Here is what I see when I go to “judge” these student startup things.
Patterns. Patterns are everywhere. And here they are:
1. Why should the user start?
Lots of these start with “Wouldn’t this user-generated, network-juiced
resource be awesome?”
– What if all my friends rated every restaurant they went to
– What if all your friends/fellow fans could find the exact right spot to
watch the game? For every team, every town…
– Walk into a crowded place and ping someone with our app to get connected
– Find every restaurant that doesn’t serve peanuts.
2. Tilting at windmills
Do things that would be amazing…like cold fusion. Obviously really hard,
others have tried/failed.
– We will make a simply UI that makes it fun to book every flight, hotel,
and activity on a trip
– We will give you objective rational prices instantly for markets that are
super opaque and lack data
– We’ll have all the info you want about what you love at all times.
Curated and clean.
– I only want to buy clothes that fit me perfectly!
These are ways you don’t want to sound.
3. My old job
These are actually kind of great. Person used to work in industry X, went
for an MA/MBA/MS. And their felt-pain around an industry feature is their
– We will make software to replace this annoying thing we used to do ->
this one is good. Software eats the world.
– The bozos at my old company never did XYZ. My startup will! –> this one
is bad. Usually not a broad observation, a very specific observation.
4. Student-solipsism stuff
Do stuff that normal people don’t do, and that techies don’t do, and that
no particular avant-garde does. But with the certainty of youth they say
stuff like “Nobody does X anymore. I mean, me and my friends ONLY use…”
– “As a student I do X aaaall the time…” (bars, don’t cook, study, meet new
– “I move every year. And it takes me forever to find…”
– “Everytime I need a roommate it is so hard to connect with people who
5. More rare, stuff that’s on trend though perhaps the students are
therefore a little behind
– Data privacy
– Email overload
– Social deciding
Often when I see these it ticks over into “can they execute” which is
pretty unfair for students with little experience and know-how. But this is
a good situation – it means the idea selection was good.