The Most Brilliant Business Ideas

The Most Brilliant Business Ideas

Check out some of the most exciting from Entrepreneur’s ‘Brilliant Ideas’ series




Entrepreneurship is about ideas. It is the foundation of everything — an insight into how to improve something, or what consumers want, or what they don’t even know they want. Consider it: A business is an idea come to life; an entrepreneur is an ideas-driven person. And if you want to truly learn from the smartest people around you, and calibrate to their way of thinking, you have to ask, What’s their core idea?

Below are some of the most insightful ideas from Entrepreneur’s “Brilliant Ideas” series in the June issue of the magazine.

Why MailChimp’s Insane Fake Ad Campaign Paid Off

For Entrepreneurs, VC Capital Is Not Always the Best Option

What Gary Vaynerchuk Learned by Experimenting on Himself

Ellevest’s Investing Platform Knows How to Speak to Women

The Website That Is Helping Companies Find Diverse Talent

Why Women-Only Coworking Spaces Are on the Rise

Don’t Be Afraid to Embrace Boring Ideas

How the Rules of Tech Branding Helped Raden Create a Smart Suitcase

9 Science-Backed Insights on Finding Success in Your Business and Personal Life

14 Leaders Share Their Inspirational Advice on Starting a Business

Businesses Disrupting Industries With Their Brilliant Ideas — And What You Can Learn From Them


The Most Brilliant Business Ideas


How to Start a Business With (Almost) No Money

How to Start a Business With (Almost) No Money

You’re excited to start a business. Maybe you have an idea, or you’re just fascinated with the idea of launching and growing your own enterprise. You’re willing to take some risks, like leaving your current job or going without personal revenue for a while. But there’s onelogistical hurdle stopping you: You don’t have much money.

Related: 7 Myths About Starting a Business That I Used to Believe

On the surface, this seems like a major problem, but a lack of personal capital shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dreams. In fact, it’s entirely possible to start and grow a business with almost no personal financial investment whatsoever — if you know what you’re doing.

Why a business needs money

First, let’s take a look at why a business needs money in the first place. There’s no uniform “startup” fee for building a business, so different businesses will have different needs. It’s important to first estimate how much you need before you start finding alternative methods to fund your company.

Consider the following uses:

  • Licenses and permits. Depending on your region, you may need special paperwork and registry to operate.
  • Supplies. Are you buying raw materials? Do you need computers and/or other devices?
  • Equipment. Do you need specialized machinery or software?
  • Office space. This is a huge expense, and you can’t neglect things like Internet and utilities costs.
  • Associations, subscriptions, memberships. What publications and affiliations will you subsribe to every month?
  • Operating expenses. Dig into the nooks and crannies here, anddon’t forget about marketing.
  • Legal fees. Are you consulting a lawyer throughout your business-development process?
  • Employees and contractors. If you can’t do it alone, you’ll need people on your payroll.

With that said, you have two main paths of starting a business with less money: lowering your costs or increasing your available capital from outside sources. You have three options here:

Related: Starting a Business in 2016? Avoid These 5 ‘Beginner’ Mistakes.

Option one: Reduce your needs

Your first option is to change your business model to demand fewer needs as listed above. For example, if you were planning on starting a company of personal trainers, you could reduce your “employee” expenses by being the sole employee at the start. Unless you need office space, you can work from home. You can even do your homework to find cheaper sources of supplies, or cut out entire product lines that are too expensive to produce at the outset.

There are a few expenses that you won’t be able to avoid, however. Licensing and legal fees will set you back even if you cut back on everything else. According to the SBA, many microbusinesses get started on less than $3,000, and home-based franchises can be started for as little as $1,000.

Option two: Bootstrap

Your second option invokes the idea of a “warmup” period for your business. Instead of going straight into full-fledged business mode, you’ll start with just the basics. You might launch a blog and one niche service, reducing your scope, your audience and your profit, in order to get a head-start. If you can start as a self-employed individual, you’ll avoid some of the biggest initial costs (and enjoy a simpler tax situation, too).

Once you start realizing some revenue, you can invest in yourself, and build the business you imagined piece by piece, rather than all at once.

Option three: Outsource

Your third option is all about getting funding from outside sources. I’ve covered the world of startup funding in a number of different pieces, so I won’t get into much detail, but know there are dozens of potential ways to raise capital — even if you don’t have much yourself. Here are just a few potential sources for you:

  • Friends and family. Don’t rule out the possibility of getting help from friends and family, even if you have to piece the capital together from multiple sources.
  • Angel investors. Angel investors are wealthy individuals who back business ideas early in their generation. They typically invest in exchange for partial ownership of the company, which is a sacrifice worth considering.
  • Venture capitalists. Venture capitalists are like angel investors, but are typically partnerships or organizations and tend to scout businesses that are already in existence.
  • Crowdfunding. It’s popular for a reason: with a good idea and enough work, you can attract funding for anything.
  • Government grants and loans. The Small Business Administration (and a number of state and local government agencies) exist solely to help small businesses grow. Many offerloans and grants to help you get started.
  • Bank loans. You can always open a line of credit with the bank if your credit is in good standing.

