With so many startups launching each year, the law of averages dictates some are bound to fail, while others succeed.

In some cases startups fail because they had a poor idea, not enough funding, or lack of support. In other cases the startup had everything going for them, but failed due to other circumstances.

Those are the startups I'm going to recognize in this post, because I believe they had potential and failed before they got a chance to become what they could have been. They also serve as a lesson for all the entrepreneurs out there.

Startups That Failed Before Their Time

Here are four startups that failed before their time.


Dodgeball was a mobile social networking service, but it launched at a time when mobile social networking was unheard of. This location-based social network was held back by two things--when it launched there were no smartphones and no leading social network.

Facebook wasn't even around when Dodgeball launched, so it was a hard sell trying to convince people why they would want to receive regular updates, via text message no less, about what their friends are doing.

Lesson Learned: You may have a great idea, but if you don't have the technology to bring it to life it may never be fully appreciated.


This location-based social network launched in 2007, and only lasted five years before it folded. Several things held Gowalla back from reaching its full potential.

Gowalla was also doomed by launching ahead of its time. Smartphone technology hadn't advanced to where it is now, so Gowalla was only accessible via a mobile web app which further hindered the user experience.

Gowalla launched after raising $8.3 million in a venture capital round, and was eventually bought out by Facebook for $3 million. It goes to show that even when you're funded, and purchased by one of the world's largest companies, your startup can still fail.

Lesson Learned: Don't compete against a giant unless your technology can deliver a superior experience.


One of the many victims of the dot com bubble burst was Pets.com. Clearly, selling pet supplies online is a viable business model because many companies today are doing it successfully. So why did this startup only last two years?

According to Cnet, Pets.com didn't bring in enough money. They quickly found pet supplies were too expensive to ship, and they couldn't sell items at competitive prices. It didn't help that their sales relied on offering discounts and thereby slashing their profit margins.

Lesson Learned: Don't rush into a marketplace because it looks profitable without crunching all the numbers first.


Known as the company that took on Mint.com and lost, Wesabe now serves as a case study for other startup founders to learn from. The failure of Wesabe is actually documented by the founder himself in this blog article.

In the article he shares reasons for why Wesabe failed, which he sums up at the end by saying it's hard to change people's behavior. It doesn't help that they offered essentially the same service as Mint.com, but was more difficult for people to use. In the end, even though Wesabe launched first, the product with the better experience won in the end.

Lesson Learned: If you're launching a product that changes people's routine behavior, such as managing personal finances, make it as seamless to use as possible.

Are there any other examples of startups that failed before their time that you'd like to point out? Let me know in the comments section.