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SILICON VALLEY
GRAVEYARD

A scary place of the biggest startup failures. Hundreds of millions of dollars that went into the trash. What, where and how?

10. Terralliance

Years of life

2003-2009

Money invested

352 M

Overview

Terralliance was looking for oil by using low and slow flying airplanes. Founder Erland Olson really wanted to use US U-2 spy planes for this job. However, there was a problem, U2's were not available for commercial use they were only available for military use. Instead, Olson went to Russia and acquired two Sukhoi SU-27 fighter jets. The stories that Olson told his investors that this will be a quick IPO and the company be worth sixty billion dollars. In his own word, that would make him a three commas guy. After having spent three hundred million dollars, he said the following, " We spent like NASA during the Apollo program, and we were on our way to the moon as well."

Why closed?

With that kind of aggressive spending, they ran out of cash in 2009 and the game was up for Terralliance. It got so bad that even some of the investors shoot Olson. Apart from the big-spending founder, it looks like the product never worked, they never really found a product-market fit.

9. AMP'D Mobile

Years of life

2005-2007

Money invested

400 M

Overview

AMP'D Mobile was launched as a new mobile phone provider. They targeted a younger demographic and featured downloadable and streaming video, as well as live events, which was all new at the time.

Why closed?

AMP'D Mobile just wasn't restrictive enough on their credit check. To boost growth, they let anyone become a customer. On top of this, they gave people 90 days credit. And after 90 days half of the customers couldn't pay the bills.

8. Pay By Touch

Years of life

2002-2007

Money invested

420 M

Overview

Pay By Touch was a payment provider that offered biometric authentification at the point of sale, which was supposed to be a low-cost alternative to other payment options.

Why closed?

In 2007 Pay By Touch has lost 137 M, based on the revenue of 600 K. That was the first sign of overspending on buying the competition, and employing too many people. It was clearly wrong managing by the CEO, even though the idea was great, but in the end, it all comes to execution.

7. Webvan

Years of life

1996-2001

Money invested

570 M

Overview

Webvan was an online grocery store where the customers could pick a 30-minute window where they get their stuff delivered

Why closed?

First, there's premature scaling. Webvan went into 10 markets almost right away and invested in very expensive infrastructure. Second, there was a bad timing. Neither the technology, nor the customers were ready for Webvan, it was just too early.
Third, there was no product-market fit.

6. Abound Solar

Years of life

2007-2012

Money invested

688 M

Overview

Abound Solar was manufacturing think solar panels. A lot of money was flowing into R&D in solar as the cost of polysilicon rocketed in 2008 and the industry was looking for alternatives.

Why closed?

When the price of polysilicon plummeted, they were too expensive and couldn't compete.  

5. Theranos

Years of life

2003-2018

Money invested

714 M

Overview

Theranos was making a blood-testing device that could test you for any diseases with only a tiny blood drop.

Why closed?

The product never really worked. There was a product Edison, but it could never do what it claimed it could do. They misled investors, bullied employees and there might have been criminal behaviour. In three words there was no product-market fit.

4. Better Place

Years of life

2007-2013

Money invested

742 M

Overview

Better Place was building a global network of battery charging and battery switching services for electric cars.  The key was the battery switching, that meant you can have a fully charged battery in minuted instead of a long change.

Why closed?

This was a cumbersome solution to a problem that wasn't big enough and would solve itself in only a few years when batteries would be larger and charge faster. In total, Better Place ended up selling 1500 cars, that's not a lot compared to 700 M invested. They weren't producing the cars, but car manufacturers did it. Better Place ended up investing half a million into every car ever sold. There was no product-market fit.

3. Jawbone

Years of life

1999-2017

Money invested

1028 M

Overview

Jawbone developed and produced wearable technologies, such as wristbands, wireless Bluetooth headsets, and related technologies.

Why closed?

They were always struggling in fierce competition with Fitbit. Jawbone struggled with both hardware and software problems, as well as missed too many product deadlines. Additionally, there were such problems as: over funding, huge spendings and the lack of customer support.

2. Go.com

Years of life

1999-2001

Money invested

1143 M

Overview

Go.com was a startup inside Disney. Disney wanted to make a portal that contained all of Disney's content. They even acquired a search engine, Infoseek, to add on top of Go.com.

Why closed?

Disney CEO Bob Iger said about this situation: "We were wrong, we couldn’t attract enough consumers, even with the might and marketing clout of the rest of the company. And we couldn’t attract enough advertising revenue."

1. Solyndra

Years of life

2005-2011

Money invested

1822 M

Overview

Solyndra was a manufacturer of thin solar cells. They were not using polysilicon, that created a big advantage in 2008, where it was extremely expensive, and there was even a shortage of polysilicon.

Why closed?

The advantage disappeared quickly as the price plummeted from 400 to 50 for one kilogram. Solyndra couldn't compete against cheap Chinese solar panels, as the price plummeted so much.