3 big business ideas that sound terrible on paper (but actually work)
So your startup idea is a little bit quirky. Take heart. It’s the true visionaries breaking conventional wisdom that usually change the world.
As anyone who has ever tried will tell you, starting a business is not easy. However, launching an entirely new product or service, in which the immediate market need is not obvious, is close to impossible.
Imagine the initial pitch for ride-sharing service, Uber. It sounds like something that wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Seinfeld:
Kramer: I tell you, this idea will take over the world. You pay someone to drive you around… in their own car. We’re cutting out the middleman! And you could be a driver, Jerry. Make extra money if the comedy thing doesn’t work out.
Jerry: So, let me get this straight — you’re going to let a stranger with no cab license pick you up and drive you around, in one of the most dangerous cities on the planet?
Kramer: Because cabs stink, Jerry! They stink! So, how about it? Want to get on board as my first driver?
Jerry: Get out of my apartment, Kramer.
Now, we all know that Uber is a truly disruptive, amazing business concept that has gained real traction. The company is valued today at approximately $70 billion USD — with or without ex-CEO and founder, Travis Kelanick, at the helm.
With timing and the right support, even the most left-field concepts can bloom. Here are three more decidedly wacky pitches to sink your teeth into:
THE PITCH: People will join Twitter to broadcast their thoughts, but the catch is, they only have 140 characters per ‘tweet’.
Who’d have thought that something as simple as isolating the MySpace and Facebook status function would take off? Yet, here we are. Twitter is also responsible for making subject hashtags a ‘thing’, and it seems that once celebrities like Britney Spears and Charlie “#TigerBlood” Sheen got on board, it was as good as gold for the investors.
In this era of ‘fake news’, Twitter is an oft-used source of truth as the Twitterati share what’s happening in real time. Not always with positive outcomes, though — remember the covert mission to assassinate Osama bin Laden in Pakistan that was almost ruined thanks to a tweet from an unsuspecting IT consultant in the area who found it odd that so many choppers were flying overhead?
THE PITCH: Users can communicate with pictures… but they disappear shortly after they’ve been viewed.
Earlier this year, Snapchat went public. As a result of this wildly successful stock market debut, 26-year-old founder Evan Spiegel became richer than Donald Trump, worth an estimated $6 billion USD. Not bad for a Stanford dropout, eh?
When you break it down, Snapchat is a communication tool that suits attention-span bereft, meme-hungry young people to a tee — and the addition of augmented reality filters added a new level of usage mania to the service. It is absolutely a fun and addictive way to stay in touch with friends but, at the end of the day, the experience being sold is this: turn your selfies into fairies and tacos that shortly evaporate into thin air.
THE PITCH: Invite strangers from the internet to stay in your house for money.
A ‘bed and breakfast’ establishment is certainly not a new concept, nor is the idea of having a room to let. However, with Airbnb, you can browse the listings in your next holiday destination and often rent an entire house for a similar cost to that of a single hotel room. After surpassing one million bookings in 2011, the company has gone from strength to strength as a pillar of the share economy.
If you have ever rented an Airbnb, you’ll know that you’re literally renting someone’s home, and it’s full of their stuff. Most hosts lock away precious personal items and photos, but there’s something a little eerie about taking over a space so intimately occupied by someone else. Still, it’s one of the best ways to get an authentic experience of a new city.
And if you become a host yourself, then kudos to you and your level of trust in supporting a pretty cool and convenient idea.
See, the thing is, every idea can look bad before it works, because most people fear change and investing in the unknown. If no-one ever tried, progress wouldn’t exist.
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