#13 Failed Early Internet Businesses 🌐

Failed early internet businesses seem awfully familiar. 👇

Online SpeedMatching — 2004 attempt to build Tinder. Review profiles, view pictures, have a brief phone conversation, vote yes or no for followup contact. There are so many awkward early 2000s internet products that, in retrospect, had a smartphone app sized hole.

Webvan (1996–2001) — One of the most notorious dotcom flops. Instacart’s last private valuation was $4.2B. Differences? Instacart outsources grocery inventory to stores and delivery vehicles + logistics to Instacart shoppers.

TextPayMe (2006) — Payments between friends via mobile phones. Sounds like Venmo! This article even frames TextPayMe as “the logical second act for PayPal.” Venmo was. Now PayPal owns them

Pets​.com (1998–2000) — bad idea, too early, or just prematurely bankrupted by the bubble bursting? PetSmart acquired Chewy​.com for $3.35B in 2017! People mocked later attempts to sell pet supplies online, but the Pets​.com CEO understood it was viable. Another startup that had poor timing rather than a poor concept.

There were lots of attempts to build digital currencies before Bitcoin: DigiCash (‘89), Beenz (98), Flooz (99), e-gold (98), 1mdc (01), e-Bullion (01). Some even tried to anonymously create underground (Tor only) currencies like eCache (2007).

What can we learn ?

For every huge successful startup you can name, there’s someone who tried to do it before and failed. Sometimes they failed on their own, but often they failed because they were just too early. They had everything but the market just wasn’t ready.