What're some examples of tech/inventors who got laughed out of the room
October 20, 2016 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Looking for people who had ideas that changed the economy but were initially ignored/shot down. Like Brian Chesky & AirBnB — he got 7 rejections for $150K investment in 10% of AirBnB in 2008, would be worth $300,000,000 today. Or Brad Feld - invented the Fitbit, said “literally every VC passed on me.” When do the VCs/futurists/pundit class get it wrong? Looking for more recent examples, not like poor Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis who pioneered antiseptics in the 19th century and ended up in an insane asylum.
posted by Peemster to Technology (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Fred Smith probably got a bad grade on the paper he wrote in college outlining the concept behind FedEx (but he probably didn't get a failing grade, and admits that it wasn't a well-thought-out paper).
posted by Etrigan at 9:45 AM on October 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Home pregnancy tests
posted by veery at 9:54 AM on October 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Early CT (aka CAT) scans were being worked on independently by several researchers, and appear to have been met with universal disdain.
" the radiologist at Queen's Square took the time to pick up the phone to call the official at the ministry of health who had sent Hounsfield to see him - the official was warned in no uncertain terms never again to waste the radiologists time with crackpot inventors peddling ridiculous contraption ideas such as this."

(Brightness of features scanned with CT is now standardized in Hounsfield units.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:47 AM on October 20, 2016

This is probably of interest to you: Bessemer's Anti-Portfolio.
posted by so fucking future at 11:16 AM on October 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh man, The two Steves repeatedly tried to get HP to buy/fund their early projects.
"So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we' ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.'"
--Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer.
posted by Mitheral at 11:54 AM on October 20, 2016

Ross Perot and Electronic Data Systems
posted by rhizome at 1:01 PM on October 20, 2016

Or Brad Feld - invented the Fitbit, said “literally every VC passed on me.”

Brad Feld is a VC based out of Boulder. I don't know Fitbit's story, but obviously not every VC passed on them since Foundy Group (of which Feld is a partner) was an early investor.
posted by sideshow at 1:52 PM on October 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Robert Kearns invented the intermittent windshield wiper. His invention was rejected by each of the Big Three, which, shortly thereafter, began using similar systems in their cars. He later won patent suits against two of the three.
posted by praemunire at 5:48 PM on October 20, 2016

Truett Cathy approached numerous shopping mall owners to put his fast-food restaurant in the mall. He was roundly rejected: 'People don't come to malls to eat.'
Today, of course, every mall has a food court. And in many of them you can find Chik-Fil-A.
posted by LonnieK at 5:41 AM on October 21, 2016

It's worth remembering that many rejected ideas that turned into amazing companies are quite different from the original pitch, notably including airbnb. So make sure that your examples are actually the brilliant economy changers that got rejected, not the air bed rental.
posted by ch1x0r at 10:13 AM on October 21, 2016

Chester Carlson had a lot of difficulty convincing anyone that dry photocopying was an idea worth pursuing.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:13 PM on October 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

To be sure, there is a truism for this topic: "Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats." --Howard Aitken
posted by rhizome at 1:22 PM on October 22, 2016

Planet Money just did a podcast on Howard Schneider who invented the self checkout machine. (this was just on the blue)
posted by Sophont at 8:51 PM on October 23, 2016

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