Learning from Missed Opportunities

We all do it, we have a great idea for a site or business, procrastinate on it too long and then find somebody has “stolen” our excellent idea. I’ve been using the Net since the early days (PG – Pre Google), I first discovered it at Uni and then all web pages were grey, with “Under Construction” images and those ugly indented tables.

This was the time were the Internet was no where near the main stream and most people had never heard of it and those that had thought it would stay in academia and always be a bit of a geeky niche. How wrong we were.

Back then I had a few ideas for sites:
– As I was at Uni, I thought about doing a site for students. I never knew the term portal then but that’s what it would of been, provided information about the local city and places of interest to students. I didn’t bother taking it forward as it sounded a lot of work and registering domains back then was expensive and I’d also need a server as I’d have to run scripts which wasn’t possible with regular hosting then (pre PHP). A couple of years later somebody sold student.co.uk for about a million bucks (I forget the exact figure), the domain had been registered after I’d thought of the idea, what a thief.

– Another idea I had at Uni was to do an information site mainly about techie subjects like coding and computers and then at a later stage moving more main stream. This is another one that was discussed a few times in the pub and ending up staying there. Looking back the sort of site we were designing was along the lines of www.about.com

Looking around now there are many big sites that I expect other people had the same idea about before, sites like digg.com, youtube, facebook, etc are worth billions of dollars each. From a development point of view they would of required a fair amount of work but to start with probably not an excessive amount but they have grown and evolved over time.

Even if you’re not a coder, if you have an idea for a site or service having somebody else code it is not astronomically expensive and if the idea is cool enough you can guarantee at some point somebody else will have the same idea and act upon it. So ACT NOW.

Anybody else had any really cool ideas “stolen” already?

About Al Carlton

Al quit the 9 to 5 rat race in January of 2007, before then he was a software engineer and systems architect of financial system. Nowadays Al spends the days running his various businesses and experimenting with different ideas and opportunities.
Al can be found on twitter at AlCarlton.


  1. Not an online idea, but something I thought about at last years halloween party while I was dressed as a “Dead” sexy schoolgirl (OK, it was just an excuse to wear fake boobs) was adjustable length heels, I only joked around about it and didn’t really plan to make them, but a couple of months ago I saw that somebody else has now done this and probably making a fortune.

    • I’m not an expert on heels but that actually sounds like a good idea, you could have training 1 inch heels progressing up to the stupid 4 (or whatever) inch woobblers when you get proficient and then at the end of the evening after a few bevies you could reduce them to more walkable heights. Again not that I know anything about heels.

      • For someone who “doesn’t know much” about it, you sure thought this through quite thouroughly, didn’tcha Al? šŸ˜†

        • Damn you caught me, long time no see nafi, I hope you’re doing great

        • Been browsing the hat shops for a while (if you know what I mean). I have tried a few things with more to come, which means less time for more enjoyable persuits such as posting to your lovely sites.

          But even if I don’t post, know that I’m always lurking. I need my selfmade fix, y’know!

  2. Back when Hot Or Not was the big thing on the internet, my Uni roommates and I had come up with a concept for a much better version with more info, profiles etc. Little did we know what we had in our heads was the next MySpace/Facebook. It went as far as starting to design a site, but never went further than that. Big mistake, huh?

  3. An incident occurred at DP illustrating this. A member came up with an on-line, editable “post it” called mysticky.net. Another user copied his idea, went to Scriptlance asking if any programmer could reproduce the idea, and named it mystickyz.com. Although my initial reaction is to condemn the copycat, after careful review, discussion and deliberation, I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that the copycat didn’t break any laws. He didn’t copy the code. He had someone re-create it from scratch. And, unfortunately, you can’t patent ideas šŸ™


    I still don’t think much of a guy who steals an idea from a 13 year old kid. Its pretty lame that he couldn’t even come up with an original name — he had to copy the domain name, too! Still, this is a real life lesson. If you have a great idea, you have to be aggressive in implementing it before someone else runs off with it!

  4. I really did have the idea for youtube years and years ago. But the thing is, it’s not just about procrastination. It’s about what I can afford to act on from a time perspective.

    I also started to build a sweet website where you could enter your ingredients, and it tells you what drinks you can make from them. I ran out of time, gave it up. Now drinknation exists.

    For me, it’s not about missed opportunities. It’s about the opportunities that I chose to give up in favour of others.

  5. Yup I have a couple of ideas stolen, though not exactly related to the net.

    Had something in mind about a paypal type service, but someone is already doing it.

  6. Back in the day when AOL was king I had an idea about offering unlimmeted tech support
    Not sure if any one did this but the idea was good then šŸ™‚

  7. I remember not being able to find any decent information back when I wanted to take my first backpacking trip to Europe. There were a few sites with general backpacking info that were painful on the eyes but nothing with hostel reviews, which was what I was after. When I got back from my trip I came up with a grading system with six criteria and posted a form on my site for people to submit reviews. I was in uni and working a lot and had no time to devote to this and now there are hostel review sites all over the place. Shortly after I added my little system I noticed that Hostelworld.com added an identical ratings system… hmm. I’m annoyed I didn’t blow off uni and start working seriously on my sites way back then.

  8. see my new idea which i feel will be stolen pretty soon if i dont act and market it fas. zligg.com . i am currently looking for partners to help come in an market this jointly with me on a profit share basis. if any reader is interested pls mail me. thx.! is a good idea! worth pushing.

  9. lol, you should’ve got some luck by now. Or learned from your mistake?
    We as coders get lots of ideas, but then when we think them through they just seem stuiped.

  10. every moment, everyone have lots of great ideas. no matter how great the idea seems to be, if you never execute it is just nothing. All Talk and No Action is what everyone is good at.

  11. How do you get an idea developed without letting the cat out of the bag? I have some projects I want code developed for, but I am leary of using scriptlance or discussing it anywhere. They could just steal my idea and start selling it.

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