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Autopsy – Lessons from Failed Startups

June 9, 2015

We all know that failing is part of life. We have to fail to learn what works and what does not. Trying to do you own thing is a stark example of failure as often we’re the ones in the frame for why it did not work. I’m had a number of start-up ideas and ventures go the way of the dodo, so it was with great interest I was alerted to this amazing collection of links; – Autopsy: Lessons from Failed Startups – and it’s stuffed with links. Here’s a few that caught my eye…


The sad truth is that it’s very hard to make money on something that deserves to be free. Freedom of information is a core tenet of our democracy and something that shouldn’t be monetized. People shouldn’t have to fight for a transparent government: it should be innate to its existence. We believe it’s the responsibility of the media to hold our government accountable and to do so with honesty and integrity (and a spine). Even though we felt the vast majority of major media outlets didn’t do that responsibly, it simply was not worth gaming to our financial advantage, even if we were just making enough to keep the lights on (or the lights of the servers somewhere in Virginia “on”). We just kept asking ourselves: “how in the hell could we ever justify charging for something like this?”

Traps for Friends

We were developing Traps for Friends in Kiev, Ukraine by a mixed team of Russians and Ukrainians during last year’s upheaval. Then, the Russian government annexed Crimea, and the war started. This has led to colossal currency falls, so we lost our investors right before the soft launch and couldn’t find any others. No one in Russia and Ukraine had money in the middle of the crisis, and American and European investors weren’t too willing to fund a company from a region near an ongoing military conflict.

Well, we just found ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time!


It turns out there was another app that shared a similar vision called Burbn. They were building yet another check-in type service loaded with every feature but the kitchen sink. But early user feedback, coupled with a desire to avoid the check-in battle shitshow already in progress, led them to drop everything to focus on one simple feature: photos.

They made the act of taking and sharing photos (many of which just happened to be location-tagged) fast, simple, and fun.

They made their own rules. They called it Instagram.

That whole see the world through the eyes of their friends thing?
Turns out Instagram did a pretty good job of this.

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