Last year, I was invited to speak at the inaugural edition of Fuckup Nights Timisoara. I immediately accepted, since I already knew about this concept. Plus, it always felt more genuine to me to talk about my failures, fuckups, than my successes. Not because I tend to focus on these more, as we all do sometimes, but because the lessons learned from these failures, help me a lot more.
Choosing a topic for my 5 minute speech wasn’t easy. Not out of lack of failures – quite the opposite. My list of failed projects and initiatives is longer than I sometimes care to admit. But since I had to choose only one, I chose to speak about a project that I managed to fuck up in a multitude of spectacular ways: Xsight.
Xsight Media, launched in 2007, was a digital signage advertising network. The idea was simple: we had about 25 TV screens in coffee shops and bars around town and every 15 minutes or so we would interrupt normal TV broadcast with our own ads.
It was genius! Back then, TVs in these kinds of public locations weren’t as ubiquitous as they are now, so they were a huge draw, especially during special events (football games, etc.). We had developed a custom software to keep track of such events and schedule our ads accordingly. It was genius, I tell you.
I was so confident that this was going to be the next big thing in advertising, that not only did I finance it out-of-pocket, not only did I push to skip any sort of trial / pilot programs, but I also gave our partner locations such amazing terms, promising them we would pay rent regardless of how many ads were running. Yes, we basically paid them to allow us to give them free TVs.
A friend of mine, a bar owner, pointed out to me that what I proposed made no sense, business or otherwise. In fact, he even offered to help me with reaching out to potential advertisers, all of whom he knew personally, in exchange for 10% of equity. I flat-out refused. I mean, 10% from a such an amazing idea?! And for what? For talking to some people? How hard could that be?
So, three months later we closed shop.
Quite predictably, we ran out of money due to the exorbitant rent I proposed. And also, no advertisers that could afford to use our service (we, of course, had premium pricing), wanted to work with us. They had no idea who we were and no reason to trust us. Who could have seen that coming?!
While the project in its entirety can be considered a huge failure, I look at it more like a series of smaller failures on a personal level that inevitably led to Xsight’s doom, even before it had a chance to exist.
Did I learn from this experience? Sure, I can honestly say that I didn’t make these exact mistakes again. I made a whole range of new ones.