* Three Free #Startup Ideas For The Taking

Ideas are cool, but execution is key.

I have ideas for new companies every day. One problem with the current recession is that not enough people are starting new companies.

So here’s three free ideas for new companies. I’m not going to patent these ideas. I’m not going to pursue them. I’m going to tell the world about them and see what happens. I guarantee you that if I’ve had these ideas, then so have others.

Ideas are easy, execution is difficult (see also the value of ideas and the value of content vs. services).

Idea 1: Email Tagging And Social Networking Manager

The problem: Email remains the lowest common denominator for social networking. But there is no way to tag your email addresses with labels (think “friend” and “customer” – and yes, one person can be both), keep track of those tags, and automatically update your social networks with this data.

The solution: A web-based portal for syncing Gmail with your social networks. A tagging syntax for email that allows for other functionality.

All problems don’t have to be solved simultaneously. Start with updating your social networks, work on the tags thing next. Every month, I do this:

  1. Export my Google Apps Email contacts to my desktop, import them to my Gmail contacts in my vanilla GMail account.
  2. Sync Constant Contact with Gmail contacts (client email only)
  3. Sync Twitter with Gmail contacts
  4. Sync FriendFeed with Gmail contacts
  5. Sync FriendFeed with Twitter followers
  6. Sync LinkedIn with Gmail contacts
  7. Sync Facebook with Gmail contacts
  8. Sync Plaxo with Gmail contacts
  9. Sync MySpace with Gmail contacts

Automate the above, solve lots of pain, and that’s your beta release.

Version 1.0 is tagging. I currently tag my email addresses in one master email database, which lives in FileMaker Pro, and which I sync with Gmail via some custom plugins and scripts. None of my social networks really knows who my friends and clients are. The only reliable version of this data lives in FileMaker. Create the standard for tagging email to solve this problem.

Version 2.0 is other stuff. Once the tagging problem is solved, it enables other features. For example, I will unfollow somebody on Twitter if they write something objectionable. I’d like to remember why I unfollowed them (by tagging them). That way, when a Twitter suggestion service like Mr. Tweet suggests that I follow them, I’ll remember why I chose not to. Again, I have this data, but it’s all in FileMaker. It should be in the cloud.

Idea 2: Identify And Notify Domain Name Cybersquatters

The problem: Trademarks, brands, and names are cybersquatted daily. You can use services like Mark Alert from Domain Tools to find some of them.

The solution: Create a better domain name search engine. Glue other services to it, such as automated email warning to cybersquatters.

Mark Alert only searches for exact strings. A fuzzy search is needed to find look-alike and sound-alike domain names that are confusingly similar to registered trademarks (and the like).

Once the search engine is in place, scrape the WHOIS data, find the email address of the registrant, and decide whether or not to send them a warning email, a cease and desist letter, or whatever. We have this functionality in my law firm, but it is semi-automated and imperfect.

Idea 3: Trademark And Brand Central

The problem: The trademark application process occurs largely in a vacuum. Google has not directly indexed the USPTO’s TARR database. As a result, the USPTO registers trademarks that it should not have. Trademark monitoring and watching services exist, but they are crazy expensive.

The solution: Make it harder to register bogus trademarks by forcing transparency on the trademark process. Create a centralized portal where users can search for and comment on expired, registered, and pending trademarks. Like Wikipedia for trademarks. Allow fuzzy searches. Provide updates via email or feeds. Support the whole thing with advertising.


About 500,000 people per month are losing their jobs. Some will be forced to start new companies. The key to startup success is execution. Solve some pain, add some value, and you have a viable company idea. Execute well and you win.

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3 Replies to “* Three Free #Startup Ideas For The Taking”

  1. Greetings Art,

    For starters, each could be a subscription service. I, for one, would pay for each.

    I currently pay for Gmail (via Google Apps for business), LinkedIn, and Constant Contact.

    I didn’t get Yahoo!’s revenue model when they launched. Or Google’s. Both now make money.

    And while Twitter isn’t currently monetizing anything, they are clearly adding value and have many possible ways to monetize that. I’d pay for a premium Twitter service.

    So I think the key to a successful business is to be able to add value in some way that customers will pay for. All of these do that.


  2. While these may be ideas for starting companies, I don’t see (in what you’ve wrote) how they would be businesses.

    What’s the revenue model for each one?

    Starting a company is only slightly more difficult than having an idea. Execution requires funding and unless they will be nonprofits and run off donations, they need to have a way to generate revenue. I can’t even think of a way that these would do that.

    And no, you can’t say “advertising” 🙂

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