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Eureka: The failed business ideas database
by Joseph Gatt
2018-07-03 04:44:36
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A list of businesses that I have seen fail, on the verge of failing, or just not viable business ideas, in no particular order. For privacy and other reasons, I will either be vague or be specific only with high-profile cases. 

The Indian tour operator

Two Indian guys decide to start a tour operator in a developed country. They hire everyone, tour guides, administrative staff, security staff and other staff. But they are not getting the tourists. What went wrong?

faile001_400What's India famous for? The Taj Mahal, beaches, food, history, a melting pot of cultures and of coursee, the pursuit of a spritual rather than material life and all kinds of spiritual gurus. But what's India really famous for in the tourist world? Ask any tourist to give an honest opinion, and they will mention lax hygiene, food poisoning and in some cases cholera or diphteria, malaria and other stuff.

This basically means 20 something students do like to try the Indian adventure, or sometimes well-travelled adventurers. Who goes on tours? Your average 30, 40, 50 or 60 year-old, usually married couples with children or retired people, who have done little travelling before. The kind with fragile stomachs and strong comfort zones. Not the kind who would venture to India on a tour. 

The Canadian life coach

Self-help books and psychology books claim that everyone sees a psychologist or coach. The truth of the matter is most people don't want to let other people know that they're seeing a coach or a counselor. They say they're going out shopping or to the doctor when they're really seeing a counselor or a coach.

Plus the coaching business is not one where you enlighten impressionable minds. It's a world where people come to you on the brink of collapse, have huge problems, usually a mix of health, financial and marital problems.

Some coaches, including this Canadian coach, thought they could preach like Dr. Martin Luther King under a roar of applause. The truth is coaching is a rough business, because unlike other businesses, you won't even have your clients advising you of referring you to other clients. So the best way to go about it is to advertise in the papers, in one of those pages everyone reads but everyone pretends to skip, you know the one with all the astrology and relationship ads and what not. People still occasionally buy the papers, and still occasionally read those ads.

The ceramics shop

I've mentioned this guy before. A gifted ceramist, but not a gifted businessman. He spent months crafting plates, cups, tables, sinks all made of ceramics, and I must say he's very gifted. But the truth is most people buy plates, cups, tables and sinks from large retailers, and a lot of them buy in bulk. So if you wanted to succeed, he would really have to sign a deal with a large retail store.

The Professor

Here's how things worked up until the 1990s. If you were a museum and needed a historian, you would pay a professor. If you were a politician and needed advice, you would pay a professor. If you needed to learn a language, you would pay a professor. If you needed help solving a math problem you would call a professor. In today's day and age, you can google it all. There are apps for learning languages, and amateur yet very well researched history websites. So professors are left with their salary, in most cases don't have health insurance, and having a family with lots of kids probably isn't a good idea for a professor. Tenure is now a distant dream, as there are thousands of fresh Ph.D;s desperate for a job, who will take whatever you pay them. Plus with technology change and political change specialities are evolving, some disappear while others appear on the market. That means the subject you teach could no longer be needed.

The fish and chips shop in Paris

McDonald's in Paris is something for mostly working class African immigrants. It is so much so that rival fast-food chains are mostly Halal chains, and Quick, another rival chain, got its knuckles wrapped when it offered a Halal menu, which I think was unfair given that fast-food in France is something predominantely for Muslim migrants. The French like their slow food. If you want a fish and chips store in France, you want to cater to either British or American expats or to those Muslim expats, and that means you need to do away with the pale ale.

Disneyland Europe and Disneyland Asia

People don't go to Paris, Tokyo or Hong Kong so they can go to Disneyland. That would be like going to Orlando for sushi or to L.A. for wine and cheese. No one really does that. By the way people go to LA for Sunset Boulevard and Universal studios and just barely squeeze in a vist to Disneyland. But there's just too much to see in Paris, Tokyo or Hong Kong to drop by Disneyland. When people want to go to Disneyland, they tend to go to Orlando.

The Algerian online ticket salesman

This guy wants people to buy their football match tickets and concert tickets online. That would be a great idea in Europe, although the big names own the market. You need to know that when I go see a football match in Algiers, I rarely buy a ticket, entrance tends to be free. In some stadiums there's a ticket salesman and I'm not even sure if he works for the club or is just taking advantage of the general anarchy, and the ticket costs less than a dollar. As for concerts, they tend to be for VIPs only, tend to be incredibly expensive, and a lot of times you have to insit to find out the location of ticket sales. You know what happens when Algerian crowds gather. I went to the cinema once and it was quite an experience, with all the conversation, yelling and smoking inside the cinema. That's what makes Algerians charming.

The Algerian smart building system

Have these people ever seen an Algerian building, with all the elevators that never work and the random distribution for mail, in often broken mail boxes. The building database will soon be used as a storatge area, or perhaps as a room for some drug addict who got kicked out of the house by his or her parents.

The entire Third Culture Kid-based business

Third Culture Kids are people like me who spent their entire life living from country to country. There were entire businesses where people made their millions counseling people like us, which were often vain counseling sessions. But with all the migrant crises around the world, perhaps spending your life living from country to country does not sound cool anymore, especially when it's no longer people with drivers who own swimming pools in their large house.  

The academic media outlet

I'll save a personal anecdote for last. I love helping people, so I once got a call asking for help. It was a French startup who wanted to translate academic work from English to French. That's interesting, I thought. Except that they wanted to hire interns to translate thousands of pages of documents for little or no pay. Guys, I said, if you want quality translations, especially for academic work, you need to pay at least 50 bucks a page. Plus you need to hire translators with advanced degrees who can sort out and understand the materials they are translating. Finally, you need a brain trust of people who can sort through the papers and decide what to publish and what not to publish. But the demand is there. Thousands of students skip university classes and look for their notes at the last minute before the test.

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