Planning, Startups, Stories


Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

Proving Again that Business Ideas Have no Value 4

Hold a mirror up to a mirror, and you get some kind of representation of infinity, or something like infinity, intriguing but hard to explain. Just do it.

That’s something like what happened to me yesterday with a riff on business ideas. It started with my first view ideaswatch.com, which is a new website where people can suggest, list, and discuss new business ideas. Think of things you want. Things you wish existed. Those are business ideas.

I love it for several reasons: new business ideas are fun; they’re not owned so they shouldn’t be hoarded; they stimulate entrepreneurs; and the site seems well done. And this reinforces my own insistence that too many people overvalue business ideas; that an idea without implementation is just an idea, worth nothing. So why not share?

But it gets better. I clicked onto the site and started browsing the ideas already posted, and I found this one, called “Startup Failures.” Just to make it clear, the image here isn’t the main page. It’s a specific idea, one of hundreds posted on the site.

In case you can’t read the fine print, the idea is:

What if there was a website where people shared their startup failures so others can learn from that.

Which is where we start ruminating on the nature of ideas, and how nobody really owns an idea. Because:

  • First,  there already is something like that, The Mistake Bank, the work of my friend John Cadell. It’s not specifically about failed startups, but its tagline is: learning from faux pas, miscalculations and decisions gone wrong. I posted about it here on this blog last month.
  • Just last weekend, by complete coincidence, none other but my son Paul and my daughter Megan were on twitter musing about roughly the same thing. The tweet here is Megan quoting Paul, as shown in TweetDeck. Sure, Paul’s Corporate Darwin Awards suggestion isn’t exactly the same thing, but it’s close. And their tweets were picked up by others. So people like the idea.

So we have a cool site encouraging people to post and discuss new ideas, and we have a new idea I found there, that’s a good idea, that I’d like to see exist. And we see here that, like all cool ideas, it’s already percolating. It’s out there.

And whoever makes it work deserves to make the money. If you, for example, take this and make money on it, then you and nobody else deserves the money. The value is building the business, not having the idea.

  • Pingback: Mistakes Happen: Let’s learn from our business failures

  • http://www.TestFacebook.com Sander Smith

    Great post. I unfortunately know too many people who are planning on creating a “Million dollar idea” and then licensing it to someone else so they can sit back to collect their millions. Reality will probably never set in for these people.

    I even recently wrote a post about this in the context of Facebook applications where I make some of the same points

    http://www.testfacebook.com/2011/02/28/so-you-want-to-be-a-facebook-entrepreneur/

  • http://www.paloalto.com Noah Parsons

    Good post and it’s funny to see how ideas are recycled too. At the end of the 90s, as the first internet bubble popped, there was exactly such a site: fuckedcompany.com (sorry for the profanity, but that’s the name!)

    This site cataloged the implosions and pending implosions of famous .coms such as Pets.com and many others. Since then, the site itself has imploded. It brings a smile to my face to see this idea crop up again as the debate starts up about a new internet bubble.

    Good ideas don’t die, they just get new owners to take them to the next level.

    • http://timberry.com Tim Berry

      Noah, funny you mention that one, it came up in the twitter exchange I mentioned too. There’s an image here in the comment. I used to use that site as an example when I was teaching.

  • http://campusentrepreneurship.wordpress.com David J. Miller

    Great post. Thanks for sharing the site and those tracking/discussing failure.

    David Kirsch, at University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business, runs a project called the Business Plan Archive.

    http://www.businessplanarchive.org/

    Their original collection were business plans from the original internet boom/bust… They have evolved and continue to grow. Its a great collaboration between a Maryland, Mason, and the Sloan Foundation. It is currently limited to non-commercial researchers.

    Its pretty interesting and their site is worth checking out.