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How to Launch a Cool, Profitable, Worth-All-The-Risk, Kick-Ass Start-Up (And Live To Brag About It)

Four legendary company founders tell four promising entrepreneurs a thing or two about running a business.

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 mail@inc.com. When it comes to start-ups, after all, everyone is most definitely a critic.

Last updated: Jul 1, 2007

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