Startup Horror Stories

For every great idea that manifests on the internet, there are a lot of failures. Below is a list of some of the most notable flops throughout the history of the internet. From the 1990s to now the companies listed below showcase the overly ambitious and the simply poorly planned.

Pets.com

There are several reasons this early dotcom failed. First (as many of the companies experienced in this list), they came to the scene before the creation of adequate infrastructure. Cloud computing didn’t exist, which translates to needing to own a server farm and hire a huge IT staff. Running an online store wasn’t nearly as easy as it is today. Today, we have a variety of options for managing inventory and taking orders. Best of all, today’s solutions scale very easily.

A bad sign is when your company loses $147million in the first nine months, as Pets.com did. Needless to say, their choice of running an ad in the Super Bowl did not help anything.

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After losing over $300million, Pets.com finally died for good in November 2000, letting go about 300 employees.

Geocities.com

Launched in 1994, Geocities was the company that defined the look of an awful “90s” website. These sites usually featured loud colors, repeating pattern backgrounds and an onslaught of animated gifs. The internet lost somewhere around 38 million user-built websites when the service officially shut down in 2009.

For reasons beyond the comprehension of most, this service is still alive in Japan.

Go.com

Disney is responsible for creating some of the most magical and amazing things around. This website was not one of these creations. Go.com launched in 1998 by Disney to compete with sites and services like Yahoo and AOL. It filtered out adult material while giving quick links to ABC, ESPN and used the Infoseek search engine.

Disney officially shut down the Go.com project in 2001. Evidence of its existence lives on though, the site itself still hosts Disney related links. You can also find go.com shoved into various URLs of Disney’s. After taking a $790million loss, it appears Disney still wants to get some mileage out of the name.

Blippy

The idea – automatically Tweet every purchase you make online. It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting their shopping habits broadcasted. Somehow, Blippy managed to raise nearly $13million but just couldn’t find mass adoption. After several attempts and a private beta launch, the idea died.

Blippy as a brand lives on while the company figures out it’s new (and hopefully more successful) direction.

Beenz

Beenz suffered from a combination of being far ahead of its time and being a bit half-baked. This company set out to be an online currency, only useable at online retailers. Even though they raised $100million, there just wasn’t much demand or use for this idea between 1998 and 2002.

Albeit nowhere near as sophisticated, on the surface, this early creation does look eerily similar to the (arguably) incredibly successful Bitcoin. At the time of this writing, one Bitcoin holds the worth of over $2800.

Washboard

Washboard is almost too easy to criticize. Yes, people are willing to pay a premium for convenience. No, most people do not want to pay $15 for $10 in quarters (or $26 for $20 in quarters). Even if those quarters are shipped straight to your door, ready for that trip to the laundromat.

It’s not hard to picture the reasons this company never got to a customer count in the triple digits. How it maintained a single digit customer base before it’s demise is equally difficult to imagine.

Pixelon

In 1998 a convicted white-collar criminal under an assumed name claimed to had built a system to deliver high-quality video online. After sinking $16million into getting exclusive performances from huge names in the entertainment industry, the creator was discovered to be a fraud.

The technology pitched was proven to be insufficient. Evidence also arose that it was nothing but an embezzlement machine built for the founder.

Webvan

Today, throw a rock and you’ll hit someone who buys at least some groceries online. This is possible because of the systems and infrastructure available to us here in 2017. The technological landscape, however, was very different in 1996 when Webvan launched. As you may have guessed, Webvan set out to deliver groceries purchased online, to your door.

Unfortunately, Webvan was never able to expand beyond ten market cities. The company lost a whopping $800million when it went bankrupt in 2001. In 2009 it would be resurrected via acquisition by Amazon.

CueCat

CueCat was a handheld, cat-shaped barcode scanner that connected to PCs. The idea was, a consumer could scan barcodes and automatically go to websites with related information. A strange and mostly useless precursor to modern day readers of QR codes.

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