I came up with the stupidest startup possible and got traction

I’m a serial founder, with successful services like Vacord Screen Printing (we want to print awesome shirts for you), StartupResources.io (a curated directory and newsletter of the best tools and resources for Startups), and userinput.io (get feedback so that you can improve your website, app, or idea). I’m a fan of making a landing page for a project idea, and seeing if it sees any demand from the market in order to validate. I also suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome, so I like coming up with new ideas.

But that’s all beside the point of this article. Today, we’re talking about the dumbest idea. On purpose. And accidentally getting traction with it.

Last April, I helped put on a Startup Weekend here in Nashville, and if you’ve ever put one of these on before, you’ll know it’s a ton of work up front and then a fair amount of sitting around during the actual weekend. Pop.co gave everyone a free .co domain, and since I’m a somewhat silly guy, I wanted to come up with the dumbest idea possible and build a landing page.

The first idea was something to do with free blood, or blood delivery, I can’t remember. It was stupid, but not really stupid enough.

What’s the worst startup idea possible? It should be absurd, preferably illegal, something that you can’t believe would be real, but maybe, just maybe, it is real.

And then inspiration came: A Bald Eagle rental service.

The only image on the site, but the best image ever

I got the domain rentabaldeagle.co for free, and used Pop.co’s shitty website builder to make a slightly patriotic but mostly idiotic website about renting bald eagles. So hilarious, right? I made a Twitter, added an animated GIF of an eagle riding with a guy in a hang glider (?), got a phone number from Google Voice, and that was it. I posted it to Reddit and no one cared. Three people signed up for the waiting list (me to test it, and two buddies at Startup Weekend).

I moved on with my life. It was a joke site. I have real stuff to build.

But traction started to happen. The twitter ranks #1 for the phrase “rent a bald eagle.” The phone calls are getting more frequent. I don’t have the Google Voice number connected to my cell phone, so I hear it ring only if I am within Gmail (I never ever answer it), but otherwise I just get emails with recordings of the voicemails.

Why are people taking this seriously?

Mike, why do you want a bald eagle???

Eric wants me to know that he only needs one bald eagle. Not like a bunch of them or anything.

Some people leave messages, and they seem to know it’s a joke.

Morgan Stanley called, but I don’t know if it is the banking empire, or a lady named Morgan Stanley?

But then the Marines called…

Holy shit, the Marines think it’s real? I’ll tell you who I don’t want to mess with: The United States Marine Corps.

I got a little worried, and asked my attorney if I could get in trouble for this. He suggests putting a tiny disclaimer saying that it’s obviously a joke, but he thinks otherwise parody laws should cover me. He doesn’t seem worried, so I’m not too worried.

And then someone called about renting a bald eagle for a Wounded Warriors run in Boston.

So it turns out people do want to rent bald eagles. There is demand. Classic Lean Validation.

This is illegal, by the way. It’s illegal to own, rent or even poke at a bald eagle. I don’t know how Trump got one for that photo op, but I sure was not the rental agency for him. An unaffiliated group called about getting a bald eagle in order to be like him though.

So what’s the moral of this stupid story? I guess it’s to try putting up a landing page to test market desire. Validate before you invest time and money. It’s a great Lean Startup technique. Go Lean. Go eagles. Go America. Fly, Eagles, Fly!

Stuart Brent is a free range micropreneur, founder of Vacord Screen Printing(they want to make your custom t-shirts and hoodies), userinput.io (an easy way to get on demand feedback for your app, idea or website), startupaffiliate.io (promote your affiliate program or find others to promote) and StartupResources.io (a list of the best tools for your Startup). When he’s not glued to his laptop, he enjoys traveling, eating sandwiches, and trying to find decent espresso throughout The South. Follow him on twitter at @vacord or on Anchor at StuartBrent.

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