A source for startup ideas: the past
When I launched Firefox this morning, I saw a message from Mozilla inviting me to check out Hubs. Hubs is a virtual room where you can talk with friends, watch videos, and play with 3D objects with a representative avatar. The Hubs website instantly gave me flashbacks to a product Microsoft released 26 years ago called V-chat. V-chat was a free 3D chat program that lets you chat via text and audio with friends and watch videos while hanging out in a 3D world with a representative avatar.
Hubs looks significantly better than V-chat as technology has improved since 1995. However, the parallels between the two services are evident. There is an old cliche that nothing is new and every idea or company you create will have a semblance to something already created. Hubs demonstrates this perfectly.
People struggle with coming up with startup ideas. To overcome this, the advice is generally to look at real pains customers have and solve them. However, it can be hard to see problems without inspiration. If you are struggling, then I suggest you start reading tech history.
There are numerous great ideas from the 80s and 90s that failed because the tech or infrastructure wasn’t capable yet. For example, a company called General Magic, founded in 1990, tried to create what is essentially an iPhone: a product released in 2007. General Magic had a great vision, but the tech was still 27 years away.
Here are a few past technologies that could help inspire ideas:
- Usenet: a distributed discussion and content system established in 1980 that is not centrally controlled.
- Micropayments: to sell content on the Internet as an alternative to advertising.
- Flooz.com: a frequent flyer program for e-commerce stores.
So start looking to the past because it could help you figure out the future.