How do I sell a website idea?
May 24, 2010 2:02 PM   Subscribe

I have an idea for a web-based business. How do I sell it?

I have an idea for a website. It should make some money (at least from ad revenue), and could potentially become big (i.e., popular, and thus generating significant revenue). I don't have the skills or the time to buld and run it. Can I sell the idea to someone who can execute it? How would I go about this? How would I protect my idea before telling it to x potential investors/buyers?

(This seems like the sort of question that is likely to have been Asked before, but I didn't find anything quite like it.)
posted by attercoppe to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
Can I sell the idea to someone who can execute it?

Unfortunately, the answer to this is most likely no. While I'm sure your idea is great, and could potentially make money, trying to sell an idea for a web business is analogous to trying to sell an idea for a really good movie. Buyers looking to invest in the internet marketplace want a tangible business concern, like an existing site with a revenue stream, just like movie producers would want to read screenplay.
posted by gagglezoomer at 2:12 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've seen this question on here lots of times, and the response is always that ideas are a dime a dozen and no programmer would put in the time to build something for you with only the promise of a future payout. If you really believe in the idea, the thing to do would be to invest money in someone to do the programming (as well as someone to do the marketing, and the content-generating, or whatever is applicable). Or learn to do it yourself.
posted by Fifi Firefox at 2:13 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

A good idea with no execution is worth about $10 according to Derek Sivers. It's all in the execution.
posted by yeti at 2:14 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have an idea for a web-based business. How do I sell it?

You don't.
posted by Justinian at 2:40 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

How would I protect my idea before telling it to x potential investors/buyers?

Don't. As those threads will attest, a bare idea void of any execution is like a seed: it could grow into a strong tree if put into soil with correct nutrients and given the appropriate amount of water, but it could just as easily turn into a malnourished sprout that grows two pitiful leaves that fall off and then die. Trying to protect your idea with a NDA when all you have is the idea is not going to open any doors and will generally just get you laughed at.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:18 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

It boggles my mind everytime I read a question like this.

Your idea is worth nothing. Oh, I'm sure it's a great one, and it would make money if somebody actually built it. But your contribution, by the time it was built, would be so insignificant as to entitle you to nothing more than a "special thanks" on the about page.

Here's a great idea: a $10,000, fully aerobatic, two seat, long cruise airplane. It'd sell like gangbusters to the general aviation community. All it would take to get this idea off the ground is a couple engineers, a marketing guy, and a profuction facility. I reckon I'm entitled to about 20% for this groundbreaking thought, don't you?
posted by Netzapper at 3:25 PM on May 24, 2010

Other posters are right. You need to start the ball rolling. Make friends with a coder, then start a 50/50 partnership and just make it happen -- this is the Web, getting from 0 to something is pretty easy.

Also, most investors are by default risk-averse, unless your idea is sen-f**king-sational. They want to see it in alpha, or even a live beta version.

@Netzapper -- in one sense, you are absolutely right, and I totally agree. But I know at least four people who have done as much, gotten a piece at the very beginning, and walked away with mid- to high-six figures.
posted by teedee2000 at 4:04 PM on May 24, 2010

Yeah, the 50/50 thing won't fly either.. 80/20, maybe.. But the idea needs to be truly rock and be truly original.. You would be amazed at the number of people that want us to partner with them for a 50/50 split where their entire contribution is, I want it like facebook, only green..

And for ever person that makes money on one of these deals, there are hundreds that get nothing but a lot of experience building someone else's idea..
posted by SteveG at 4:35 PM on May 24, 2010

e.g. Don't be like this guy...!

Seriously though, I think if you genuinely believe your idea is going to make good money, then the only proper answer is to beg, borrow or steal the money, quit your job, hire someone, and go for it yourself.

Alternatively, you could approach a couple of reputable web development companies (i.e. don't outsource abroad), armed with an NDA, as well as offering a big share. The only problem is, if you get ripped off and you haven't got any money for lawyers, then an NDA is worthless. And the legal bill would be big, and your chances of winning pretty low.

Thirdly, approach a venture capitalist. You'd need a hardcore business plan, a very decent working website, and an amazing sales patter.
posted by derbs at 5:19 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm an actual angel investor in Silicon Valley.

You need to get to a prototype. Just the idea is mostly useless.
posted by joshu at 6:06 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thaaaat's what I figured. Thanks all!
posted by attercoppe at 7:39 PM on May 24, 2010

All is not lost! There are frameworks for your idea which will help you get it off the ground. That's what you need to do, take it to some sort of working.

Once there, recruit a coder, make it CLEAR you're self taught and know your code is likely to be shitty, then cede to their technical decisions (As long as your idea can still be implemented).

Listen too and respect each other's opinion, and try to learn some coding from h(im|er) and you might be onto a winner.
posted by Quadlex at 5:48 PM on May 25, 2010

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