Seriously, we don’t need smartphone-controlled candles

You don’t have to spend a long time in tech journalism before you get pitched a whole stack of companies that make you scratch your head and ask yourself “why?”

LuDela is but one example. The company makes a smartphone-controllable candle featuring real, actual fire. Why? There are plenty of real problems to solve; creating fire at the touch of an app isn’t among them.

As someone who covers a lot of Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, I get an above-average number of emails trying to pitch me on some truly asinine ideas. I’ve seen Bluetooth-controlled shoe organizers. I’ve seen hypoallergenic marijuana vaping paraphernalia. I’ve seen a crazy contraption that somehow will help you share your electricity with your neighbors in case their fuses melt in a storm and they don’t want to brave the trip into the garage to flick the switch to turn their power back on.

Consider the opportunity cost

A small part of me loves these pitches. The creativity is incredible. The chutzpah is admirable. The amount of time and money invested in their pet projects is balls-to-the-wall hard-core. A much bigger part of me doesn’t love these pitches.

Oh, I'm having an experience, all right.

Oh, I’m having an experience, all right.

What worries me is that none of these projects are without challenges, and the fact that people have invested weeks, months, years of their lives into making these products a reality is a bona-fide tragedy. These are people with real skills and entrepreneurial spirit, investing a renewable resource (money) and a non-renewable one (time) into products that really aren’t going to move the needle.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as bored as the next man of startups that are going to change the world, but at least they have one thing clear in their minds: They think that what they are doing is worth doing.

Before you start your next venture, consider the opportunity cost of starting that venture. A startup will take years of hard work, inhuman amounts of dedication and will come with a very real personal cost. Startups are stressful, bad for your physical and mental health and often bad for your existing and new interpersonal relationships. The question becomes simple: Will the world be better off if you invest your time in this venture, or if you invested your skills, experience and — most importantly — time into another project?

Unnecessary, but probably extremely successful

“We’re the creators of the world’s first and only real-flame candle you can light and extinguish from your smartphone,” writes the company’s co-founder and CEO. “LuDela candles meld the beauty of traditional candles with 21st century technology to maximize safety and convenience.”

While it’s probably neat to be able to light a candle from your phone, it’s a fantastic example of something the world could do perfectly well without.

The company is launching its crowdfunding campaign on its own website today. It will probably be mind-bendingly over-subscribed. And for every dollar it raises, I will lose another fragment of my already fraying faith in humanity.

If you need me, I’ll be in the pub, staring at the flickering of an LED candle, wondering where it all went wrong.