Proving Again that Business Ideas Have no Value

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, 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:

  • Among other things,  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.

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.


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

    […] Tim Berry’s Blog – Planning Startups Stories. […]

  • Sander Smith says:

    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

  • Noah Parsons says:

    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: (sorry for the profanity, but that’s the name!)

    This site cataloged the implosions and pending implosions of famous .coms such as 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.

    • Tim Berry says:

      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.

  • David J. Miller says:

    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.

    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.

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