Interesting set of ambitious ideas, but I still sense that Paul is holding back the best from this list – sure a new search engine, or replacing this or that entrenched service is ambitious – but is it truly innovative? One could argue that Google Wave was one such innovation – and look at what happened to it. Maybe he is holding back the truly scary ones, because as we all know, innovation is dangerous…
But I digress.
The problem with an idea which is ambitious before it gets to the investor is that the investor is probably less likely to invest, since the idea is likely too ambitious to succeed. But that shouldn’t stop the inventor who came up with the ambitious idea.
I think that the most ambitious startup ideas are the ones that can truly rock the world with very low build cost. Look at Twitter – it has literally rocked the world, but you can find a working version of Twitter is almost every Ruby on Rails tutorial. No one can argue that Twitter wasn’t an ambitious idea, but they didn’t set out to develop something ambitious. It was humble. It was the market that turned it into something incredibly powerful.
So yes, build that search engine to compete with Google, replace email or push diagnosis out to the patients. But if the idea is truly ambitious and powerful, you should be able to build it with a small team and a few bucks.
One of the more surprising things I’ve noticed while working on Y Combinator is how frightening the most ambitious startup ideas are. In this essay I’m going to demonstrate this phenomenon by describing some. Any one of them could make you a billionaire. That might sound like an attractive prospect, and yet when I describe these ideas you may notice you find yourself shrinking away from them.