National Edition

Meet 17 Ridiculous Startups That Aren’t April Fools’ Pranks

Don't do it.

Feeling Foolish

We’ve been fans of John Oliver for a while now; and in the last few years, we’ve also grown disillusioned with tired gags that come along every April Fools’ Day. That’s why Oliver’s recent No-Prank Pledge really struck a nerve with us. So we’re not going to try to trick you with some phony startups today. Instead, we’re going to boggle your mind with 17 absurd startups that we wish were just a prank.

Proposal Props
Usurping the long-reigning most-awful means to propose (via Jumbotron), Will You Marry Me? allows smooth Romeo to pop the question via app – because nothing says true love like a digital image of a ring in a box and a “Yes” or No” button. The app is free, though it offers in-app purchases for those looking to truly sweep their fiancés-to-be off their feet.

Radar Love
Not to be confused with the animated GIF keyboard of the same name, Blippy was a 2009 startup that allowed users to post every single one of their credit card transactions to a social media feed. Remarkably, people didn’t seem to want to disclose that information; two years and 100,000 users later (only 30% of whom actually shared a purchase), the company was shelved.

Name Game
We’ve seen an influx of apps aimed to replace the business card, but Hello My Name Is, an app intended to replace the name tag, seems to be missing something: adhesive. Still, we hope to one day witness some poor networker holding his phone in front of his chest for hours on end.

Laundering Money
How’s this for a pitch? You send us $27, and we’ll send you $20 in quarters. Washboard, a subscription service that did just that, managed to last about two weeks in 2014.

Raid the Kitty
The CueCat, er, sorry – :CueCat, was an enormous, cat-shaped barcode reader that opened URLs in your web browser after scanning “cues” from a magazine or newspaper. If you’re interested, you can still pick one up on eBay for about two bucks.

Just a Number
What better way to break the ice than by guessing a perfect stranger’s age? That was the premise behind 2007’s Agester, a social media site that followed that whole “–ster” phenomenon right into oblivion.

The Rat Race
Who hasn’t looked at a hamster on a wheel and thought, “That looks like fun – if only it were even more claustrophobic and human-sized”? Meet the wonderfully-named Shweeb, a “human powered monorail” that actually managed to land funding from Google in 2010.

Gene Therapy
Because questionnaires just aren’t insightful enough, Singld Out sends users of its dating service a saliva swab. Using DNA testing to create pairs who’ll have better sex lives, increased fertility, and healthier kids, this San Diego-based company is bringing us far closer to the plot of Gattaca than we’d like.

What could be less convenient than snail mail? Outbox’s now-defunct service, which sent “unpostmen” to retrieve paper mail from customers’ mailboxes, scan the contents, and upload them online for customers to view.

Game Over
For those not yet smooth enough to need the Will You Marry Me? app, GameCrush offered users a platform to pay women to go on a “PlayDate”: a session of online gaming. No way this could’ve gone badly, right?

Frowny Face
Who doesn’t love a well-timed emoji? Well, a lot of people probably, but still, the existence of not just one, but two separate emoji-only social networks is likely too much for even the hardest-core fanboy and fangirl.

Weigh Out There
You’ve got to hand it to the creators of Droid Scale, a troublingly popular app that promised to turn your Android phone into a digital scale. Naturally, it does nothing of the kind.

We’d prefer not to be awakened by our dearest of friends, let alone a complete stranger. Wakie is a “community of friendly people waking people” through an anonymous phone call app, ensuring users can start their days off with a fresh dose of uncomfortable conversation.

Waste Band
Offering entirely unnecessary competition to the long incumbent buckle, Belty is a smart belt that expands and retracts based on the size of one’s waistline at any given moment. The wearable does not, however, audibly express judgment.

Band Camp
Meet Flip Band, the absolutely dumbest wearable we’ve ever seen not marketed by Will.i.am. The double-sided wrist band should be flipped from one side to the next after you’ve completed your goals for the day. That’s it.

Tie Me Down
Judging by the QR Tie’s (failed) Kickstarter campaign page, the neckties with a QR code were meant to be worn shirtless, which makes about as much sense as putting a QR code on a tie.

Capping It Off
The worst thing about hands-free smartphone devices? Their subtlety. So we’re stunned that Headflat’s Kickstarter campaign failed, given its long-pole-attached-to-a-visor fashion-forward design.

Wigging Out
Perhaps Sony’s most notable entry into the wearable game is an entirely unnecessary patent for a wig equipped with a hidden circuit board, which vibrates when you get a notification on a separate device. Sorry SmartWig, but we’ve no intentions of whipping you back and forth.

Of course, don’t forget – today’s insane idea can often turn out to be tomorrow’s billion-dollar business. Who would have dreamed SpaceX, Airbnb, Wikipedia, or even The Million Dollar Homepage would ever succeed?


More Posts