Related: 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting Your First Business

With one or more of these three options, you should be able to reduce your personal financial investment to almost nothing. You may have to make some other sacrifices, such as starting small, accommodating partners or taking on debt, but if you believe in your business idea, none of these losses should stand in your way. Capital is a major hurdle to overcome, but make no mistake — it can be overcome.

How to Start a Business With (Almost) No Money

These Are the Business Hot Spots in 2016

These Are the Business Hot Spots in 2016

These Are the Business Hot Spots in 2016

Startup Hubs

There is a world outside of Silicon Valley. Discover the 10 cities that host the greatest number of the fastest-growing private businesses in the U.S.

1. New York City

The Big Apple hosts 207 businesses on this year’s Inc. 5000, nearly double its closest rival. With cutting-edge firms like behavioral marketer Bounce Exchange (No. 7) and cognitive content platform Persado (No. 16), this city definitely doesn’t sleep.

2. Los Angeles

Yes, other businesses besides Snapchat call L.A. home. Dollar Shave Club just landed a whopping $1 billion in its sale to Unilever. And let’s not forget the Inc. 500’s No. 1 company, Loot Crate.

3. Atlanta

It’s not only the headquarters for giant companies like Coca-Cola and Home Depot; this southern city is also home to 101 of the fastest-growing private companies in the nation. Keep an eye on (No. 5), a B2B social network.

4. Chicago

Uber and Lyft have been threatening to leave due to the city’s strict regulations for their drivers. Even so, with 95 Chicago-based Inc. 5000companies, there’s no shortage of ingenuity in the Windy City.

5. Austin

The Texas capital is famous for its creative community. It’s also where coffee innovators Chameleon Cold Brew(No. 140) and real estate (No. 142) have set up shop. Perhaps creativity is contagious?

6. San Diego

The second-biggest city in California, San Diego represents a vibrant opportunity for entrepreneurs–particularly for those in the real estate and food and beverage industries. Just ask one of the 70 Inc. 5000 companies based there.

7. Houston

This city has long been known for its oil and gas chops, but it’s gaining steam in industries as diverse as technology management and health innovation. This year, 70 Inc. 5000companies call Houston home.

8. Dallas

Mark Cuban isn’t the only famous entrepreneur in Dallas. Another is Michael Wittmeyer, CEO of JM Bullion(No. 40). With more than $661 million in revenue last year, his online retail platform ranks first among 61 Dallas-based Inc. 5000 companies.

9. San Francisco
Of course, Silicon Valley remains one of the best places to foster entrepreneurship, especially tech-based. From FormSwift (No. 271) toRobotLAB (No. 273), San Francisco’s software companies are featured prominently on this year’s Inc. 5000.
10. Seattle

The Emerald City hosts 54 companies that are on the Inc. 5000. Three years after the launch of “Startup Seattle,” a public-private initiative focused on providing support and resources for entrepreneurs, the city is emerging as a hub for entrepreneurship.

These Are the Business Hot Spots in 2016

5 Relationships the Most Successful Entrepreneurs Cultivate

5 Relationships the Most Successful Entrepreneurs Cultivate

5 Relationships the Most Successful Entrepreneurs Cultivate

Learn the roadmap to entrepreneurial success by investing in these relationships now.

Everyone who decides to throw the proverbial caution to the wind, quit their job and become an entrepreneur hopes that things will work out, and they will have success. However, things are infinitely more complicated than we would all like to think. There are some crucial relationships that one needs to form, in order to become a successful entrepreneur. No man is an island, and we all need help, in some way or another. Especially when it comes to business, you rely on the good grace of others in a lot of different instances. Therefore, here are the 5 business relationships that you need, as a successful entrepreneur.


While this list is in no particular order, the first has to be banks and bankers, because they are directly responsible for your financial stability. Chances are you are going to need a line of credit – especially in the beginning, you will need a start-up loan. And in order to receive it, you need to maintain good relationships with your local banks and bankers. How can you achieve that? By making your payments on time, first of all. If your name comes to be associated with poor or late payments, it’s difficult to get out of the dog house.Another thing you can benefit from when you have a close relationship with your bankers is ensuring the safety of your money. They can help you set a system in place that can secure your finances and make sure that your deposits make it through and no one can embezzle from you or other such actions. It pays (literally) to form a tight relationship with your banker.


