1858 – Edwin Drake invents the oil drill. He never acquired a patent and a lot of other people made a lot of money off his invention.

1876 – Western union miss the opportunity to buy the telephone from Alexander Bell. Bell ended up founding his own company.

1903 – Gillette tried to introduce the disposable razor blade. People went use to throwing things out, especially if they had to be bought with real money. It was only the blade that was disposable, you were supposed to keep the handle, but people kept their old habits. Eventually disposable blades were used in the First World War, and returning soldiers had gotten use to disposable blades and passed the habits onto others. Now disposability is the norm.

1937 – The founders of McDonalds open their first restaurant, actually a hot dog stand. They didn’t think hamburgers were a worthwhile product at the time so didn’t include them on the menu.

1958 – Ford motors tries to market the Edsel model car. Aimed to fall between the average and the prestige car the Edsel’s price was not much less than many superior makes. This relatively high price, along with the 1957 recession, the unpopular stying of the vehicle and the unreliable workmanship, caused the car to be a marketing failure, losing the company millions of dollars.

Over the next few decades many of the Edsel’s design ideas became popular with other manufactures, and the few individuals cars that survived proved collectable and valuable.

1970s- Xerox lets several Apple employees visit their facilities, where they see Xerox Alto with graphic user interface. Apple made billions with ideas ‘inspired’ by this.

1975 – Kodak had developed a digital camera, but felt it might threaten their existing markets. Several years other companies moved into digital photography before Kodak, who finally started the transition in the 1990’s. Kodak was looking at bankruptcy in 2012, but managed to hold on after selling many of its patents.

1985 – Coke asks the public what it wants in a soft drink, via taste tests, and changes the flavour of the product accordingly. The public then refuses to buy what it wanted! The reason why is still debated: the public had an emotion attachment to the original flavour, people are conservative when it comes to icons, taste tests are unreliable because people prefer sweet things at first, then prefer something else. In the end Coke brought back the original flavour, and the ostensibly improved version drifted into obscurity.]

1991. The owner of Ratner’s jewellery decried one of his own products (a sherry decanter) as ‘total crap’. The company, which had made a profit of 110 million pounds in the previous year and was looking to buy other businesses, lost 500 million pounds in value over the space of a few weeks and plunged into a 122 million pound loss. Ratner lost his job and the company had to be renamed.

1999 – Excite is offered the initial version of Google for one million dollars, quickly cut to $750 000. The refused. Google was worth billions less than a decade later, and excite is a minor subsidiary of another company.

2000 AOL acquires Time Warner. One of the largest mergers in history it seemed the combination of internet with film and music culture was the way of the future. Nine years later the companies split, estimated worth gone from $300.oo billion to $40 billion.

2012 – JC Penney use to do well with cloths sales via their pretend discounts; people bought a $10.oo shirt because it was supposedly discounted from $20.oo. In 2012 a new executive decided to be honest and just sell the items as the real price of $10.oo. Sales plummeted by 25% and the company had to return to its previous policies to stay in business.


The 25 Worst Business Failures in History