Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Non-Starters

In a post last December ("Questioning the Conventional Wisdom about the Benefits of Microfinance and Encouraging Entrepreneurship"), I mentioned an article by Scott Shane in The American in which Shane poured cold water on U.S. policies that encourage Americans to start small businesses. In that post, I mentioned that the article wasn't available online, but prompted by a discussion on the forums of Tim Ferriss's Four Hour Work Week site, I looked for it again. It's available online now: The Start-Ups We Don’t Need -- Are we encouraging the creation of too many low-productivity businesses?.

What reminded me of Shane's article in the 4HWW forums, was the number of "me-too" businesses ("muses" in the 4HWW parlance) proposed there, e.g., high-priced e-books about how to pick up women, or how to get rich, etc. To be fair, there has been a minority of clever niche business ideas mentioned there too. For example, a teacher in the Midwest, after trying unsuccessfully to find study aid materials for a mandatory statewide algebra test, decided to create them himself for his class, and then made a business out of it, selling it statewide.

The illustration above, by Dave Plunkert, accompanied Shane's article in The American.

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