Categorized | Startups

So You Want To Build A Startup

Any start up that you greatly admire? Makes you wish you had gotten that idea earlier, could have easily turned you into a millionaire?

Say long before Youtube came into the lime light and became a big hit, you had gotten the idea of letting users upload and watch streaming videos. Do you think you would have been able to similarly build it into a billion dollar business?

Youtube was founded in the February of 2005 and sold to Google in the November of 2006. All this when Google’s own video site was up and running, yet Youtube managed to beat Google in views and popularity.

So does it necessarily have to be a killer idea? Or is it the motivation, the way the idea is carried through, executed, implemented etc. which favor success.

I have tried to compile a list of simple yet hugely popular web services which have managed to change the fortunes of those behind it.

The Million Dollar HomePage

Alex Tew, then a 21 year old college goer did not like the prospects of taking a student loan and then spending the next 15-20 years paying them off. So in stead he came up with the idea of starting a website, the home page of which would be sold in pixels at $1 per pixel. Given that the homepage billboard consisted of 1000,000 (one million) pixels, all of them sold out would mean the kid pockets a cool million bucks.

The site went live in August 2005. By Jan 2006, the final remaining 1000 pixels were listed on eBay with the winning bid going for $38,100.

However in Jan, the site was subjected to DOS attack. Several news site, BBC in one, reported that hackers sent blackmail emails to Tew demanding payment of a ransom to prevent the site being attacked. Pew later reported that even though the attackers demanded $50,000 he did not pay anything.

MillionDollarHomePage spawned several copycats but none of them were as successful as the original.

A novel idea which is very simply to implement. First guy to do it, takes it all.


Twitter originally began as an internal project inside a SFO start-up called Obvious, LLC. Few months on it was launched officially. Pretty soon the web service grew in popularity and won the 2007 SxSW web award in the blog category.

Twitter is a micro-blogging tool, sounds like no big deal but sure can get addictive pretty soon. The configuration can be enabled to get SMSes on the cell phone also in US, Canada, India and UK. Sever third parties offer posting and receiving updates through email.

I have heard from a lot of folks that Twitter would be an easy application to build.

Many organizations such as the Los Angeles Fire Department use this technology and put it to use in situations such as the California Fires sometime back.

I have embedded Twitter on TechBanyan. Check out my feeds on the right. (Below subscribe tab)

Hot or Not

The idea for this site came to buddies from UC Berkeley over a couple of beers. It is a rating site where users can submit their photos voluntarily to be rated by others. Within a week of its launching, the site has reached almost 2 million page views a day. Photos are approved by a panel of volunteer moderators so that the site can be kept clean and real.

Hot or Not was sold recently for a rumored 20 million dollars.


Want to rent a place? Sell that car or give away stuff free? Craigslist is the most popular place to do that. The ad free classifieds site which has the max share in the US market, Craigslist was started by who else but Craig (Newmark) in 1995. Today it is managed by a staff of just 24 people and its sole source of revenue is paid job ads and paid broker listings in New York City.

The site serves over nine billion page views per month and has an Alexa rank of 56th, give or take a few, but a ninth place in US.

The CEO of Craigslist recently remarked to Wall Street analysts that Craigslist has little interest in maximizing profit, instead preferring to help users find cars, apartments, jobs and dates.


Threadless is the community driven online apparel store run by SkinnyCorp of Chicago, IL. The founders Jake and Jakob founded the company with a thousand dollars investment after entering an Internet tee designing contest.

Members of Threadless submit t-shirt designs which are reviewed and voted by the public. Wining tees get selected for printing and are sold through online store. Winners end up with cash prizes or store credits.


Ashley Qualls started the website Whateverlife as a hobby at age 14. Through the website she started distributing free Myspace layouts and HTML tutorials for people in her age group. The website was supported entirely by advertising revenue.

Her website received more traffic than professional websites for teen magazines Seventeen, Teen Vogue and Cosmogirl combined.

The success of Whateverlife enabled Ashley to pay for a $250,000 home in a fenced of sub-division.

Jumping The Shark

A website which allows users to post their reviews on TV shows. The term – Jumping the shark – has an interesting story behind it. A 1977 episode of Happy Days had Arthur Fonzie jump over a shark while water skiing. The scene was so preposterous that many believed it to be an ill-conceived attempt at reviving the declining ratings of the flagging show.

Since then the phrase has become a colloquialism used by fans and critics to denote a point at which the character or plot of a TV series veer into ridiculous.

Anyway, the Jump The Shark website is a place where fans go to to voice an opinion of their favorite/worst episode of the TV show.

Pop URLs [popular URLs]

A collection of most popular links of the day drawn from Digg,, Reddit, Flickr, Newswine, Metafilter, Truemors, Youtube, Google News, Yahoo News, Tail Rank, Spike, Wired, Slashdot, Boing Boing,, Fark, Nowpublic, Huffinton Post, Metacafe, Mixx…..phew…you get the gist by now.

How can such a place be not popular. Its like a one stop shop or a junction where everybody just has to go.


A Lolcat is an image combining a photograph of an animal, most frequently a cat, with a humorous and idiosyncratic caption in (often) broken English referred to as Kitty Pidgin, or lolspeak. The idea originated on 4chan imageboards as Caturday. The name “lolcat” is a compound word of “lol” and “cat”. The phenomenon is also referred to as cat macros. Lolcats are created for photo sharing imageboards and other internet forums. Lolcats are similar to other anthropomorphic animal-based image macros such as the O RLY? owl.

The term lolcat gained national media attention in the United States when it was covered by Time magazine,which wrote that non-commercialized phenomena of the sort are increasingly rare, stating that lolcats have “a distinctly old-school, early 1990s, Usenet feel to [them].” The superimposed text is assumed to be uttered by the cat in the photograph. There are parallels between the language used in lolcats and baby talk, which owners of cats often use when talking to them.


A web service created by Kevin Gilbertson, Tinyurl provides short aliases to redirect long URLs for those too long URLs. Gilbertson, a web developer, launched the service in January 2002 because he wanted to be able to link directly to newsgroup postings which frequently had long and cumbersome addresses.

Which startup do you wish you had thought of and started.

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