If you want to make venture capitalists laugh, ask them about the stupidest (or so-crazy-they-might-just-work) ideas they’ve been pitched lately. Earlier this week, Luke and I visited OVP Venture Partners in Kirkland, WA, and besides being a group of investors with very broad and deep expertise—everything from software and life sciences to materials and cleantech—they’ve also got a particularly nice sense of humor about them. Not to mention the coolest VC digs in town.
When it comes to people pitching wacky ideas to OVP, managing director Rick LeFaivre seems to be the firm’s lightning rod. We didn’t get a chance to delve into any details—and certainly no names or identifying information were given—but here are some of the, uh, least promising startup ideas OVP has been hearing about:
—Water micro-generators. This was a proposal, made to LeFaivre, for powering wineries and other remote operations using small electricity-generating turbines placed in streams or canals. It sounds like there are a lot of ideas out there for taking businesses off the energy grid, making them self-sufficient. It’s not clear whether the problems with this one had to do with the economics or the technology (I suspect both).
—Sky power. This pitch, mentioned by managing director Gerry Langeler, involved using some type of rotor craft to harness wind power at 30,000 feet in central Oregon. Which raises some obvious questions, beyond the power needed to keep the device up there. “There is a small issue with other aircraft,” Langeler pointed out, adding that the FAA would need to set up a no-fly zone. Maybe they could try it in extreme southern Oregon (less traffic), suggested managing director Chad Waite.
—In-store pawn shops. Managing director Lucinda Stewart brought up this idea, citing a report that a surprisingly low percentage of people actually know how to use eBay and other Internet resellers. So this was a plan to start a chain of used-equipment stores inside other retail stores, where people could drop off their used stuff. Not sure where the technology or innovation comes in—I guess that was part of the problem.
—Personal blimp. Managing director Mark Ashida saw this one, which never quite got to the meeting stage. The idea was to build an efficient personal transportation system, apparently using small airships. “You can get anywhere you want, but really slowly,” said Stewart.
We bet there are a lot of other good ones out there. Let us know if you’ve heard of any; this list is just scratching the surface, I’m sure.
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