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:
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.