Successful Failures: Cautionary Tales For Tech Entrepreneurs
NASA referred to the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission as a “successful failure” because it never executed a lunar landing, but managed to overcome near-catastrophic technical challenges and return the crew to Earth.
The same could be said of some tech crowdfunding campaigns, like the Ouya Android gaming console,Ubuntu Edge smartphone, and the Kreyos Meteor smartwatch. These campaigns illustrate the difficulty of executing a software/hardware product launch in the real world.
All three were quite attractive, albeit for different reasons:
- Ouya was envisioned as an inexpensive Android gaming device and media center for people who don’t need a gaming PC or flagship gaming console.
- Ubuntu Edge was supposed to be a smartphone-desktop hybrid device for Linux lovers.
- The Kreyos Meteor promised to bring advanced gesture and voice controls to smartwatches.
What went wrong with these projects?
- Ouya designers used the latest available hardware, which sounded nice when they unveiled the concept, but was outdated by the time it was ready. Soft demand contributed to a lack of developer interest.
- The Ubuntu Edge was a weird, but good, idea. It managed to raise more than $12 million in a matter of weeks, but the goal was a staggering $32 million. Although quite a few Ubuntu gurus were interested, the campaign proved too ambitious. Like the Ouya, the device came at the wrong time: Smartphone evolution slowed down, competition heated up, prices tumbled.
- The Kreyos Meteor had an overly optimistic timetable, promising to deliver products just months after the funding closed. It was obviously rushed, and the final version suffered from severe software and hardware glitches. On top of that, demand for smartwatches in general proved to be weak.
These examples should illustrate that even promising ideas run into insurmountable difficulties. They got plenty of attention and money, they were sound concepts, but they didn’t pan out. They were not scams, but they failed.
Even industry leaders make missteps, so we cannot hold crowdfunded startups to a higher standard. Here’s the difference: If a new Microsoft technology turns out to be a dud, or if Samsung rolls out a subpar phone, these failures won’t take the company down with them. Big businesses can afford to take a hit and keep going.
Failure in the tech industry is not uncommon.
But, failure is a luxury most startups cannot afford. If they don’t get it right the first time around, it’s game over.