Failures

I've built stuff online pretty much since I figured out that I could. Join me on a tour through my the projects I have built where I planned on building a thriving side business - and failed.

FUNsummer

The first ever internet-based venture I started working on was back when the internet was quite new and no one really knew all that much about it. It was a marketplace for people renting out their cottages for vacations, so yes, indeed, I totally invented Airbnb before the dotcom bust ;)

FUNsummer map selector

This was in 1996 probably and I had no clue what I was doing. I just knew that the world wide web was awesome, Yahoo! was the shit, and that my parents had a cottage they wanted to rent out. We didn't even have an internet connection at home, so I rode my bicycle to the local library with a floppy disk in my backpack to upload changes to the site.

I had no marketing plan, and the only customer I knew of was family. Probably not the best approach. But I did have price tag on it, and the payment was a yearly subscription. Man, I was so ahead of my time...

What did I learn?

DiabloII.dk

This was pretty much a passion-project, as I remember it. I was an avid gamer and Diablo II was coming out. So I started a danish fan-site for it. I don't recall what my goals were, probably just that I wanted to see if I could build something that grew popular. It never really did, but I did get some traffic because I had the sweet domain.

DiabloII.dk

In the end, the site ended up being rolled into a larger gaming site, Daily Rush, run by a certain David Heinemeier Hansson, who'd later end up building Rails, running Basecamp, and racing race cars. I ended up working for Daily Rush more or less directly because of my building DiabloII.dk - but as a standalone business it never took off.

What did I learn?

Guildspace

This was my first, real attempt at a SaaS business. Still in the online gaming space, this time I was looking at setting up a website for a World of Warcraft guild. I had been running the website for my Everquest guild for years, and I knew how much of a pain this was, so I figured if I am about to build a website for my own guild anyways, why not make it generic so other guilds can use the platform?

Guildspace

At its prime, I had 3 or 4 guilds using it; all family and friends, but I did manage to get a few of them to pay monthly. Eventually my interest in World of Warcraft died down, the guild I was running died down, and the application died down.

What did I learn?

FlowToDo

Ah, to do lists... we all have our special needs, right? FlowToDo was my attempt at making a to do list application that suited my needs perfectly. It was a mix of Mark Hursts ideas from Good Todo - in that you could send emails into the application and schedule tasks into the future - and prioritisation ideas from Dave Seahs Printable CEO series.

I still think the result was decent and I used it for a long while to schedule my own tasks. In the end, though, To Do lists are a crowded market, and with no marketing plan or overall vision I never got around to actually marketing it. And with competitors like Flow, Wunderlist, and Todoist able to execute way better than I could on many of the same ideas, I ended up shutting it down.

What did I learn?

Objectpush

While building FlowToDo it became apparent that receiving emails in web applications really wasn't as easy as it could have been. FlowToDo would actually log into an email server, check for new emails, and download them via POP like any other email client. This was cumbersome and error prone and required an email account somewhere.

So I partnered with Laust to build Objectpush; an API/webhook based way of receiving emails. Basically we'd receive the email for you and send you a HTTP request with the contents. The idea was simple enough and it suited our developer mindset.

In the end, we gave up when we saw this being added as features of the big incumbents like SendGrid, Mailgun etc. Also dedicated services were popping up that did exactly what we did; the major difference was that they actually had a working product.

What did I learn?

Conclusion

In the end, I am not sure what to conclude from all of this; for the most part this is just me reminiscing. Perhaps it is just a curious part of my history, perhaps there's a trendline.

Who we are today is determined by our previous experiences. And none of the above experiences would I have preferred to be without. Hopefully one of these days I might be able to write a "Successes" post, pointing at the above experiences laying the foundation.