Amazon, PayPal, Uber and More: Here’s What You Can Learn From These Startups That Seemed Destined to Fail

31, 2021

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

More than half of Americans want to become entrepreneurs, according to a recent study. Unfortunately, only a fraction of them will ever live to see this dream come true, and that’s because some ideas were never meant to be. Or were they?

Even though some ideas might not seem fit for the business landscape today, the world is constantly changing, and so are people’s needs. This means that an idea so outlandish it could never exist today might turn into a Fortune 500 company a couple of years or decades from now.

Nobody can predict the future, no matter how many years of experience or millions of dollars invested. In the end, it’s always up to the consumers to decide what sticks and what doesn’t, and their choices, no matter how surprising, shape the world as we know it.

Today, the popularity of some companies is a no-brainer, but when they were conceived, the concepts were so far-fetched that investors either decided against placing a bet on them or sold their shares very quickly, depriving themselves of the billions of dollars of net worth they could have now had they only been more patient and trusted the founders. 

Here are some of the best examples of how a seemingly “bad” idea turned out to be an incredible one.  


The whole purpose of taking pictures is to capture the moment, so it seems contradictory to want your photos to disappear seconds after you take them. Despite that, three Stanford classmates thought otherwise and decided to pursue their idea.

As it turned out, the people have spoken, and while the founders’ concept didn’t quite align with common sense, in less than a year, Snapchat was processing 25 images every second. Today, we’re all familiar with this app, and there’s no doubt that people do want the option of disappearing pictures. In fact, there are 265 million of those people  the number of daily active users Snapchat had in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Related: 3 Ways to Use Snapchat for Marketing


There are many things humans are concerned about, but at the top of that list, there’s or, more specifically, our own money. That’s why most people would be reluctant to trust complete strangers with their life savings, especially if the technology behind a new invention was relatively obscure and barely available to the general public.

Still, there were people brazen enough to launch a banking service through the , which many still hadn’t heard of. Sharing sensitive information required to legally open a bank account and money with strangers didn’t seem like the best idea, yet some novelty seekers decided to try out the new service. Today, PayPal has revolutionized the banking world and accounts for 14 percent of online payments


Many people would be fully satisfied with a great job that pays the bills and lets them pursue their passions, but not . In 1994, he left his job at a New York quantitative hedge fund, D. E. Shaw, to sell books on the internet, which, at the time, was an option known by only a few, such as academics, who used it for research. It wasn’t available to the general public. 

In an interview with David Rubenstein, Bezos recalls how his family asked what that whole internet thing was about. But that didn’t stop Bezos, who knew, deep down, that it was a viable idea and that the public would eventually see its potential. Even after the stock crash in early 2000, when the price dipped almost ten times and seemed to prove that an online bookstore might not be such a great idea after all, the company recouped and is now the second biggest in the world.

Related: Is Selling on Amazon Still a Profitable Business?


The fashion industry is worth $2.5 trillion, and over the years, we’ve seen many brands try to get a piece of that cake, with some of them even becoming household brands. Of course, fashion is subjective, but there’s one thing that people seem to agree with all over the internet: Crocs aren’t the most beautiful footwear on the planet and, combined with their relatively high price, the idea should be a flop. But that is far from the case. 

The company’s biggest disadvantage turned out to be the exact reason why people buy them, and just over the last year alone, the company’s stock price surged over nine times. Combined with the sightings of various celebrities wearing the clogs, it looks like Crocs are here to say despite what people might be saying about their looks.


Vehicles for hire have been around since the 17th century  way before the first car was invented. Even though the idea is old, one thing that has remained unchanged is the people designated as chauffeurs. It’s the safety we feel with them that ultimately makes us get in a car even though they’re complete strangers. So, what if you took away this trust factor and instead offered people cheaper rides with, potentially, more risk involved?

This is exactly what Uber did in 2009, and, despite our parents telling us to never get in a car with a stranger, the company has seen enormous success with its innovative service. Even after the boycotts surrounding the IPO, the company is alive and well, still standing strong as the largest taxi and limousine company.  

Related: How Uber Used a Simplified Business Model to Disrupt the Taxi Industry 

Let the public decide

While it’s definitely not easy to come up with an idea that will attract the masses and then turn it into reality, we often tend to think that just because anybody in our closest circle wouldn’t appreciate our idea, other people would give it a pass too. The truth is that out of over 7.5 billion people, some are sure to like what you’ve created, and maybe there will be enough of them to make it a viable market.

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