Four Billion-Dollar Startups That Were Told Their Idea Was Stupid
Or, Checkout These Hilarious Comments on the TechCrunch Launch Articles of Twitter, Instagram, Uber, and Pinterest.
Every early stage startup has doubters, naysayers, and skeptics. These people will tell you that you can’t do it, that you shouldn’t do it, that you are wasting your time. They will tell you that your idea is stupid and that you are burning your investor’s money.
Can you blame them? Let’s be honest here, when you first heard of Twitter, could you have guessed that it would be a $20B public company? Or even better, what if two students pitched you on the 17th search engine, when clearly you already knew that Yahoo cornered that market.
It’s the crazy ideas that always turn out to be the billion dollar behemoths.
Add to this, that as an entrepreneur, you are filled with your own self-doubt. You will question why you left your safe job and risked everything for this idea that no one believes in except for you.
When that time comes, read this. Read this as a reminder that even the billon-dollar unicorns started off as fragile little babies.
To bring this point home, check out these amazing comment threads we found across the web.
1. Odeo Releases Twitter
On July 15, 2006, Techcrunch published a story about Odeo launching Twitter. The naysayers came out by the hundreds. Here is the headline:
And here are some of the comments. I especially love this first one:
In case you missed it, the commenter insisted on capitalizing NEVER. Classic.
Here’s another, a bit longer.
Although, I will give the commenter credit for claiming Twitter is not focused… which arguably is an accurate assessment even to this day. ;)
One more for good laughs:
That one actually names names (CRV) and ponders if burning money in a big BBQ party would be a better use of their investment.
2. Burbn Pivots and Launches Instagram
Founded by an ex-Googler, Instagram actually started as a location-based mobile app. Here is the TechCrunch article (Sept 20, 2010) covering Instagram’s launch:
And here are two comments for your reading pleasure:
Oh man that was a doozy. Can someone please talk to the VCs and make sure they are funding real business models. Thank you.
Someone is going to make a plugin for cameras that already has filters… yeah they did, it’s called Instagram and it’s a mobile app. Nice one.
3. Uber Launches & Raises Money
I’ve included two TC headlines for Uber. There is enough negative comments to go around and I wanted to give you a taste of how the comments change as the company matures.
Here is the first headline I could find on TechCrunch about UberCab (July 5, 2010) when Ryan Graves was still CEO:
This commenter wants to remind us that Uber’s monopoly is coming to an end (note this comment was made in 2012):
There were a couple other commenters on the above article accusing Uber of being a “fraud” and “complete crap.” They followed up with constructive advice, which is helpful.
Here is another headline, just seven months later:
Check out this beefy comment. We have what seems to be a domain expert:
That commenter walked us through the economics behind the taxi market and why Uber’s valuation is way too high ($60M post). Hold the phones, the taxi busy is very “mom and pop”… can someone call Travis ASAP please.
And one more shorter comment:
Is Uber equivalent to calling a taxi? I wouldn’t know — I’ve never really “called” a taxi but I do use Uber/Lyft almost weekly.
4. Pinterest Raises $27M
Pinterest launched in March 2010. It closed a round for $10M in mid 2011 and then another larger round for $27M in October, 2011, valuing the company around $200M.
The commenters here aren’t as bearish as they were on the others. Also, TechCrunch was using Facebook commenting system at the time and I suspect this had something to do with it. Here’s a commenter reminding us how “stupid” of an idea Pinterest is and how “gullible” startup VCs are:
Here’s another shorter comment. To this person’s credit, it could be argued that Pinterest is in fact a “sophisticated bookmarking system.” Nevertheless, it’s a good one at that.
Follow Your Passion, Follow Your Gut, Do You.
So there you have it folks — four awesome startups that got trolled on their launch day. Although we can easily look back and laugh at these comments, there are hundreds of other startups that didn’t have it so easy.
Surely there is a lesson here. What you need to remind yourself of — and what is most important here — is that as long as you follow your passion, trust your gut, and work your ass off, the end will likely justify the means. Ignore the haters and do you. Do you. Follow your heart, follow your passion. Focus on your product and your brand advocates.
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