John Phipps: Startups That Need Your Money

January 5, 2018 07:26 PM
John Phipps

Some of us are idea people. It’s our job, we reason, to make staring into space look like creative work. While others are struggling to think outside The Box, we’ve forgotten where we put The Box.

I’m not talking about big ideas. Everybody thinks they have those, and for some reason, that others want to hear about them. No, I’m talking about small ideas. The reason is simple: there are people who will throw money at them. (Note: This is usually inherited money.)

Want proof? Does Juicero ring a bell? This $400 gadget was basically a Keurig for things not meant to be drunk. Note the past tense. It turns out after being introduced to a gullible public, the concept of squashing $8 bags of chopped celery and turnips had some unfortunate flaws. First, you could get the same questionable final product by just squeezing the bags with ordinary human hands. Second, turnip juice tastes even worse than it sounds.

These trivial flaws notwithstanding, the fledgling company managed to separate venture capitalists from a cool $120 million before evaporating like Enron. When an idea that makes us all a little stupider can stimulate the same financial enthusiasm as buying a congressperson, that means my clutch of similar ideas could hatch into big bucks any minute.

If you promise not to tell, post, tweet, text or leak them, I’ll share just a few of these civilization-changing inventions.

  • Old Pumpkin Spice Cologne. Nothing could supercharge your mating activity more than a fusion of 1957-Rotary-president and 2017 Starbucks latte. Not merely a chick magnetizer, this ethereal scent (available in kegs and metric sizes) is an OSGB (Opposing Sex Graviton Beam).
  • The Mattress-O-Matic: There are few household chores less appealing than changing the bedsheets. This is my assumption from watching this task done and noting the colorful adjectives. Our household already enjoys those occasional I’m-gonna-die-first conversations, during which Jan smirks heartlessly when picturing me flailing at even modest housekeepage, not the least of which is bed maintenance. I’m so far ahead of her, I’m about to lap her, however. (It just looks like I’m behind.)
  • Remember those pull-down towel dispensers in gas station restrooms? Imagine that same principle for bedsheets. Cylinders of percale are tucked unobtrusively alongside the mattress with electric mechanisms to advance one bed-width every month. (Note: this is only for bottom sheets. The best I can think up now for top sheets is to switch to more durable canvas. And no, I don’t know what a “percale” is.)
  • Anti-GMO Ketchup: After years of haranguing consumers about the proven safety of GMOs, all we have to show is “Contains No GMOs” labels on everything from shock absorbers to toilet paper. While we have risen up in anger over products claiming to be non-GMO even though there are no GMO equivalents, the claim is merely misleading, not false. Merely misleading is a quantum leap above most communications these days. And, as 2017 has proven, it works.
  • We can do that. Even though ketchup is now the No. 2 condiment in America (after salsa, fer Pete’s sake!) sales will skyrocket when we add this label: “Makes any food as safe as non-GMO!!!!” It’s true. It’s pointless. It’s golden. I can envision upside down bottles of vintage ketchup in fine dining establishments as horrified chefs weep pitiably in their televised kitchens. Spin-offs will follow, such as car air fresheners, spray paint and, I guess, salsa. Nothing remedies an imaginary risk like an imaginary solution.

I can sense your hand reaching for your wallet to get in the ground floor of these breakthrough products. Before I fleece the upper class sheep, I’m offering Farm Journal readers dibs on owning a piece of the startup action. Cash is cheerfully accepted. I’ve found The Box to put it in.

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