The venture capital scene is going a bit topsy turvy at the moment, but now YCombinator, which provides seed funding for startups, is turning the whole concept of funding on its head: They are giving out ideas and looking for entrepreneuers to turn them into businesses.
I'll let YCombinator explain more: "There are a lot of startup ideas we've been waiting for people to apply with, sometimes for years. Recently we tried hinting at some of them, and that has yielded results. So now we're going to try being more direct: we're going to issue numbered RFSes [Requests for Startups] with more details about the idea, and suggestions about the sort of group that would be a good match for it."
In other words, from their privileged position at the cutting edge of Web-tech and software startups, the guys at YCombinator have been building a list of cool startup firms of their own, as the thoughts have occurred to them. It's an eggbox full of good ideas for a company, any one of which may become a golden egg—and they're opening it up. The upshot of this is that if you're a group of committed individuals with a small pile of cash and keen to try something new, and you like one of the RFSes, you can apply and maybe gain the chance to make it come real.
It's vaguely tapping in to the same business theme as The Apprentice, since the YCombinator startup ideas only sketch out half the idea—"partly because we want to see if applicants can figure out the other half themselves (ideally better than we had)." So you have to demonstrate some excellent thinking to "win" the chance that YCombinator will fund the early part of the resulting company, with you at the helm.
Though it's a neat little idea in itself, the YC guys don't imagine it'll be anything other than a small fraction of their business—traditional client-sourced business ideas that surprise them are where the bulk of their funding efforts will remain. But in a tricky economic climate it's another string to the company's bow, possibly bringing in useful returns if the "winners" of the RFS game earn success with their nascent enterprises.