Virtual Business Incubator Looks To The World For Ideas

By Benny Evangelista
San Francisco Chronicle.

Judge for yourself whether these business ideas have a future:

PizzaBot: An app-driven service that delivers pizza assembled and baked in self-driving trucks.

Trashnado: An app to request on-demand garbage pickup instead of waiting once a week.

Pray It Forward: An online “marketplace” for group prayer.

Those are just three of the nearly two dozen business ideas posted on a San Francisco startup named IdeaMarket, which bills itself as a virtual crowdsourced business incubator. was introduced this week at the annual TechCrunch Disrupt SF, where more than 400 startups from around the world gathered to compete for the attention of potential investors and the tech press.

But IdeaMarket co-founders Bill Gross and Vj Anma believe their online venture can tap into an entire world of entrepreneurial ideas and then use the power of crowdsourcing to bring their ideas to market.

The crowd can also improve upon or shoot down ideas that aren’t as good. But Anma and Gross hope IdeaMarket can get 1 million startups off the ground in the next 20 years.

“By crowdsourcing the process, we will be able to connect the best ideas with solving the best problems,” said Anma, IdeaMarket’s CEO.

Gross is a longtime entrepreneur who’s had his own successes and failures. His Pasadena incubator, Idealab, spawned such companies as Picasa,, and

And his, later named Overture Services, originated the idea behind pay-per-click online advertising, which became the basis for Google’s revenue. Yahoo acquired Overture in 2003 for $1.6 billion.

Even the best business ideas can fail if they lack the money, talent or proper execution.

That’s where IdeaMarket comes into play, he said. And IdeaMarket won’t just depend on Silicon Valley’s pool of innovators or venture capital, he said.

“It uses the wisdom of the crowd and the wallets of the crowd to help make a company happen,” Gross said. “It uses the wisdom because it’s going to get ideas and talent from everywhere and it sue the wallets because we’re going to get investments from wherever it occurs.”

Gross conceded that someone could also steal an idea and run with it outside of IdeaMarket.

But he noted that being first to market with an idea doesn’t always spell success. (Apple wasn’t the first to sell a digital MP3 player, but hardly anybody remembers who was.)

Those who post ideas on IdeaMarket will typically get a 5 percent stake in the company. The people who contribute toward making the idea better, say through a good marketing slogan or by suggesting a different target market, will be eligible for a small stake.

And those who want to invest can get a 10 to 20 percent stake. The entrepreneurs who are able to execute the idea will get the majority stake, Gross said.

IdeaMarket plans to generate revenue through a transaction fee and an equity stake in the startups, Anma said.

IdeaMarket has a high-profile list of investors, including former AOL CEO Steve Case and PayPal co-founder Max Levchin.
Some of the initial business ideas came from Gross and his investors.

Levchin proposed Pray It Forward, a pay-per-prayer “marketplace for people in times of trouble.” Gross had the idea for the PizzaBot app, which in concept is a fully automated, driver-less pizza delivery service.

Other ideas include: Power Belt, a belt for pants that also doubles as a mobile device charger; Outsourced X-Ray, which taps into an online community of dental technicians to diagnose X-rays; and EarGlass, a more “discreet” version of Google Glass.

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