Rub shoulders with leading experts and industry disruptors at TNW Conference →

The heart of tech

This article was published on June 10, 2011


    We haven’t failed, but successfully shown it doesn’t work

    We haven’t failed, but successfully shown it doesn’t work
    Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
    Story by

    Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

    CEO and co-founder, TNW

    Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and pr.co. Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

    A few years ago we developed a spam solution and founded a company to sell that service. We raised some money, wrapped up the development and got ready to launch.

    Usually the effectiveness of spam solutions are measured in a percentage. A solution might stop 80% of all spam. Or 95, or in some cases even 99,5%. Our solution was 130% effective.

    That meant that it stopped ALL your spam and about 30% of all your legitimate mail too. The product was a failure.

    We found out pretty quickly after we launched and soon had a meeting with the group of informal investors who funded us. We explained to them what happened and offered two options. 1: we could keep on developing, try to find a solution and work on it for another year or two. Or, the second option, we could kill the product and return most of the money ( a bit more than 50%) back to the investors.

    We didn’t look forward to that meeting and were ready for a few very unhappy people. But the meeting went a lot better than we expected. The investors appreciated our candor and opted for the money-back option. A few months later about half of them even decided to invest in our next idea.

    Now there are two ways to look back at this adventure. You could say the company failed. And you would be right.

    We look at it differently. We are very proud that we had the chance to successfully show that this particular solution didn’t work. Of course we would have preferred it if the solution would have been perfect, but at least we had the chance to give it a try.

    Video via Timo Kouwenhoven.