Dana Levine has written an insightful post-mortem of ten products that he has built (and ultimately failed). Below is a quick summary of the products he built and why they failed:
- Tweedledo (web to-do list) – no traction
- InstantQ (queue management for restaurants) – no customers
- InstantQ V2 (restaurant marketing platform) – low customer (i.e. restaurants) willingness to pay
- Rentize (local rental marketplace) – gave up after deciding that the idea wouldn’t work very well and that the commissions would be low
- Wish List (search for best prices on internet) – no traction and co-founder difficulties
- SimplyHours (office hours scheduler) – co-founder left to work on something else
- SpeakerGram (marketplace for conference organisers and speakers) – market wasn’t big enough
- About/Team/Press (app to manage about, team and press pages) – co-founder left to work on something else
The last two were consulting projects, both of which didn’t launch.
Some of my thoughts:
- Most of the products are pretty standard tech startup ideas (e.g. a to-do list, marketplaces for X and Y, etc)
- None of them actually address a real pain point – they are all simply “nice to have” products, but in no way essential
- Startups focusing on local small businesses are notoriously difficult and are hardly ever successful. Despite this, they are somehow always seductive to tech entrepreneurs (e.g. InstantQ, V2 and Rentize)
- Alot of these products would need to rely on network effects to grow large
- This list implies an approach to startups that goes along the lines of – acquire tech skills, find some general problem that you don’t necessarily have, try to solve it with a web app and then attempt to monetize it. This seems completely backwards. It would probably work better to start from the opposite side – be involved in a field outside of web technology, understand the problems, needs and wants of the people in the field, then learn tech skills to help them solve these problems.