Of course, employees are also vital to any business you may want to set up. To strike gold in this department, you have to do a good job finding and choosing people who are professional, qualified, serious, and dedicated to their job. But that is not enough for them to make your company flourish; you also have to inspire them. This is where the vast majority of “bosses” go wrong – they vastly underestimate their relationship with their employees, when that is arguably one of the most important of all.In order for your employees to work well, you have to make sure you maintain satisfaction. People have to be fulfilled in the workplace and be inspired and encouraged by their leaders. The mistake most entrepreneurs and people in management positions make is that they equate more time spent working hard with good results, more money and a growing business. But you should know better: you catch more flies with honey. That means that treating your employees with respect, compensating them fairly, and making sure they have time for their personal lives will be better for you in the long-run.


Every entrepreneur knows that customers can make or break your business. No matter how hard you work, how organized your company is and how intelligent your business concept is, if the customers are not happy, not stimulated, and not attracted, you either lose them, or you don’t attract them in the first place. In order to ensure the success of your business, you have to ensure the happiness of your clients.Now, customer satisfaction is achieved by paying attention, first and foremost. You have to put yourself in their shoes and ask “What would make this a positive experience for them?”, “What can I do to ensure good customer service?”. A good product or service that fills a need is essential, but so is excellent customer service – engage them on social media, make the experience personal, make them feel special. The benefits are twofold: first of all, you retain your existing clients. Second of all, word of mouth will travel about your business and how much you value your customers and that will act as free advertising, essentially.


Most businesses rely heavily on vendors, and unless you build a solid, trusted relationship with them, you might find yourself without essential items, not only when it comes to the product you might be selling, but even basic stationary or materials. You cannot afford not to be in your vendors’ good graces. The trick is to think of them as your employees, which means that you have to show them the same respect and attention. Get close to them, always have a means to contact them and make sure that, should an emergency happen – such as you needing to pay late, or needing materials urgently – they will be there for you.


A business relationship that is also a personal one is mentorship. When you’re starting your own business, you need all the help you can get, from anyone who will listen. But most of all, you need someone with experience and extensive knowledge who can guide you. Find someone you look up to, a successful entrepreneur you would like to emulate, and ask for their advice. Again, this works in your favor in two different ways: you get the help you need, and you establish a positive business relationship. Remember always to show gratitude, treat them with respect and acknowledge their insight – it will pay off.

If you’re an entrepreneur, the investment in relationships is the best investment you will ever make. Take the time now to build them and your business will soar.

5 Relationships the Most Successful Entrepreneurs Cultivate

Israel is opening an innovation center to showcase Israeli technology and inspire young entrepreneurs

Israel is opening an innovation center to showcase Israeli technology and inspire young entrepreneurs

It’s no secret that Israel is a hotbed of technological innovation. Just over the past few years the country has given birth to popular consumer startups like Waze, Viber and Fiverr. Plus, Israel also is the birthplace of many hard science inventions like USB Flash Drives and coronary stents.

But Israel is at a crossroads of sorts. While the country wants to proudly show off these technology “wins”, they are also mindful of the fact that there’s no point in remembering the past if they can’t continue to drive innovation going forward.

The solution? Using tales of the past to inspire the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs.

One way Israel is accomplishing this is through former President of Israel Shimon Peres’ new Israeli Innovation Center at the Peres Peace House in Jaffa.

Announced today, the center will highlight inventions and companies already created in Israel as well as future Israeli technologies yet to be developed.

But the point of the center isn’t to just brag about Israel. In fact, President Peres noted that the main point is to ensure that Israel never stops innovating:

The primary focus will be on the path to the future. We will prove that innovation has no limits and no barriers. Innovation enables dialogue between nations and between people. It will enable all young people – Jews, Muslims and Christians –to engage in science and technology equally.  Here we will emphasize that we can promote peace from childhood, and we will spark the imagination of every boy and girl and enrich their dreams.” – Former President Shimon Peres

So how will it achieve this? Firstly, part of the center will dedicated to “showcasing leading Israeli companies”, and Israeli inventions that span across different industries.

But more importantly, the rest of the center will serve as a community space. It will be a place for entrepreneurs to meet, work, learn and even participate in hackathons. Peres emphasized that it will be a place to gain hands-on learning experience not found in a traditional school or university.

The former president sees technology as the best way to better society and create peace in the world, and wants to make sure the next generation of makers and entrepreneurs are both inspired and trained to be able to do so.

And judging by the guests of honor at the dedication it’s safe to say that this will be the flagship technology center for the entire country – the event was attended by the country’s three most important people – former President Peres, current Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In fact, all three tried virtual reality headsets on at the ceremony. President Peres told us that trying VR was “something totally new,” and could help create the dreams that create a new reality”.


Israel is opening an innovation center to showcase Israeli technology and inspire young entrepreneurs

These Are the Best Startup Accelerators in the U.S.


These Are the Best Startup Accelerators in the U.S.

