Like most venture capitalists, Jim Armstrong, managing director of Clearstone Venture Partners, receives dozens of business plans every week. But when we stopped in recently, he was more interested in talking about what was missing from the pile than about any hidden gems. Riffing on the future of instant messaging, for example, and how a killer business could be hatched around his concept, Armstrong complained that he was ready to write a check to get it launched, if only a smart business plan would hit his inbox. "I've got $1 million to invest in this tomorrow," he said, "if I can just find the right team."
A column that appeared on Business2.com the next day described the company Armstrong envisioned and his wish list of criteria. Those who thought they had the right stuff could send Armstrong a business plan. A few weeks later, Armstrong had a new gripe: He'd received more than 20 solid plans and couldn't decide which of three finalists he wanted to fund — not just for $1 million, but for as much as $5 million. He has since winnowed the list down to two.
That got us thinking. Why not ask dozens of VCs a tantalizing (but often unasked) question: What types of ideas would you fund tomorrow if the right pitch landed on your doorstep? After a few weeks of trolling Sand Hill Road and beyond, we got 11 leading venture firms to spill their most promising business ideas — and to pony up $50 million in funding to the entrepreneurs who can pull them off.
Touching on industries from health care to middleware, these startups-in-waiting are described in the following pages. If you think you have the right plan for one of them, send it to the VC who's cheerleading that idea; each has included an e-mail address. In a few months, we'll report back on which, if any, Business 2.0 readers got the cash.
Ready? Good luck. Oh, and if you should strike it rich, don't forget who brokered the deal. We're not asking for a commission, but we certainly wouldn't complain if you reinvested a bit of your windfall in a lifetime subscription to Business 2.0.
Go read up on the ideas, and take a shot at entrepreneurship. The money is waiting.
If you don't have a Business2.0 subscription, I have a PDF of the article that I'm trying to get permission to post. Until then, email me if you want a copy.