Yes, we are talking about the more traditional use of the term boner, get your mind out of the gutter. Business mistakes tend to catch our attention for a few reasons, they tend to be big, they tend to be public, and we love to see the powerful eat crow. With that in mind, we thought it would fun to look back at four of the biggest mistakes made in big business, so we can both laugh and be amazed at some shockingly hilarious oversight.
An Excite-ing Opportunity Missed
Back in the ’90s, there were a lot of businesses vying for attention in the newly blossoming internet. In an age full of extreme success and extreme failure, it’s inevitable that in hindsight some decisions would come back to bite. Such is the case with Excite, an internet portal launched all the way back in 1995. Coming with live weather reports, instant messaging, a metasearch engine and various other cool little additions, Excite was doing well and had many potential avenues to pursue expansion.
Of course, they had to choose which were worth pursuing and which would ultimately end up as a failure, and in their predictions were a little bit completely awful. In 1999 Excite passed on the opportunity to purchase an up-and-coming search engine for $750k. Unfortunately for them, this little search engine would go to be worth what Betway Casino lists as over $356b in an infographic about the absolute worst business decisions ever made. The name of this little company? Google, perhaps you’ve heard of it.
Googling in the Other Direction
As Google grew into the immense monstrosity it is today, they’ve managed to buy up a huge amount of properties which have impressive legacies in their own right. Among these is the popular OS Android, that which needs no explanation of YouTube, and what would become Google DeepMind, the AI which will inevitably subjugate and grind mankind beneath its dispassionate mechanical heel.
That, however, doesn’t mean that every business move Google has done went well. It best to ignore a buyout by Google, as was the case with the news aggregator Digg. Had Digg accepted the offer put forward by Google in 2010 they would have walked away with $200m. Instead, they sold to American startup studio Betaworks two years later for a total of $500k. We’re sure they’re happy with 1/400th of their first offer, though.
The Future is Blinding
Virtual and augmented reality have pushed the envelope of science fiction to science fact, mostly thanks to how that technology has finally reached a point where it is able to deliver on what is a significant promise. The problem is that the current generation is not the first line of major commercial attempts to open the world to this market. That honor belongs to the infamous Nintendo Virtual Boy.
Originally developed as a sequel to the most popular handheld in the world, the Game Boy, the Virtual Boy came with a desk-sitting headset and a controller which was, in all honesty, not that bad. Unfortunately, 1995 was not a time where the grasp could even approach the reach. With the actual device having incredibly limited processing power, a red-and-black monochrome display and migraine-inducing visuals, the Virtual Boy stands as the silliest thing Nintendo has done, except perhaps their naming of the Wii. Or maybe the foot-long controller cord for the Mini NES Classic.
It still sold around 700k units, but the losses to Nintendo, both in terms of profit and reputation, would prove this one experiment not worth investigating. At least they would never go on to make the same silly mistake again. Just ignore the Wii U, we don’t talk about that.
Business Failures the Real Kodak Moment
Kodak (by which we mean the company and not the rapper) made their name with traditional photography, being one of the most well-respected brands that this industry has ever seen. Not only were their products of high quality, but they also managed to offer a range which well suited both professionals and newcomers. What will no doubt surprise you is that despite this reputation and general forward-thinking attitude, Kodak proved utterly unprepared for the dominance of the digital camera. Their failures here set them back a considerable market share, which is even worse when you consider one little-known fact.
You see, the first digital camera was invented all the way back in 1975, by engineer Steve Sasson. Sasson would later report that the reaction to his revolutionary new invention was “that’s cute, but don’t tell anyone about it.” You’ve probably guessed where this is going by the general theme so far, so yes, he was working for Kodak, and that was their somewhat less than amazing advice. Kodak invented it, Kodak ignored it, and Kodak would stay unprepared even when the inevitable mass-market validity of the digital camera became undeniable. Probably not one to put in the old scrapbook. Though there are probably some aspects of modern digital camera culture which Kodak is happy to have avoided.
Let us Know
What was your personal favorite and what other bone-headed business decisions bring a smile to your face? At this point, there are so many that nothing short of a series of novels could ever hope to record them all, and with any luck, this will be a trend which continues into the future.
Sure, it’s not nice to laugh at the mistakes of others, but when it comes to enormous multinational corporations, there’s no way we can’t sit back and smirk “Well, I would have seen that coming.”