My failures (to date)

This is a post first published in January 2012 from my long lost WordPress blog and reposted here for posterity.

I’ve run 8 different businesses over the last 10 years. Some have been successful, most have failed.

You can read a lot of blog posts out about successful startups, projects or campaigns but few people post about the ones that sucked. Here is a list of some of my failed projects.

360Desktop (2008)

What was it?
An angel-funded startup building a Windows application that extended your desktop into a panoramic display giving you (in theory) more screen real estate. I joined as the marketing manager.

Why did it fail?
A range of issues but I think the biggest red flag was when I was hired with the view that they would launch the product the following week. 6 months later and with the launch nowhere in sight I left the company to do something actually productive. I think it took them another year or so to launch and not long afterwards the company folded leaving a bunch of employees out of pocket.

What did I learn?
Know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. I also met some incredible people, particularly user experience designers Benson Low and Adam Schilling.

Mr Chop (2009)

What was it?
A music-centric blogger advertising network I started in part to monetize my own blog.

Why did it fail?
The network made a bit of money but nothing significant. It certainly didn’t get much beyond ramen profitable, and not consistently.

That said, over the last 12 months I’ve revived the business as a service we offer through Native. With a stronger client base and a better understanding of media buying it has definitely been a good addition to our bottom line.

What did I learn?
A great idea is nothing without the right networks or distribution. Also ad sales isn’t hard when you’ve got a good product. Also sometimes a good idea needs a couple of years to work — for me I needed to learn how to sell media and manage client accounts well before this business made sense.

Orgnition (late 2009)

What was it?
An organisation management system for not for profit organisations, specifically those like Rotary or Lions clubs.

Why did it fail?
We underestimated the strengths and overestimated the weaknesses of our competitor. We also massively underestimated the sales cycle. It’s not an easy task to sell a technical product to older organisations, especially when their existing solution doesn’t completely suck.

What did I learn?
It’s better to do something you know than chase a dollar. Also working with non-profit organisations is not an easy task. I still believe in the solution that we had but think that it will be some time before I step back into this space.

There are plenty of other ideas I worked on but didn’t go anywhere with. I have notebooks filled with ideas, research and sketches. But the above are ones I spent any considerable amount of time on.

During this period I also made the conscious decision to treat each failure as a learning experience, to resign myself to failure as if each project were another semester of study into how to build a company.

I didn’t start any of these projects wanting to fail but I always went in with the idea that it was about the process, “the journey” rather than the end result.

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