Startup accelerators can too easily be black boxes. There are close to 200 of them, and they all make similar claims: That you’ll emerge from their programs smarter about business, better-connected, and better able to raise financing. Your company, meanwhile, will make progress at a speed just not possible anywhere else.

So how do you choose between them?

The recently released Seed Accelerator Rankings, compiled by a team of professors from Rice University, University of Richmond, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are a good place to start. In October, the researchers contacted about 180 accelerators, asking them about the state of their portfolio companies, all of their funding rounds, valuations, and exit information.

They asked graduates of accelerator programs to fill out surveys about their experiences, including questions about valuations, exits, and their general satisfaction with the program. “We get a lot of very honest feedback,” says Yael Hochberg, an entrepreneurship and finance professor at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business and managing director of the rankings.

One thing Hochberg and her team are not looking for: incubators. While the terms “acclerator” and “incubator” are often thrown around interchangeably, to Hochberg and her team, they mean very different things. Accelerators accept companies in distinct cohorts, for a finite period of time. “It’s a bootcamp type program where everyone works very intensively over a period of time,” she says. “With accelerators, companies either die quickly or take off quickly.”

She looks at incubators as co-working spaces with services. “We know what those look like,” she says. “On average, startups stay there for four years and don’t grow much.”

This year, the researchers did not assign the accelerators numerical rankings, as they have in the past. Hochbergs said that’s because the accelerators’ scores tended to be in specific clusters, making it very hard to make a clear call between, say, number eight and number nine. “I’m not going to declare one program i better than another without statistical significance,” says Hocherg. “I’m not going to declare a ranking based on a third decimal point.”

Instead, the team grouped accelerators into tiers. Here are the nine accelerators, listed in alphabetical order, in the highest tier:

500 Startups, which runs four-month programs in Mountain View, Calif., and San Francisco.

Alchemist, a San Francisco-based specialized incubator for enterprise startups.

Amplify.LA, an incubator for tech startups and based in Los Angeles.

AngelPad accepts startups–mostly tech, and mostly b2b–for residencies in both New York and San Francisco

Chicago New Venture Challenge has separate tracks for businesses looking to make a social impact, global businesses, and businesses started by University of Chicago students.

MuckerLab accepts companies to its Los Angeles-based program for anywhere from three to 18 months

StartX is an incubator for Stanford founders in any industry.

Techstars runs 20 accelerator programs in cities from Atlanta to Cape Town to New York. Some of its programs have an industry focus, such as healthcare, media, retail, or cloud computing.

Y Combinator brings a large number of companies–in its last class, 107–to Silicon Valley for three months of intensive development.

Finding Fit

Hochberg has some other advice for entrepreneurs looking at incubator programs. Outside of the very best accelerators, she says, you might be better off with an industry-specific accelerator if there’s one that is a good fit for you. “The very top programs can almost always bring in someone in your industry,” she says. The middle-of-the-pack ones might not be able to.

And she notes that accelerators are changing their own business models. The “virtual accelerator” is one variation, but Hochberg is not a fan. “We don’t see that these work, and the programs we see don’t wind up in the top of the rankings,” she says. “The things that have the most effect are the mentoring and the cohort nature of the program, having startups in one place going through the program at the same time together. The breadth and depth of mentoring really matters. You don’t get that in a virtual program.”

The financial model is changing, too. Just five years ago, she says, just about every accelerator took the same size stake in its companies and offered the same amount of cash. That has completely changed. This year, on average, the accelerators gave their companies $39,470 for 5.5 percent of equity. But some offer up to $175,000, and some don’t take any equity at all.

Accelerators are learning that long-term, they can’t live off of 5.5 percent stakes in their companies. That’s leading to consolidation, says Hochberg, and programs like TechStars where a variety of backers get together under one model. Others are adding venture funds to make follow-on investments. Says Hochberg: “That’s the only way you’re going to have a meaningful stake by the time the company exits.”

These Are the Best Startup Accelerators in the U.S.

In Silicon Valley Frenzy, VCs Create New Inside Track

Silicon Valley insiders are taking advantage of soaring values for technology startups by creating a potentially lucrative side business.

Venture-capital firms along with a cast of prominent entrepreneurs and executives, have each raised tens of millions of dollars for impromptu funds that take a direct stake in a single startup.

These funds, which often come together in a matter of days, give institutional investors, friends and business associates exclusive access to highflying companies. The funds also let the venture capitalists invest far more money in a company than they otherwise could. In many cases, the funds are blessed by the startups, which see them as a way to raise big sums quickly.

In Silicon Valley Frenzy, VCs Create New Inside Track

Wall Street and Silicon Valley Form an Uneasy Alliance

Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists have done their best to resist or reduce Wall Street’s entreaties, but it appears that a new relationship has begun to develop, leading to new fund-raising methods and innovations.

Wall Street and Silicon Valley Form an Uneasy Alliance