Five ridiculous business ideas that actually worked

VV 24 Nov a

They say everyone has one good idea in them. These lucky people managed to turn their bad ideas into good businesses…

Thanks to apps selling for millions, computer geniuses just out of university setting up world-changing businesses and programmes like Dragon’s Den we all think our great business idea could make us millions.

But most the time, these ideas come to nothing. Sometimes, though, when the stars align, even the strangest and most ridiculous sounding businesses can catch the public’s attention and take off, earning their founders millions and leaving the rest of us thinking ‘how?’

The Million Dollar Homepage
This is one of those ideas that’s so simple you’d think it wouldn’t work. In 2005 Alex Tew, in the relatively early days of the internet, decided he would sell every pixel of his website for $1 each. Arranged in a 1,000×1,000 grid, the site offered buyers nothing but a small slice of the larger pie.

Buyers had to buy at least 100 pixels in 10×10 blocks otherwise their advert couldn’t be seen. But they did buy. The finished product looks like the worst internet sites of the 00s – all neon colours, bad fonts and adverts for things you don’t want. But it worked – even though the site was nothing more than a big advertising board, the idea clicked and people visited to the tune of 25,000 unique visitors every hour.

The figures
Alex raked in $1,037,100 (he auctioned the final pixels for $37,100) in just 5 months. Even after costs, taxes and a charitable donation, he still made around $650,000–$700,000.

Grumpy Cat
People on the internet love cats, but it seems cats don’t love people – especially not Grumpy Cat. This internet sensation wasn’t strictly speaking a business idea, but owner Tabatha Bundesen knew an opportunity when she saw one.

Starting from a simple image of the cat, it has since spawned its own range of iced coffee called Grumppuccino, advertising deals with Friskies and even its own movie, Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever.

The figures
While the social media figures are impressive (521,000 followers on Instagram and 255,000 on Twitter), it’s the actual hard cash that Grumpy Cat has earned that takes the biscuit. So far, Tabatha and Grumpy Cat have earned nearly $100 million.

Who’d have thought a simple coil of steel would become a worldwide sensation? Developed accidently by naval engineer Richard T James, he decided that this piece of military equipment would actually make a great kids toy.


And one that was hugely popular – its initial run of 400 sold out almost instantly. Whether it is a product of its time (it was invented in the 40s, long before games consoles) or just one of those things that connects with children, we can’t say – but it has stood the test of time.

The figures
Since its creation, it has sold over 300 million units and is thought to have amassed around $250 million in profit.

This invention is one you’d expect to find on late night shopping channels or in the sales section of websites. Doggles are what they sound like – goggles for dogs. No one had ever thought whether bright sun affected dogs, but Roni Di Lullo did – and planned to fix this problem.

After much research and development, she came up with the Doggles. They were so successful that vets started to use them for dogs undergoing eye surgery.

The figures
Thanks to the striking image of dogs in sunglasses, the Doggles became an internet hit and the company is now estimated to be worth over $3m.

You may be saying, this isn’t a ridiculous idea, but many big companies only seem like that once we’ve become used to them. But if you’d have asked people 10 years ago if they’d want a service in which they could film just 6 seconds of looping footage, you may well have asked ‘why?’

In fact, even in 2012 when it was first formed, we seemed like we might be hitting social media saturation point with new services popping up every day. But Vine was quickly snapped up by Twitter and has become one of the most popular new social media apps.

The figures
Twitter bought Vine for a rumoured $30 million, just months after it was founded. Though some put the sale price much higher. Either way, it’s a lot of money for a firm that was just getting started.


Posted by The Secret Businessman