You don't need or perhaps even want this quality in big companies, but you need it in a startup. We could bear any amount of nerdiness if someone was truly smart.What we couldn't stand were people with a lot of attitude.Ideas for startups are worth something, certainly, but the trouble is, they're not transferrable.They're not something you could hand to someone else to execute.Good people can fix bad ideas, but good ideas can't save bad people. One of the best tricks I learned during our startup was a rule for deciding who to hire. It might be hard to translate that into another language, but I think everyone in the US knows what it means.It means someone who takes their work a little too seriously; someone who does what they do so well that they pass right through professional and cross over into obsessive.Above all, they were determined to make a site that was good to use.No doubt there are great technical tricks within Google, but the overall plan was straightforward.
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But what people have now is often so bad that it doesn't take brilliance to do better.And while they probably have bigger ambitions now, this alone brings them a billion dollars a year.There are plenty of other areas that are just as backward as search was before Google.I can think of several heuristics for generating ideas for startups, but most reduce to this: look at something people are trying to do, and figure out how to do it in a way that doesn't suck.
For example, dating sites currently suck far worse than search did before Google. They seem to have approached the problem by thinking about how to do database matches instead of how dating works in the real world.
An undergrad could build something better as a class project. Online dating is a valuable business now, and it might be worth a hundred times as much if it worked.