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Three Ways to Fail: Startups DrawQuest, Outbox and CarWoo Die

R.I.P., young startups.


Best case scenario if your startup tanks — find a big company to buy you and salvage your team and tech for parts. (Swooping in here is what Facebook and Google do best.)

But for some, getting bought isn’t always on the table.

That was the case for Canvas and DrawQuest, the drawing app and community launched by 4Chan founder Chris Poole a few years ago. The company announced on Tuesday it would be shutting down, just months after Poole launched the app on the iPhone.

But Poole’s admission of failure, as others have noted, was refreshingly honest compared to the many, many other startups that die unceremonious deaths in the Valley.

“Today my startup failed,” Poole’s personal blog post read. “No soft landing, no happy ending — we simply failed.”

In an exit interview with TechCrunch, Poole admitted he tried shopping DrawQuest around for a potential acquisition. No one took him up on the offer.

Simultaneously, the mail-focused startup Outbox announced on Tuesday that it, too, had failed in gaining traction with its original conception — a service that scans physical mail and sends it to your email inbox for reading.

In its own lengthy blog post, the Outbox team detailed certain aspects of its demise, citing rising user acquisition costs and a falling-out with the United States Postal Service (once a partner of Outbox).

It seems that Outbox, however, is where Poole was a few years ago in its failure cycle. When Poole’s first idea for a community-based drawing site (Canvas) flopped, he used the remaining funds he had to create DrawQuest. Outbox isn’t talking about its next moves, but the startup is indeed working on a new product with its own team and resources.

Update 2:15 pm PST: And wouldn’t you know it, yet another startup died in the time this post was being edited. CarWoo, an online car-buying marketplace, announced it too had closed its doors as of Tuesday.

Perhaps the Outbox team will have better success in its second iteration — whatever that may be. CarWoo had a partial exit, with some of its team members jumping to join its competitor, TrueCar. And though he hasn’t figured out what’s next, Poole has his 4Chan background and venture capital connections to fall back on.

In other words, it’s just another day in Silicon Valley.

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