Editor's Note: To celebrate Inc.'s 35th anniversary, Inc.com is showcasing highlights of our coverage of incredible innovators, risk takers, company builders, and thought leaders since 1979. Here, an article from our archives.
A start-up's business plan is kind of like a movie trailer. Everybody knows that it is a cursory and sensationalized representation of something that would make much more sense viewed in its entirety. And yet, once you hear the pitch, you feel compelled to turn to a friend and immediately render your definitive judgment--sometimes thumbs-up, more often thumbs-down.
Entrepreneurs are especially eager to dish on start-ups. During a recent conversation with one software company founder, for example, five or six business ideas were dissected. "That one just won't work," the CEO said, before adding, "Of course, I was positive that eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) was the single dumbest idea I had ever heard. You're going to pay people you've never met to ship you used stuff you've never seen? Come on!"
On the following pages, we take a look at four start-ups, all of which boast an interesting idea and a passionate founder. We specifically sought out companies that have experienced, in their short lives, a stroke of amazing luck, be it a successful turn on Good Morning America or a call out of the blue from a powerful buyer at Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFMI). After assessing the competitive landscape these companies face, we asked four legendary entrepreneurs--Tim Gill of Quark, Paul Orfalea of Kinko's (NYSE:FDX), Roxanne Quimby of Burt's Bees, and Gordon Segal of Crate and Barrel--to provide the founders (and the rest of us) with their feedback.
Now it's your turn. Vote for your favorite among these companies--and explain your thinking--by e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. When it comes to start-ups, after all, everyone is most definitely a critic.
Case Study #1: The Reluctant Entrepreneur
Case Study #2: The Inventor's Best Friend
Case Study #3: The Taste Maker
Case Study #4: The Enlightened M.B.A.