Sep 14

Biggest Losers – My Top 5 Over Hyped Tech Failures

A friend and I were talking about making an anti time capsule; essentially listing technologies that were super hyped at the time but quickly sank into oblivion. So here is my top 5 list with a bonus phoenix at the end.



This may be the king of the hype cycle with no less than Steve Jobs claiming that it was going to change the way cities were built.

“If enough people see the machine you won’t have to convince them to architect cities around it. It’ll just happen.” — Steve Jobs, quoted in a book proposal

Google Wave

google_wave_logoWhen Google first announced Wave people clamored for invites. After they released the first 100,000 there were blog posts about how one could get invited. Having a Wave account showed you were on the cutting edge and in the know.

Google Wave was only around for a year, but we will all remember it as a hugely hyped failure from Australia.



Webvan, the grocery delivery service started by the founder of Borders books stores, took $1.2 billion in funding during the dotcom bubble. To be fair, today Fresh Direct seems to be doing just fine, so this is a failure in execution over vision. But it is still a pretty spectacular failure.



Discontinued in 2011, Zune was Microsofts ill fated attempt to compete with the iPod.

This product was probably DOA due to the DRM imposed my Microsoft. You could either buy an iPod that would play any mp3 you had, or a Zune player that would only play WMA files. Apparently you could convert an mp3 to a WMA file, but at the time I remember thinking it was a brain dead decision to require DRM on all files.

A Small World


For a time the early social networking site that billed itself as Myspace for Millionaires garnered attention and investment. The exclusivity and high society angle made it good fodder for newspaper and magazine articles:  W Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and their long list of press articles.

But then Facebook came along.

While the company has pivoted several times it now has a bit of a sordid history of lawsuits.

YouTube ???


As an special bonus, while researching the Zune failure, I found this 2009 Time Magazine article declaring the 10 worst failures in tech including YouTube.

Failure to Launch – YouTube

In November 2006, Google (GOOG) bought YouTube for $1.65 billion. There is a fairly good chance that the search company will never get a return on that investment. 

Oops. I guess it isn’t a good idea to call the fight before it’s over.

There are others that should probably have made my list, but these are the ones that were most personal to me. Which tech disasters do you remember most vividly?

Sep 14

The Inner Game of the Boardroom


I’ve recently been reading the excellent book The Inner Game of Tennis; it is ostensibly about how to play tennis, but it is really about how to perform under pressure.

[T]he inner game. This is the game that takes place in the mind of the player, and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt and self-condemnation. In short, it is played to overcome all habits of mind which inhibit excellence in performance.

The book talks about how we each have two selves, conveniently titled Self 1 and Self 2 in the book. Self 1 is our conscious self, the ego; Self 2 is our unconscious mind that does most of the work in sports.

Trust the body to learn and to play, as you would trust another person to do a job, and in a short time it will perform beyond your expectations.

The book devotes a lot of time discussing how Self 1 talks to Self 2. If you’ve played a sport like Tennis or Golf then you’ve probably caught yourself saying things like “Play better.” At least I know that I often say things like “Come on Lucas, get it together.” That is Self 1 berating Self 2. What interests me most about this form of talking to myself is that I’d never speak to another person that way. If one of my teammates  in soccer made a bad pass I’d never say that to them, instead I’d offer positive encouragement. So why do I treat myself worse than I’d treat teammates or strangers?

I believe this isn’t just applicable to sports or physical activities, I think this same sort of internal dialogue happens in many pressure situations: giving a speech, pitching an investor, or running a difficult board meeting. Getting down on oneself and thinking: “Well that was a stupid thing to say.” isn’t going to help the situation.

Letting go of the judging process is a basic key to the Inner Game;

Instead, calmly acknowledge to yourself that whatever action didn’t have the desired outcome and then let go of the recrimination. This action will allow your natural coarse correction to take over which should get you back on track. Being calm and composed, either in sports or in the boardroom, gives you mind the ability to perform at it peak which will repair situations that have begun to go off the rails.