University entrepreneurship professors often tell me that many of their students struggle to come up with a good startup case study idea to use for some aspect of the course. I do believe that entrepreneurship is best learned by developing a business plan around a real case study rather than reading from a textbook and taking tests. And I also believe the viability of the startup idea is not actually very important, from an educational standpoint.
Developing a full business plan and engaging in real customer discovery for a silly startup case study is not only a viable way to learn, but it also can make the activity much more fun. If the silliness of the idea removes some of the mental block and anxiety for the student, then I say go for it.
This article includes dozens of ideas that probably should never see the light of day. For some, I’ve given additional context or ideas for the instructor or student to consider. But they’re all suitable for business plan development and customer discovery. Below is a suggestion of the minimum business plan elements the students could easily develop for the case study they select. I have articles and online lesson modules on this site for each. Just use the search bar and any 2-3 relevant words to access that content.
- Company name and/or product name
- 2-Sentence Elevator pitch
- Target audience
- Problem characterization
- Market size (TAM, SAM)
- My article: Sizing Your Market
- Product features and capabilities
- My article: Prioritizing Your Product Roadmap
- Customer acquisition strategy
- My free online lesson module: Acquiring New Customers
- Pricing strategy
- My article: Extreme Value-Based Pricing
- 2-3 year financial forecast
- Fundraising amount needed to support next key phase of evolution
- My article: How Much Should You Raise?
Students should be able to expand on the case study they select with lots of additional product features and use cases. Have them get creative, while having fun. Adding AI, or virtual reality, or recording information to the Blockchain are obvious candidates for making the ideas even more crazy.
Case Study Ideas
- I use this one, called Doggie Drone, in my own Founders Academy lectures and online courses.
- The elderly population that would like to own a dog but aren’t physically fit to walk their dog could be a good target audience
Autonomous Baby Stroller
- It automatically follows ahead or behind the parent during a stroll
Smart Dog House
- Imagine features like automatic door opening upon approach, dog treat dispenser, breath detector that diagnoses various medical conditions
Smart Dinner Plate (or spoon/fork)
- It could count calories or amounts of sodium.
- It could detect gluten or various common allergens.
Social Network for Dogs/Cats
- Engage with littermates after separation
Automatic Book Page Turner
- Why waste the energy and suffer the short mental disruption to turn the page of a book you’re really into?
Dog Bark & Cat Meow Translator
- How nice would it be to know if your pet’s bark is asking to be fed, go outside, or warning that a burglar just entered your house?
Rollerblades with Headlights
- Kids could play outside until 10:00pm if their rollerblades had headlights
- What do you do when a set of crayons gets too short to effectively use? Recycle them, including mixing colors to make new colors.
Super-Deluxe Lemonade Stand
- For entrepreneurial young children looking to make a few extra bucks with a proverbial lemonade stand. Only, this stand has amazing features that assist with awareness generation, transaction processing and more.
Smart Clothes Hanger
- It automatically detects how dirty clothes are and alerts when it’s time to wash
Robotic Diaper-Changing Station
- The dreaded diaper changing activity is now fun for both the infant and parent. Parents don’t even have to take their eyes off their social media feed or football gave while their baby is being changed. And babysitters, friends and relatives that don’t know what their doing no longer need to stress.
- Riding a scooter is a terrible experience with all the bumps and dips on the roads and sidewalks. Why not float above those surfaces and open up any travel path between point A and B?
Voice-Activated and AI-controlled Toaster (blender, hair dryer, curling iron)
- No longer do you need to figure out which setting on the dial is best for your bread, bagel, or pop tart. An accompanying mobile app might also be cool.
Streaming Doorbell Ring Tones
- Ditch that boring doorbell sound. Select a specific song or automatically rotate through your favorite artist or genre.
Self-Driving Bicycle (or tricycle) for Kids
- Why waist time with training wheels, only to then have to run alongside your child to teach them how to ride a bike? Just let the bike drive the kid around the block or to/from school on its own.
Autonomous Rollaboard Luggage
- It propels itself and navigates through the airport. Give it a destination gate, and even a stop for coffee/magazine purchase/etc. along the way and let it take over navigation.
Smart Life Preserver
- Drifting in the ocean for days while waiting for rescue can be both scary and boring. This life preserver has amazing features to facilitate rescue while keeping the wearer entertained and healthy.
- Learning to surf is really hard, but surfing is an amazing experience. Let’s the surfboard catch the wave and navigate for you, while taking advantage of its amazing other features.
Smart BBQ Grill
- It has an embedded screen to access recipes and grilling tips, and it has other amazing features to enhance the grilling experience.
Smart Dog Collar and Leash
- Advanced AI enables you to understand your dog’s emotions and intentions just based on movements, leash tension and other biometrics
Robotic Pet Exoskeleton
- Turn your pet into a super-pet
I hope you a ton of fun and gain lots of insights from building a great business plan around your silly startup idea.
P.S. – I generated the featured image for this article using the generative AI tool Midjourney.