This Ridiculous Contest Summarizes Everything About The Startup Economy

And it's sponsored by that beacon of startup encouragement... Sprint?

Sprint sponsors a radio show about startups called Dream Big America, which is such a comically condescending name—so pat-on-the-head, go-get-em-tiger—that you must wonder what the runner-up titles were. Was it "You Can Make Some Money, Too"? Or maybe "Put On Your Big-Boy CEO Pants." Or, oh, what about "My Cool Inventions"? (Kidding—they’re actually partners with another show called My Cool Inventions. It exists! And some people who are not nine-year-olds take it seriously!)

Doesn’t matter. Point is, Dream Big America is holding a contest. On Friday (July 25), it began the process of crowning a new champion. The three finalists vying for the prize are...

1. An app called iCitizen that connects people with their elected officials.

2. Baby powder wipes called Quantuminds.

3. A time management system for caterers called (you guessed it) Time to Cater.

Dream Big Contest | Click to expand

It’s a beautiful thing, that lineup: Doesn’t it just summarize the entire startup economy? You have your very-well-meaning entrepreneur who believes a layer of tech can solve a deeply embedded social ill, a highly technical (or at least, technical-sounding) spin on a simple product nobody was particularly complaining about, and some un-sexy thing that’s probably quite useful in an un-sexy marketplace. You can vote for your favorite now! The winner will be announced next Friday.

We don’t mean to be too dismissive here. Good for all these folks. Best of luck to their companies. It’s just, well, when startups are gathered together into contests or conferences, and their ideas are put in a line like this, there becomes something so formulaic about it all. It's impossible not to find a lineup that feels in some way like a parody of entrepreneurial ambitions and tropes. When Dream Big America's publicist pitched us this story last week, they claimed the finalist lineup was slightly different: iCitizen, some wipes that pick up dog poop, and crates. Not so. But does it matter? The same exact summary above applies!

Dream Big America hosts weekly contests, and the winners over three weeks are gathered on a championship show like today's to be crowned the month’s grand master. Last month’s big winner was called Twilash, a company whose tagline clarifies that it is "Engineered to Enhance."

Dream big, America!

[en Up: Sunny studio via Shutterstock]

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1 Comments

  • Sandy Fischler

    One of the things that I find fascinating about "the startup economy" is that most of these ventures fail and nobody every just comes out and admits that it wasn't really a very good idea anyway.

    There's this fantasy world that a lot of tech lives in where a genius coder can make any product a success, even one that nobody wants. That's just not going to ever be true, which is why Steve Blank's customer development model is so crucial.

    Find the market before you spend the time and money.