Chapter 10. Startup Ideas – Great Product & Service Challenges for Entrepreneurs

I. 4U’s Idea Hub – Building Better Futures

Today, there is no platform with a business model behind it for finding, critiquing, refining, and publicly sharing great startup ideas, for any entrepreneur who might want them, in any industry. We call that concept Idea Hub. You can think of it as a GitHub for ideas. Such a platform would be constantly generating, refining, and routing good product and service ideas to entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and social entrepreneurs who might want to use them. That platform would feed into our ever growing networks of accelerators, seed funders, hackathons, startup weekends, and business schools globally, and it would help entrepreneurs come up with substantially better startup ideas. I’ve been involved in entrepreneur ideation sessions since 2009, and I can tell you, these teams often need a lot of help to figure out their minimum viable products and services, and to find particularly worthy (financially, socially, and/or environmentally) startup ideas.

Idea Hub is an initative in Open Foresight. It isn’t Open Innovation, which already has a number of good online platforms (Innocentive, etc.), but a process of ideation, critique, idea ranking, and incentivizing getting the right ideas, at the right time, to those intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs best able to execute them. Some of these ideas will be public domain (IP has been eliminated by making them public prior art) and some will be private, depending on the desires of the folks involved in the ideation, and the advisors to the ideation community. More and more, the best strategy to accelerate innovation is to destroy IP, and make the idea publicly owned by all of us.

The platform we are envisioning, and for which we reserved IdeaHub.co, would be intended for three audiences: foresighters (both ideators and those who love to critique future product and service ideas), entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, and the general public. We could start it as a simple wiki, and use it to collect, share, and refine an ever-growing list of potential product, service, and project ideas, large and small, that we think could make the world a substantially better place.

A small team of us at Foresight U have been researching this idea, and we think it should include a digital coin that the community can use to reward others for submitting particularly good ideas, for improving or criticizing half-baked ideas, for ranking ideas, for visualizing them, developing business plans, and for getting them to the people around the world who are in the best position to execute them. Site visitors can see who has contributed to an idea’s improvement, and anyone is encouraged to hire ideators and critics for their teams. Shareware contributions are listed at the site, based on hours the team has spent developing the idea. When ideas are found executed in the wild, and no sharewhare contribution has been paid, Idea Hub still pays a small amount to the team, to thank them for generating an idea good enough to be created in the wild. The most important thing for us, from our perspective, is to develop a community that rewards the finding, refining, visualizing, ranking, and communicating of great startup ideas, in all industry categories, to those best able to consider them. 

We’ve done a lot of background work on the concept, and think that a minumum of $750K of funding would be required to develop and market a minimum viable platform. Given the current regulatory environment around ICOs, about $250K would also be needed to do the fundraise legally, so the minimum fundraise for this platform would be on the order of a million dollars. Are you interested in funding it? We’d love to get funded, or to join someone else’s development team.

If you really want an idea to fly, you often need a motivation to state it, refine it, and release it to the world, either in a public or private manner. Those with the best ability to execute on that idea can then take it up, rather than those who first dreamed it up, which are rarely the ideal persons to get it done. A good Idea Hub would provide that motivation, and a community around it. 

A good Idea Hub would have two sides, a public side, for open source ideas, shared freely (with shareware donation or other requests added by the creators), to remove intellectual property from the innovation process for certain ideas, and a private side, where innovators can develop a subset of their ideas for critique and potential funding and IP protection by private investors. The public side of Idea Hub is an example of open innovation, an innovation process that is increasingly outcompeting closed models.

A Community for Finding, Refining, and Sharing Great Startup Ideas

Why would people use such a platform? Just like Wikipedia, which is maintained by a network of a few tens of thousands of editors, there are a few tens of thousands of people globally who love idea generation, another few tens of thousands who love idea critique and refinement, another few tens of thousands who love debating and rating ideas against each other for their expected ROI, in triple bottom line fashion (financial, social, and environmental), and finally a set of people who love getting great ideas to the right people to execute them, within their industries and product or service categories of interest.

I believe the world needs a platform that serves those people, and pays them and socially rewards them at least a little bit to do what they already love to do. Publicly or privately sharing your best ideas can lead to new business and consulting opportunities, grow your reputation, and accelerate arrival of  better futures. The leading edge of innovation today is more connected, collaborative, cognitively diverse, intelligent, and transparent than ever before. A good Idea Hub would be copied, in many industries, and there already are good partial benchmarks for such a platform in existence today, like Innocentive. One global platform will eventually emerge as the mindshare leader for open public proposing, improving, and sharing of great startup ideas. Idea Hub is our best, simple name for a brand that could be that platform.

All serious future thinkers are soon overwhelmed with too many potentially good startup ideas to be able to execute themselves. Some of their startup ideas are worth sharing privately, with others who might want to critique them privately, and execute the best ones ahead of the competition. Many good ideas are also worth sharing publicly, where they can be openly critiqued, improved, and shared with those best able to execute them.

Sometimes Destroying Intellectual Property is the Fastest Way to a Better Future for All

Sharing ideas publicly destroys the intellectual property around the idea, placing them in the realm of prior art. Sometimes that is the best way to accelerate the arrival of a better product or service for everyone. As Elon Musk and others have argued, intellectual property today is often a roadblock to global innovation. Those with the most money to sue today will often use the courts to effectively slow down real innovation.

Big companies in particular are guilty of this, and big industry leaders are often far less innovative than the small to mid-sized companies in the same markets. Big industry leaders often seek to “innovate and wait”, to get to the future first, patent it, then sit on those patents, maximizing profits from their older, less advanced offerings, until they are forced to release a better product or service, usually by a smaller competitor, seeking to increase market share. For the gory details, read Clay Christiansen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma (2016) and Jaffe and Lerner’s Innovation and It’s Discontents: How Our Broken Patent System is Endangering Innovation and Progress, and What To Do About It (2007).

Very often the best thing to do, when large companies have failed to release obviously better products and services for a long time, and you suspect them of a counterinnovative strategy, is to empower startups and small to mid-sized firms to bring those products and services to market. That in turn typically forces the large companies to try to buy the smaller ones, or when that doesn’t work or isn’t practical, to finally do or release their own innovation from their labs, to respond to their loss of market share.

A good Idea Hub would be a very effective catalyst of large company innovation, by empowering small company innovation at the leading edge, in every industry.

Some Public Ideas for Entrepreneur Consideration

What follows in this chapter is a small sample of promising startup ideas that deserve to be on a public Idea Hub platform. Please feel free to refine and critique any of these ideas, and share them with whoever you think might best want to execute them, or join teams that are already busily engaged in that execution today.

If you’d like to fund an Idea Hub platform, or join our Idea Hub research team, email John Smart at john@foresightu.com. We at Foresight U are happy to see and help others develop such a platform, and we would also be happy, with good funding, to develop it ourselves.