There is no shame in telling an old joke. You will be surprised at how many people haven’t heard it yet and the people who have heard it will smile as they wait for the punchline, and then laugh all over again.

Wannabe entrepreneurs are often looking for a ‘great idea’ to sink their teeth into. A multi-billion dollar opportunity. Something that is revolutionary and might change the world. Something… new.

Unfortunately the new new thing often won’t be recognized as important. Yahoo didn’t think Google was interesting and declined to buy it for a million bucks. Twitter now has 300 million users but most people disregarded it as a fluke when they first learned about it, including a few high-profile investors.

Besides it being hard to recognize, none of these ‘inventions’ were really new. Twitter was just an iteration of chat or maybe a web based version of texting. Google was just a better way to search, a minor improvement on existing search engines.

When a start-up or entrepreneur says he is onto something new and he has no competition that can only mean two things: his idea sucks or he simply didn’t do his homework.

When you are looking for something to do look at what you can improve. See what worked before and how you could apply it to a new medium or combine it with something else that worked. There were 170 YouTubes before YouTube and they all failed. Until YouTube came along, at the right time, then iterated a bit, executed well, took some chances and voila; success.

Want to build the next 100 billion dollar company? Start with something simple, improve an old idea or combine a few successful ideas into a new one.

Old and Proven is the New New thing.