We love a good entrepreneurial success story — an entrepreneur surmounting obstacles to establish a thriving, successful company and become rich in the process.
Since the mid-90s, different players in the world of web development and digital marketing have come up with brilliant ideas. Unfortunately, some ideas and business models never really stood the test of time. Here are 6 startups with amazing ideas that failed.
Started in August of 1998, Pets.com was the poster child for dot-com cautionary tales. The premise was straightforward AND simple: think Amazon for pet owners. Save cash by shopping online and spending less for a plethora of pet products.
With a cute, if awkward, remarkable sock puppet puppy as a mascot and a huge marketing budget at launch, Pets.com quickly raised $80M in funding.
For a while, the mascot was seen everywhere from Conan to Regis and Kathy Lee, to the Super Bowl.
In late 2000, the startup crashed after burning through $300 million in about 23 months. Over three 300 people were laid off when the site was shut down.
Webvan is another popular poster child for the dot-com bubble that burst at the start of the millennium.
Imagine shopping at an online grocery store with the selection of Vons, the quality of Trader Joe's, and the price of Walmart. And the groceries and household items being brought straight to your door!
No brainer, right? Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Didn't Bezos make billions with that same idea and become the third richest person alive, allowing him to follow Elon Musk into space?
WebVan have played significant roles in Amazon, ensuring Jeff Bezos' success. Doug Herrington, Mick Mountz, Peter Ham, and Mark Mastandrea are all ex WebVan team members who proceeded become top Amazon executives.
3. Six Degrees
Six Degrees is a game by Kevin Bacon with the premise that everyone is no more than 6 touch points away from any other person. In the game, you try to connect actors to Kevin by listing films in a chain link fashion until you succeed at linking them. If it takes more than 6 movies, you lose.
In 1997 SixDegrees.com was based on the same premise: that we're all connected and should post and interact online with our social connections. Thought by many to be the original social network, Six Degrees was followed by MySpace and Friendster, who get honorable mentions.
To call Six Degrees a failure might be a bit of a stretch though, as its $125M sale by founder Andrew Weinreich helped to springboard a long string of successful ventures.
4. Ask Jeeves
Imagine visiting a website and typing in any question you wish. And seconds later receiving a list of answers and links to websites.
Ask Jeeves was one of the first natural language search engines.
In 1996 David Warthen created natural language technology and partnered with Garrett Gruener. Within one year, the site was gaining reputation and expanding exponentially.
The site was bought by IAC in 2005 and the name was changed to Ask.com.
Ten years after David and Garrett met, IAC, the new owners, fired their butler Jeeves. In 2007 the website was declared a failure by none other than South Park characters, who joked that nobody in the world uses Ask Jeeves.
WebTV was the first widely available consumer device promising to connect TVs to the Internet.
The company was established by Steve Pearlman, a true pioneer and visionary in every sense. Having worked as a scientist with Jobs and Woz as well as a division president for Gates and Allen, he is a Gamechanger with a capital G.
WebTV delivered on the promise of low-cost web browsing without the need for a full-fledged PC. Bringing new users online by the thousands, content creators of yesteryear welcomed the device with open arms.
Pearlman implemented coding standards for web tv formatting, effectively introducing the idea of responsive websites twenty years before the modern smartphone.
The founders exited with a sale to Microsoft for $425 million.
Color quickly got $41M in its first round of funding chiefly based on the previous successes of its two co-founders: Peter Pham, the former CEO of the wildly popular BillShrink and Nguyen, who established Lala, an online music service that sold to Apple for $80M.
Color was an innovative photo sharing app that promised to leverage geographic and social data. Color started in May 2011 and was met with lackluster fanfare. After just 6 months the site pivoted and relaunched as a Facebook video streaming service.
Although at a point the site amassed 400,000 monthly active users, less-funded apps like Instagram hit 7M users daily.
In 2012, approximately one year after launching, stories began to surface that Color would be shutting down. Co-founders first dismissed the rumors. While it is entirely possible that at that point they were still holding on, the app shut down a month later.
Apple bought the company for a reported $7M, representing a major dip from the $41M they had raised in their first round.