Less is more: 5 free startup ideas

Photo by Jeff WallaceIt used to be difficult to find a good name for your startup, then people realised they could simply remove a vowel or three from a proper word. (Flickr, Tumblr, Scribd, Sqrrl…)

Similarly, you might have felt recently that there could be no more startup ideas left. Not so. Because these days entrepreneurs are finding new ideas by taking old ones and deliberately removing features or otherwise hobbling them. I’m particularly inspired by Path, which arbitrarily limits your social network to 150 people, and Snapchat, which deletes your photos after your friends have seen them.

The spin is that by deliberately limiting an otherwise unoriginal idea you create new and exciting user behaviours. Path should encourage less public preening and more personal sharing. Snapchat wants to encourage spontaneity. What would be called a limitation in another era is touted as a feature today. And if you can sell that, you can sell your company.

So have you started your startup yet? With this thrilling new “less is more” tactic there are no excuses. To get you started here are five ideas right now. You can have them for free…

  • Disqusting. A commenting platform without account verification or moderation. Exciting new user behaviour: Forces platform hosts to embrace much greater freedom of expression.
  • Flockr. The perfect place to store and share your photos… of sheep. Innovative image recognition software rejects all other uploads. Exciting new user behaviour: Forces geeky computer people to get outside and spend more time in the country. With sheep.
  • Little Scanner. Inspired by BERG’s Little Printer, Little Scanner is a very, very small scanner with poor resolution. Exciting new user behaviour: Restores the user’s appreciation of the small and beautiful things in life, like daisies, stamps, and navel fluff. Does not integrate with Little Printer; that would be too useful.
  • OneWayPal. Once-only money transfer service. Once you’ve paid the vendor you can no longer make any more payments to them. Exciting new user behaviour: Enables people to make those “guilty pleasure” purchases, safe in the knowledge they won’t be doing it again.
  • GMohel. A web-based mail client that sometimes randomly snips the end off your sentences before sending. Exciting new user behaviour: Encourages verbosity and thus clarity. GMohel for Business additionally fails to send your mail to one of the recipients, possibly. This encourages the sender to call all the (intended) recipients to check receipt, thus promoting more human contact.

There you are: five great ideas, and they’re yours for the taking. No need to thank me.