Technology Entrepreneurship Course: Bad Business Ideas

Earlier this year, I signed up for a (free) online Technology Entrepreneurship class with Stanford University. This week, we got our teams and our first assignment. Our team has 10 people and will later be split into 2 smaller groups. I am really excited to work with people who have similar interests! Part of our first assignment is to come up with the 5 best and 5 worst business ideas. Sounds simple enough, but the challenge comes in getting 10 people to contribute and come to a conclusion. Although communicating online is easy, there are challenges that come along with more than 2 people communicating back and forth. So far, we have been using Google docs, Google+ (as Skype can’t handle 10 people at a time), and E-mail. I have a feeling we will be seeking out other means of communication in the future, as even the 3 means we’ve tried so far have been lacking in some areas. I’ve heard good things about Campfire so maybe we can try that.

Anyway…I’m rambling about something that I didn’t intend to write about. What I wanted to write about was a surprising challenge in our first activity: coming up with a bad business idea. I find myself thinking of bad business ideas, but each idea I come up with can be good for someone – it just depends on his/her circumstances! Maybe this is the lesson of the activity? Hmm…

For example, I started to think about a product that a certain group would never want. I came up with the business idea of diet bars that are high in calories (make you gain weight). Who would want those? That business would certainly flop! Actually, wait. Marathoners may be interested. Or people who can’t afford food and need lots of  cheap calories. So I guess it’s not such a bad business idea after all. How about a software program that completely ruins your hard drive? No one would want that…except maybe someone who wants to destroy all evidence on their computer or someone who wants to ruin someone else’s computer for whatever reason. Darn. Guess that one could succeed too..

So, what sounds like a simple exercise actually isn’t. It’s actually easier for me to think of a good business idea than a bad one. What is desirable just depends on the lens that the buyer is looking through. Not too bad for the first few days of class.

So, what do you think ?