Writing by Peter Hilton

Start-up ideas are still cheap

More free ideas from the archives, 2015-2017 2018-07-27 #startups

Paolo Martini CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

  1. 2014 ideas
  2. 2015-2017 ideas ←
  3. 2018 app ideas
  4. 2018 development ideas
  5. 2018-2019 ideas
  6. 2020 ideas
  7. 2021 ideas
  8. 2022 ideas

Following on my earlier explanation of why start-up company ideas are cheap, I recently published some more start-up ideas for app developers and start-up ideas for software development. If you haven’t found something you want to develop yet, then perhaps you’ll find a compelling idea among the following mixed bunch.

Web services

XKCD cartoons as a service.

GitHub UI for merging duplicate Meetup groups and events.

Distributed system for minimising tech meetup clashes in the same geographic and subject area.

Service for investors that pings startup SaaS URLs and tells you when they’ve shut down, so you can invest at a low valuation.

Twitter email notifications using a text/plain body limited to 280 characters.

Web applications

Online road layout/markings designer. Business model: pay to send ‘helpful’ suggestions for improvements to the local council.

Like Google Sheets (or Excel) but type safe.

Web browser and text editor plugin that overlays a bullshit heat map on the text.

Like The Daily WTF but for emails from recruiters.

Web site that explains a city or country’s public transport system in terms of the one where you live.

Technology innovation

Develop advanced AI that writes perfect clickbait headlines. Because it can.

QR code that opens a prompt to join a Wi-Fi network without having to enter the password.

Cycling watch that flashes orange when you hold your arm horizontally (wear on the wrist closest to the centre of the road)

Neck straps for hot water bottles, for people who work outside (and carol singers).

Simple English font that encodes 1000 most common words as single glyphs, in upper, lower and title case.

Slack teams for bars and restaurants, with a channel per table for ordering, and reactions for repeat orders.

Local businesses

A chain of hipster ‘roaster cafes’ for peanuts instead of coffee that serve special house blends of peanut butter. On toast.

Amazon door-to-door salesman, who knocks on your door and offers your predicted next purchase the day before your predicted order date.

Vegan gluten-free no-added-sugar junk food and booze restaurant, called ‘Chips & Whisky’.

Pub with no bar, that instead has table service and a beer trolley (or casks on wheels).

Hotel room that tells you how many items you haven’t packed yet and where they are when you’re ready to leave.


Recipe DSL for declarative ingredients spec, procedural cooking instructions, test spec & ASCIIdoc publishing toolchain.

Caravan that’s powered by your Tesla, so you can stay anywhere - disrupting the caravan park business.

Receive a daily search query that’s carefully crafted to distort your online profile; the pro version runs an autonomous agent.

Like Uber but with Spotify, so your favourite music is playing when you get in the car.

Madrigal part books as dinner table place mats, with sets for different numbers of voices/diners.

Match singles who don’t want to go to IKEA by themselves, because they need someone to help choose furniture.

Uber Aquarium - custom home video display that lets you chill out by watching cars swim around the map.


Series of conferences located in cathedrals so developers can rant about topics they’re religious about from an actual pulpit.

Conference tourism CFP web site that notifies you when there’s a conference in a country or city on your wish list.

Hipster retro presentation software that visually emulates an overhead projector with transparencies, and their quirks.

Presentation software that shows a title slide, then remaining slides in random order, so your presentation isn’t too smooth.

Web site that tracks snowclone popularity in conference talk titles and rates your clichéd title.

App for people going to conferences to barter luxuries only available at home, eg to trade Marmite for Vegemite.

Desktop applications and OS tools

Server OS and JVM that doesn’t support any character encoding except UTF-8 so the ‘default platform encoding’ is predictable.

OS whose command line tools don’t have ridiculously obscure names due to half a century’s computing history.

Consulting services

Get companies to pay you train their employees to use email properly.

Life skills training for programmers.

For more occasional start-up ideas, follow @PeterHilton on Twitter.

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