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Ask HN: Is there a repository of failed startups (re-usable startups idea)?
76 points by zeratul 1939 days ago | hide | past | web | 38 comments | favorite
I was wandering if someone keeps records of failed tech/internet startups and their codebase?

Maybe it's not a bad idea to go back and re-use some of the failed startups whether it's a codebase or just a business model. I found a lot of reason for failed startups but not many use cases - mostly scattered around the Internet.

If someone would built such a database would you contribute your failed business model and codebase?

I wrote a book that describes ~150 venture-backed internet startups that failed in the late 90's.

Many of them had significant users and revenue, but were mismanaged and failed.

I've often thought many of them could be successful today.

"F'd Companies: Spectacular Dot-com Startups" http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0743228626

There were many gems hidden in the rough on your original website. Whatever happened to the db of posts?

It was practically a catalog of pathological behaviors during a company's end.

I still have the database somewhere. Those days are behind me though so I probably won't put it online.

The best ones really are in the book though.

The link takes you to a mobile version of Amazon.

Here's a regular link:


I just picked up a copy on Amazon. Thanks Pud for mentioning this. I had forgotten about this book and I had wanted to read it.

I own TheSunsetList.com domain and was planning on using it for this exact purpose. To catalog what has been tried, what mistakes have been made so that they're not made over and over.

If you guy(s) want to, we can team up and colaborate on this and make it happen. Yes crunchbase exists but it describes only the biggest failures and doesn't go into much detail as to why they fell and shut down.

Well tbh, the question is really how would you go on about knowing about failed startups. Especially not the big ones, since typically no one covers a failed startup that no one has heard about and they just go out without even a puddle in the water.

I figured a few of us here would start by pitching in our own stories, giving numbers, time spent, money lost, the nitty gritty details and in time when others see how valuable that information is they'll feel comfortable enough to share their stories too, adding on to the list. I mean entrepreneurship is all about failure. For anyone to NOT want to talk about it is to reject the fact that it's our failures that lead to successes. And there's plenty of entrepreneurs on HN and plenty of failures. Definitely enough to put together a few stories.

I was thinking about a database where (co-)founders would enter the data - a drop-down menus, where possible, for data mining. Something like:

    1. Here is what I was trying to build
    2. Here is the source code (link to GitHub?)
    3. Here is a screenshot
    4. Here is how I wanted to make money
    5. Here are my competitors
    6. Here is how much I raised money
    7. Here are top 5 reasons why I failed
    8. ???
Yes, CrunchBase has some of the above and, yes, some founders will put it on their blog. But wouldn't be it so much nicer to have a centralized database that could spit out some analitycs/trends and give guidance to newcomers? The volume of startups will grow. What if some failures are seasonal or can be pick-up and fixed? I think we have a chance for a data driven approach but only if founders are willing to contribute.

EDIT: I suspected that CrunchBase will have some errors and missing info since ANYONE can edit those entries. Maybe there was NO way to have founders enter such data ...

There's a deadpooled tag on Crunchbase:


Not sure about a dedicated site, but an entity like YC or TC would be a very good fit for tracking this sort of info, because it is directly related to what they do.

I could contribute a couple of entries, both of which are highly recyclable and I was actually waiting for a way to let other people have a go at them.

Here's a compilation of 32 startup failure post-mortems which means 32 biz models to take a look at.


There was an awesome site during the early 2000's dot com crash called fuckedcompany.com - the company I worked for at the time was listed ("SmartWORLD" - it went bust on sept 12, 2001). The fuckedcompany.com site is now inactive, but you can check out the list of snapshots on the wayback machine here ...


<=== this is all the 2001 snapshots ... note lots of activity in the last 3 months of the year.

Here's the home page from Nov 30, 2001 for example. http://web.archive.org/web/20011130073049/http://www.fuckedc...

The archive link on the home page works ok for some more write ups.

Better angle: compile a list of companies that have been acquired by goog/msft/fbook and so on.

