November 23, 2014

Entrepreneurs, Got An Idea? iStart Connects You To Investors, Mentors, More

When starting a business, a great idea is a terrific start, but it’s just the beginning.  To turn it into a business and get it to market, more is needed. A great idea can easily fail without the right mentoring, investment, partners, technology or execution. But now, a new online resource has surfaced that aims to make it easier for entrepreneurs to connect with potential partners, receive feedback, and build a network of professionals who can share advice and support.

iStart, a program of the Kauffman Foundation, is an online resource for new business ideas.  It features business plan competitions and has now added business profiles to its site so that entrepreneurs can add information about their projects and connect with an entire community of those who are involved in startups.  Using the new website, entrepreneurs can share their ideas and let others know what they need to start or further their business venture, such as partners, analysis, legal assistance, mentoring, information technology, consulting or marketing — as this screenshot shows:

iStart community of entrepreneur ideas

Other entrepreneurs, prospective mentors, business founders, investors, and corporate venture directors can use the site to browse entrepreneurs and their ideas, view their business profiles, and then contact entrepreneurs through the website if they’d like to get involved.

iStart also gives entrepreneurs a venue to test their ideas through business plan competitions. These competitions allow prospective entrepreneurs to groom their ideas before a full launch while receiving advice from others in the business community.

To date, entrepreneurs have shared more than 8,000 ideas and more than 650 connections have been made between those entrepreneurs and others interested in getting involved. iStart has also hosted more than 130 business competitions.

There are other online communities that allow entrepreneurs and business professionals to share ideas and help one another build businesses.  Idea communities powered by IdeaScale come to mind.  But a successful and vibrant “idea community” is more than mere technology — you need commitment and active engagement by entrepreneurs and  supporters alike.

One of the advantages of iStart is that it has active involvement by entrepreneurs and many of the ideas shared seem to be serious thoughtful concepts.  Those attirbutes can sometimes be hard to come by on other idea sites, which may end up abandoned or get taken over by spam.  Due to the business-plan competition connection, iStart appears to be heavily student-oriented, and focused on nascent ideas in the pure “concept” stage.

5 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

5 Reactions

  1. Anita – sounds like a great place for people to go but what protection do they get in knowing their “ideas” wont get stolen.

    What precautions do they need to go through before putting them on iStart?

    • Hi Scott,

      You raise a good point and that is a potential issue. I do urge everyone to think it through.

      However, consider this: good ideas are all around us. Unless you are working on something like rocket science or the next drug to cure cancer, chances are someone has already thought of it or something like it. For most of us, what’s more important to protect is not so much the ideas themselves, but all of the rest of the pieces we pull together to execute on those ideas, including how we approach the market, what form the product or service will take, how we plan to differentiate it, the team behind it, and so on.

      The iStart site attempts to address this by posting only an abstract of your idea, not all the details around it.

      Besides, if you take your idea out to seek investors or corporate partners you’d have a similar issue. You can attempt to get a confidentiality agreement signed, but good luck. Most will flatly refuse, lest they become inadvertent targets of an infringement claim just because they listened to a pitch.

  2. iStart could be the answer to many great ideas that finish because people don’t have the resources to launch it. A couple of years ago, I had a great idea for a business that I could not put in practice because I didn’t have money. One year later, my idea was being sold in a super market.

    • - Christian, I feel your pain. I think iStart could be a great site for entrepreneurs and I think Anita is right when she says that ideas are all around us and that it’s not necessarily the idea that’s important, but how we execute the business plan that’s important.

  3. What I really like about this new Entrepreneur to Investor connecting sites (and there’s a whole lot of them out there now) – is the fact you can share an idea and then start the conversations with investors instead of completing 5 pages of business plan related questions and financial information. Some of us early stage startups would find this very useful.

    Thanks for sharing Anita, I’ve just registered :)

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