Money vs. Ethics

Yesterday’s startup idea brought up an interesting dilema that many entrepreneurs are bound to encounter.  Where do you draw the line between making a profit and staying true to your core beliefs?

Let’s start with an example.  Logan has a great idea for a startup that maps Flickr photos to a Pandora stream to create a customized slideshow for your music (i.e. if you have chill music like Jack Johnson, you’d get a stream of beach pics).  The site starts off slow but after the first year it starts doing pretty well, maybe pulling in 15-30K in profit each year from AdSense revenue.  Not bad, but a few years down the road Logan’s neighbor hears about the extra income he’s earning on the Internet.  She picks up a video camera from eBay, hires a few…ummmm…professional actresses, and within three months she’s made more than Logan has total over 5 years.

That’s a pretty obvious example, but where is the line?  If write a blog that provides advice to Texas Hold ’em players, that’s fine.  But what if you write software that uses previous knowledge of online poker hands that makes suggestions whether to bet (and how much)?  Or if you set up a botnet to control 7 of the 8 positions at a high stakes table?

Where do you draw the line?  Have you ever had an idea that is a pretty solid money maker but conflicts with your morals?  Please post any stories in the comments section, I’d love to hear them!


One response to “Money vs. Ethics

  1. Hey Kevin,

    I think our site in it’s current iteration is a prime example of what you speak on. Our “core philosophy” is to bring quality content to our readers with good writing, and a variety of view points (other than just Joseph’s and myself) without creating the typical “flea market/circus” effect of ad-ing out the real estate on the pages.

    One challenge comes with the concept of exchanging links. I noted that in the comments in your “about [you]” section you’d had a visitor from Cambrian House and there was a discourse about you having them in your blogroll, and they having added you to their community.

    We made the decision that as much as we appreciate and acknowledge that link exchanging can be a good thing, we don’t feel it fits into the look and feel we are going for at the site.

    We’ve already had a number of these requests (to be fair some of them were just unwanted/unsolicited requests, but several legitimate) that we’ve had to politely decline in order to “stay true”.

    Will that limit or slow down our growth? Perhaps, however in the long run, we truly believe the reader is going to appreciate being able to focus on well designed and presented content.

    And we are now working on a standard reply to exchange requests that simply ask the remote site to become a contributing member to our community. We believe that long term, if you were to become a Contributor to or even a larger role as an Author or Editor of one of our bgAttribute sections, the linking that you would generate back to your site would far out weigh the simple blog roll entry.

    Of course, I suppose if/when we get a request for placing a paid link in our BR… No, must resist!

    Good posts here at your new site. Looking forward to seeing more of your inner workings.

    Go Boldly!

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