Quick thought about a startup idea, which could best be described as a combination between Civilization, Wikipedia, Second Life and Amazon.
This idea came to me following the many cases I have had at HBS. Most HBS classes are past-looking, focusing on events and companies from the past fifty years. I always found it interesting to ask, “how did the world looked like on year XXXX”, in order to gain better understanding into cases. I envision a website that would show different scopes across different timelines. Scopes could be “Road”, “(Super)market”, “Bedroom”, “Industry”, “Office”, “Computer”, etc. Users would be able to move a timeframe ruler that would display the scope correspondingly.
The objects could be products (Peugeot 206cc, Kellogg Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, etc.) , services (McKinsey consulting services), ideas (Marxism), people, etc. They will be connected to timeframe and location objects. E.g., Peugeot 206cc sold in Spain starting July 1994 and available until 2002. The ultimate vision is to enable users to watch snapshot of the “world” at any give timepoint.
For instance, “Road” scope would show how a “road” looked like in 4000 BC (before the invention of the wheel), 1850, or 2002. The “Office” scope would appear differently in 1975 (before Post-It notes, desktop computer, etc.) and in 1985.
Goals? Historically/academically: Adding the time dimension to a Wiki-driven internet; locating (geographically and chronologically) a wealth of information which is currently left undocumented; Commercially: I do not see a killer application just yet. Could become a powerful purchase portal to basically everything, assuming users buy in the “time-driven” purchase method. Besides that, I sense a growing excitement about everything involving history and vintage products, and the website could build on this trend.