You might have never heard of Looksery, a Ukranian company founded in 2013, but you’ve probably been entertained by their product. Snapchat saw the value in their app and, after barely 2 years, bought out Looksery in 2015 for about $150,000,000. (TechCrunch, 2015)
It’s the type of success most entrepreneurs dream of – building a business that can sell for millions within a few years.
So what did this start-up do to create so much value so fast?
Looksery had developed video filters that overlay your selfie video with animated enhancements in real time. Their software can make your selfie look skinnier or plumper, add wrinkles or a flower wreath, or just for fun, animate your image with a puppy face or turn you into a monstrous ghoul.
Personally, I think the app is bollocks and, for the most part, its utility to the end user is nothing more than frivolous fun. If I were looking for business ideas, I would have shot down this one before I even opened my mouth to suggest it.
But that’s precisely the problem most of us entrepreneurs have, whether imagining new business ideas or getting creative about rejuvenating our existing business.
Interestingly, behind the scenes, the Looksery selfie animation app relies on seriously smart computing. It overlaps with the same types of algorithms used in self-driving cars to avoid running over pedestrians, face recognition systems, and deep fake videos.
Still, an impressive computing concept dressed up as a goofy selfie modifier would strike me as a dumb idea. Without hindsight, I would have thought it would have no viability as a business. Evidently, I’m not the target market.
And Looksery’s app isn’t the exception. There’s a surprising array of imaginative, ingenious and downright weird niches that actually make money, like beer wrapped in taxidermied roadkill and nappies for chickens. This should, in fact, encourage us to be far more adventurous in our ideation process.
Just remember to validate your ideas. When you can actually sell your product, regardless of how idiotic it seems to you, you might have the kernel of a potentially lucrative business.
What might look like a dumb idea doesn’t mean it won’t appeal to hundreds, maybe millions, of customers. When you build a business around efficiently delivering any product with demonstrated demand, this can make your business attractive to investors for growth, or anyone looking to acquire your technology.
If you want to build a business with value, the only dumb idea is to start a business without validating that customers will actually buy your product.