The next million dollar gimmick
December 3, 2005 6:34 PM   Subscribe

GimmickFilter: Where have all the gimmicks gone?

I need a good online gimmick where the start-up cost is negligible and the outcome is $1,000,000 or more (a.l.a. Million Dollar Homepage). What are some good ideas? Come on, don't be greedy... it's not like you were going to use them anyways!
posted by bjork24 to Grab Bag (12 answers total)
I copied the milliondollarhomepage over at One Penny Pixel. In the end, I made about $90US, which paid for a little of my hosting costs (for that and about 5 other domains). It was literally less than two hours work to get that and under $10 in startup costs.

The points of mentioning that is that (a) you are unlikely to be first for any idea, and (b) if you can settle for something less than a million dollars you can do pretty well for the amount of time you spend.

As for brand new ideas...I've got a ton, but no startup money to bring them to fruition. :) Nothing comes easy.
posted by Kickstart70 at 7:10 PM on December 3, 2005

From this Times article

“I’ve always been an ideas sort of person and I like to brainstorm at night before I go to sleep... So I wrote down ‘How can I become a millionaire before I go to university?’ It was a rather ambitious question, but I went with it... Then I wrote down the attributes that this idea would need: it had to be simple to understand and to set up; it had to attract a lot of media interest; and it needed a good name. After I wrote down those three things, the idea just popped into my head. I’d like to say it was more dramatic than that, but it wasn’t.”

I've had similar aspirations thanks to this kid. And he's also reminded me that the best way to get ideas (in my experience) is essentially to practise thinking creatively, and keep trying. But don't stress about it.

It may not make a million overnight, but the easiest way is GoogleAds: think of something novel, stick some ads on it, post it around and hope it goes viral. The value of novelty appears to be very high right now, if you can hit the right buttons.
posted by MetaMonkey at 7:25 PM on December 3, 2005

People have been making money with porn for years. It might take a little more time and effort than you'd like to get to the million dollar mark.
posted by kyleg at 7:32 PM on December 3, 2005

I too like to brainstorm before I go to sleep. But I'm a lazy bastard so it rarely amounts to anything. In any case, I woke up the other morning having dreamt about implementing an AskMeFi type webpage called - legal advice from non-lawyers. I don't know, it seemed like a good-idea in my dream. I gift the idea to you. is taken (don't visit that page. hint: they capitalize it, but is free.

Bonus gimmick: medical advice from non-doctors. is also free. Good luck.
posted by zanni at 8:36 PM on December 3, 2005

I have a truckload of excellent ideas at my former residence in Monaco. There is a minor problem getting them through customs. My email is in my profile.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:45 PM on December 3, 2005

Did that million-dollar-homepage guy actually make a ton of money, or was it all just bullshit?

Who was the first person to buy space on his page, for instance? Do you know anyone who actually bought space?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:47 PM on December 3, 2005

There was a WSJ article about it. They fact-check.
posted by smackfu at 9:54 PM on December 3, 2005

The most sensible thing I've read on the subject was Paul Graham:

How do you get good ideas for startups? That's probably the number one question people ask me.

I'd like to reply with another question: why do people think it's hard to come up with ideas for startups?

That might seem a stupid thing to ask. Why do they think it's hard? If people can't do it, then it is hard, at least for them. Right?

Well, maybe not. What people usually say is not that they can't think of ideas, but that they don't have any. That's not quite the same thing. It could be the reason they don't have any is that they haven't tried to generate them.

I think this is often the case. I think people believe that coming up with ideas for startups is very hard-- that it must be very hard-- and so they don't try do to it. They assume ideas are like miracles: they either pop into your head or they don't.

I also have a theory about why people think this. They overvalue ideas. They think creating a startup is just a matter of implementing some fabulous initial idea. And since a successful startup is worth millions of dollars, a good idea is therefore a million dollar idea.

If coming up with an idea for a startup equals coming up with a million dollar idea, then of course it's going to seem hard. Too hard to bother trying. Our instincts tell us something so valuable would not be just lying around for anyone to discover.

Actually, startup ideas are not million dollar ideas, and here's an experiment you can try to prove it: just try to sell one. Nothing evolves faster than markets. The fact that there's no market for startup ideas suggests there's no demand. Which means, in the narrow sense of the word, that startup ideas are worthless.

The incubator project he started, Y Combinator, values ideas less than commitment. The quote about this -- I forget if it's his offhand -- runs "I'd rather have a B idea and an A team than an A idea and a B team."
posted by dhartung at 1:39 AM on December 4, 2005

Whoops: Ideas for startups.
posted by dhartung at 1:40 AM on December 4, 2005

dhartung: Paul Graham is kind of a polarizing figure. He's got some very strong opinions that really rub some folks the wrong way, and he's something of a Lisp bigot, but I think he's brilliant. Everything on his site is well worth reading. Definitely not about gimmicks though.

bjork24: you might want to check out The One Minute Millionaire. I think you'd enjoy the read and it's more along the lines of the "gimmick" mind set than Paul Graham in the sense that it's less about trying to create value and more about "how can I convince a million people to give me a dollar for something that costs me nothing."

Also, check out Steve Pavlina's Million Dollar Experiment. There are several follow-up posts as well.

Finally, here's another gimmick for you, a variation on the MillionDollarHomePage but potentially fresh enough to get you some attention (and sales). Put up a MillionPixelPage (actually, make it 1.5M pixels). One random pixel is guaranteed to be worth $1,000,000 (as a 40-year annuity which only costs ~$400K). Sell "claims" on the page (rectangular regions). Every 10 seconds, reveal a random, non-winning pixel (this will take a little over 4.5 months to completion but feel free to vary the timing). Every time you reveal a non-winning pixel, the value of the remaining pixels increases. Allow an aftermarket. When it comes down to the wire, the speculation on the remaining viable claims will be intense. Hell, the publicity alone will be worth a fortune. Your profit, $1.1M plus ad revenues.

What's that? You can't front $400K? Don't start the countdown till all pixels are sold. Or do start the countdown (to drive interest) and take a loss on expiring pxiels. I leave the details to you. Oh, and you'll want to check the lottery laws in your state.

If you actually do this and make a million dollars, I only ask that you give me credit in the inevitable Wall Street Journal article and make a small donation to my favorite charity ...
posted by zanni at 3:33 AM on December 4, 2005

If someone were to figure out a way to create a trillian-like application that could allow a person to use myspace, livejournal, a blog and more from one application, they could be rich.
posted by dial-tone at 9:37 AM on December 4, 2005

I think we all know Esperanto is the next big thing. Buy up domain names consisting of common Esparanto words.
posted by orthogonality at 7:01 PM on December 4, 2005

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