appeared on the scene.)
- LargeLifeStyles.co.uk (2001). Fashion retailer for larger-sized women. (Actually, I pulled this one off using my father-in-law’s resources in textiles in London. We morphed it into a shoe retailer that performed mildly well for a few months until we stopped updating it with new product.)
- Sugarpimp.com (2000). Sponsored behavior modification. This idea arose out of my desire to keep a floater friend of mine unemployed and travelling so that I could continue to get his emails from strange places around the world. Then it hit me that you could create a market of sorts where you could get sponsors to fund all sorts of things. The obvious twist was that this would clearly turn into some kind of strange fetish/porn market.
And my personal favorite (courtesy of John Masterson)…
- MyBeltWithHooks (1999). An offline clothing personalization platform. The belt would be very expensive but any third-party developer could create hooks to attach to it. One example of a third-party hook is the real-world search engine, a small child or dog that would attach to your belt and go find things on command.