4 min read

An unfiltered list of bad startup ideas

Whenever I have a startup idea I send myself an email with the subject “IDEA: {description of idea}” and gmail quietly archives it into a buried folder.  

The list is pretty short from 2007-2010 when I was running SFI. After the acquisition closed I was looking for another startup idea; this led to a lot of what Paul Graham calls sitcom ideas — plausible enough to sound real but terrible, nevertheless.

Verbatim email subject lines below.  I’ve added italics if edited in any way.


  • Dating site aggregator

  • Sell zip code database and address validation API

  • Online-only payroll processing

  • Virtual tech support using remote computer takeover

  • Email sorting based on algorithm of past reading history


  • Web-based platform for creating and monetizing online training

  • Plugin to convert all commercial links to affiliate links and route savings back to the buyer

  • CheapFrames.com

  • Plugin to auto-apply coupon codes (retailmenot, private coupon upload)


  • Airline travel consolidator with all carriers: Southwest, usa3000, Airtran

  • Evaluism.com (test coding skills)

  • Apartment search consolidator

  • App to locate police cars integrate with radar scanner


  • Crowdsource business docs: legal, will, human resources manual, training, etc.

  • Crowdsource custom painting

  • Apartment design app with library of 3d, photorealistic models of IKON and store items

  • Copier pricing engine

  • Sell cheap las vegas clubbing clothes

  • Video property finder – what’s it like

  • Insurance price engine (August 21, 2010)

    • This idea became Leaky.com, which Jason Traff and I cofounded in September 2010 and joined YC S11.

  • Truck price engine

  • Course GPA History

  • Virtual car dealership

  • Clone of network info whois db

  • Health insurance comparison pricing engine

  • Forgotto.com – yell at me when I’m not doing something: reminders for lazy people

  • Remember sites over time (Commercial Wayback engine)

  • Facebook app and browser plugin combo that saves original resolution photos


  • iPhone app to discover friends installed apps

  • Combine Clicktale, Clicky, and Olark

  • Online reputation management (embed on Craigslist and eBay postings, a sort of BBB ranking for real people)

  • Automated site redesign A/B testing with matching Adwords automation

    • This idea became Redesigner.com. Redesigner was a short-lived pivot after Leaky.com was cease-and-desisted by Progressive, State Farm, et al.

February 2012 – July 2012

This was the period of funemployment post-Leaky, pre-Redesigner-shutdown, pre-42Floors when I was actively trying to come up with ideas.  The bar was set low.  Some ideas are downright illegal, others are merely embarrasing.

  • Compare property mortgage payment to rental value using Airbnb data

  • Hidden record NFL games to reconstruct the all-22 game footage

  • Election tools e.g., poll email reminder, auto phone call ala zocdoc.com

  • Agency that redesigns websites and ad campaigns and only takes money if performance improves

  • Service to convert unvested options in publicly traded companies into a basket of S&P500

  • Service to keep you active in social network… auto comment, say happy birthday, prompt you to email certain people

  • Put in address and see price for all available phone, internet, TV providers

  • Tool to get everybody in your company to promote your products for SEO… facebook likes, Twitter mentions, etc.

  • SEO ring… you write up five companies and five companies write you or give upvotes for youtube videos, facebook likes, etc.

  • Pay sites to include a script that will watch for form entry with name and identify that person by cookie so person can be identified

  • Should-i-go-solar: input address and site will auto estimate (w Zillow and Google earth) the size of roof and then you can adjust coverage sliders

  • Climbkeeper – uses GPS to track climbing routes just like ski tracker

  • Super hi rez always-on video cameras in climbing gym that people can use to show off their climbing moves

    • I did a lot of climbing and skiing during this period; it was awesome

  • Travel planner (e.g., planyourthailandtrip.com) that starts with a checklist that you fill in as you plan your trip: flight, taxi to hotel, hotel, events, and you can book through site

  • News app that tailors articles to what you’ve read like to read

  • Better embedded zip store locator

  • Home school using iPads and ACE curriculum with ability to get live help and essays graded by human oriented to muslim or evangelical christian students

  • Datetherealme with required Facebook profile

  • Guys shopping site by look with narrowing scope e.g., too boring, more blue

  • Make a shopping list, orders from cheapest option or tells you where to get it

  • Ads that contain personalization space so site owner can insert name of user without giving user data to advertiser

  • Cameras at gas stations check for warrants

  • Rate my startup idea (hot or not for startups)

  • Roommate agreement checklist and monitor

  • Control bot of twitter, google review, yelp accounts for SEO voting

  • Pricing tool for ebay… curves of what your item has sold for in the past and current listings

  • Tivo capability (record and suggest shows) for online video

  • Speed test my website… how long does it take me to do X versus a competitor; could do ring voting to suggest improvements for site with keyword extrapolation

  • Long term car rental negotiator

  • WriterAccess without the anonymity

  • Better brightroom.com

Lastly, I also emailed myself ideas for one-day hackathon projects.  Here are those:

  • Twitter overshare

    • I built this during Angelhack: overshareme.com. I’m amazed, but it actually has 2 users.

  • Movie drinking game generator

  • Tron (IE – chrome virus)

    • This one requires a little explanation… it would install Chrome, apply a theme to make Chrome look like IE, copy bookmarks, uninstall IE, and delete itself.

  • Iwanna do this (find people who want to play split-screen Xbox or go hiking right now)

  • Database comparisons (real-world scenarios for Mongo vs Redis etc.)

  • Watch saturday morning cartoons (recreate the experience of watching cartoons for a specific date in childhood including commercials)

  • App to make each letter play different musical notes on iphone instead of click

  • Plugin to call to remind about google calendar appointment

  • Monitor Techcrunch for mention

    • I ended up just writing a script to do this while we were having lunch waiting for our Techcrunch story to go live on Friday

I’ve heard it said that ideas are cheap.  Not so.  I’d empty my bank account in a heartbeat for one good idea.