Luckily wikipedia has done the work for you:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_acquisitions_by_Google http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_acquisitions_by_Microso... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_acquisitions_by_Oracle

And so on.

You might have trouble getting the codebase. I was employee #2 at a startup that shut down after about 1.5 years, and at the end we sold off everything.

I don't specifically know what happened to the source code but last I heard there were companies interested in it. Nobody that was going to do exactly what we were trying to do, but companies who could make use of a decent codebase if they could get it on the cheap. They would have gotten a few years of work for significantly less money (and time) than it'd cost them to build it themselves.

I wonder how many software developers take a dump of the source code repo on their way out of a company which has gone under? my guess is that most would, if only under the pretense of keeping some sort of historical backup in case noone else does... [admission: I did do that myself one time].

Do you know the process they went about in selling everything? I'm in a startup and we may be thinking of this too, perhaps approaching competitors. But still unsure about it.

For all the physical pieces of the company, I know he sent an email to the local tech-startup mailing list, at least. There's a pretty solid startup community here. For the digital assets, I really don't know, sorry. I assume it would be similar to seeking acquisition offers, but I'm definitely no expert.

Good question. And it could lead to the possibility to resurrect a site: in code, in name or in users.

I would crosscheck crunchbase against the underlying domains, and not rely on the deadpool tag. Also, check the site stats the profiles show.

Take livekick for example: http://www.crunchbase.com/company/livekick http://livekick.com/

You could also look at tweet activity: last to and last from. (and last blog post)

You could call the site Life Support.

I'd be very careful about trying to "resurrect" failed start-up ideas like this.

Unless you're one of very few people, you can't effectively solve a problem you don't have personally. If you try and things start to look like they're working, someone who actually has the problem and knows all the details can pop up and wipe you out.

Also, the reasons why start-ups fail are not always obvious. In many cases, what appears to be a good idea really isn't for reasons that only the prior founders understand. Without exact knowledge of the past, you're very likely to fall into the same trap that killed the previous start-up.

I suppose there are two workarounds for this:

1) ex-founders can aim to work or advise for any take-2 startup: the site helps them do that

2) reasons for failure are placed on the site, and possible solutions

If I were you I would be more interested in companies that were started, got some traction and sold out for low double digit millions only to be shut down by their acquirer.

Fflick, for example, was a really interesting idea and seemed to be getting some play - now it's gone. Dodgeball -> Foursquare, etc.

Edit: Whoops - I didn't read the OP closely. I thought you were only looking for ideas/ business models, but obviously this would not work for codebases.

I am working on something that addresses this need exactly. Should have a product out very shortly, been working on it for a few months now as a side project.

This is great! I surely would like to see your codebase. I wander what is your angle on this matter. Why are you interested in failed startups? I want to see patterns and draw conclusions.

Can you PM the OP and the other interested people? It would be great if we could pool our resources and make this happen.

I wondered a bit. "Can you post meridiem the OP"? "Can you Prime minister the OP"?

Oh, I got it: "Can you personal message the OP" (which lacks a verb).

Ive built the stack in LAMP- If anyone has any interest in contributing some code by all means ping me ( dan @ harknesslabs .com )

For mobile apps, keep an eye out for Apptopia (http://apptopia.com/)

It would be nice if there was a site built ontop of CrunchBase to document failures, reasons & any other insight.

Launched in 2005, deadpooled on August 9, 1973 :O

Am I missing the inside joke on this?

It looks like someone edited the exit year for Reddit to 1973.

You're probably better off going after proven, successful ideas than failed ones. Friendster, MySpace, TiVo, Palm pilot, Blackberry, Alta vista, were all up and dominated their markets when a new competitor took over.

The value is more in the execution than the idea.

FuckedCompany.com was the place to be. Also the chapter on the dotcom bubble in A Random Walk Down Wallstreet has a nice selection ;-)

try crunchbase? I know the German equivalent of crunchbase has a list of "failed" startups as well.

Sounds like a decent start-up idea

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