4 weirdest failed startups you should know

From condom keychains to dog computers, let’s learn from them so we can cross the graveyard of failed startups.

When we think of the entrepreneurial space, stories of successful startup founders like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk flood our minds. But what is often overlooked is that these successes are needles in startup failures.

About 90% of all startups fail, and many factors contribute to a company closing shop – cash flow problems, lack of market research or a large-scale market crisis. No one wants to be a part of this data, and one way to avoid that is by taking a deep look at some failed startup stories and studying what went wrong. With that in mind, we’ve come up with a list of some unusual failed startup ideas so you can learn “what not to do” when building your own business.

Condom key chains

Stanford graduate Robert L. Strauss came up with the idea to sell condom keychains in America after seeing their success in Thailand. During this visit to Bangkok, they discovered that a Thai warehouse was selling expired condoms as key chains under the slogan “Breaking Glass in an Emergency” and getting huge sales.

The first hurdle in bringing this business model to America was that he knew nothing about starting his own business. Not only did he struggle to get the proper paperwork to bring these products from Thailand to the US, but he didn’t think the trip would damage the key chains.

After two years as a condom keychain salesman, Strauss sold 50,000 keychains and found himself $10,000 poorer. It should tell us that even a unique and innovative idea on paper can turn into a disastrous failure if you don’t have the basics of starting a business.

Room for sale for laundry

The US-based startup Washboard wanted to solve a problem that didn’t exist: lack of laundry space in public laundromats. To do this, the company has created a subscription service to send quarters every month, with a quarter worth of US$27 to send US$20.

The business had many glaring problems: Why would anyone pay extra for conversions? Why don’t people go to the bank to get a quarter? Because of these issues, the business lost ten customers in a two-week period in 2014. The takeaway here is clear—if you don’t provide useful and valuable service, your business will likely fail.

Computers for dogs

Have you ever wondered if your pet dog needs a computer? Yes, me too and still a company called Tesla Technology (not Musk’s electric car business) thought this might be feasible. In the year In 2016, Hong Kong-based Tesla Technology released their Dog PCs – a triangular device with a touch screen, built-in electronic feed box, camera and speaker. Pet owners can interact with their dogs with the device when they’re away, and can even entertain pets with video games.

According to our research, Tesla’s technology website, while still up, even though the product was launched in 2010 Despite being shown at the TechCrunch Disruption conference in 2016, it doesn’t list a way to buy a Dog PC. Before entering the development phase, we first conduct basic market research to ensure that there is real demand for our products.

A tool to sniff your favorite website

In the year In 1999, Stanford’s Joel Belenson and Dexter Smith created Digicents, bringing the sense of smell to the Internet. To do this, they came up with a product called iSmell. Despite what the name suggests, iSmell had nothing to do with the Apple ecosystem of devices. Contains microscopic oils that can stick to your computer. Developed by experts in olfactory science, these bottles can be combined to recreate simple things like pressing the image of an orange or peeling an orange while smoking a cigarette.

Digicents, which promises to create an immersive web surfing experience, has received $20 million in funding. Part of the reason Bellenson and Smith’s company raised so much money was during the dot-com bubble, when the Internet was starting to pick up steam and people were rushing to invest in Internet-based businesses. Despite the novel concept, the company failed like the Dog PC in 2001 due to lack of demand.

And that’s it! This list brings you just a few of the many failed projects launched by bright-eyed founders over the years. Although many people fail to make it in the entrepreneurial space, we rarely hear these stories because of a phenomenon called “survivor bias,” which mistakes a subset of successful people for the entire group. However, it’s also important for entrepreneurs to set realistic expectations for their business and look at the stories of those who failed so that they can make a fully informed decision when entering the startup competition.

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Header image courtesy of Freepik.

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