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5 biggest flops in business in 2018

Business · 4 min read

5 Biggest Flops in Business This Year

Electric motorbikes, Google's ghost town, free burgers for life, Jamie’s debts and the Netflix of watches: This week we look at some of this year’s most promising ideas which turned out to be some of the biggest flops in business.

Electric motorbikes running on empty

Up until recently, Alta Motors, a California-based company, was doing for motorcycles what Tesla does for cars: By producing an exciting range of electric dirt bikes, they helped redefine electric vehicles. But despite proving their machines at this year’s Erzberg Rodeo (one of the world’s most grueling enduro races), Alta Motors’ battery has suddenly gone flat. This is a huge shame in such a young industry, especially since sales growth had previously been strong. Troubles finding an investor bold enough to go full throttle on the innovative bikes appears to be the main reason behind the halt in business operations, but a recall on some models and low margins probably didn’t help either. 

Pulling the plug on Plus

Google's attempt at social media, Google+ never really got off the ground and was long derided as a ghost town. Originally launched in 2011, with the bold promise to change how people share content online. It introduces 'circles' that allowed users to compartmentalize contacts (e.g. into professional and personal or even by shared interests). Google tried everything from forcing users of their services to also have a profile on Plus to company profiles that promised good placement in Google search results. However, the site never garnered much engagement. People spent three minutes there on average in 2011 (compared to Facebook's 7.5 hours) and by 2018 that number was down to two seconds, which were probably mostly people who stumbled in by accident. After a security breach, Google finally gave up on their social experiment in October and announced phasing out the service within the next months.

Marketing with an aftertaste

Good taste is important if you’re running a restaurant. During the 2018 World Cup, Burger King’s Russian division forgot that for a moment - at least as far as their social media campaign was concerned. The bad-taste blooper? They ran a promotion offering female candidates three million Russian roubles (approx. $47,000) and a lifetime supply of Whoppers if they got pregnant by a soccer player competing in the World Cup. Predictably, the backlash was huge, and Burger King Russia was forced to apologize and withdraw the campaign soon after. Flame grilled or not, if you’re a fast-food restaurateur, good taste, it seems, needs to be found on your social media newsfeed and not just your griddle. 

Pasta Disaster

Despite being top-of-mind among food-loving consumers the world over, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver apparently expanded his brand too fast for its own good. Known for his casual take on cooking, Jamie launched a chain of UK restaurants dubbed Jamie’s Italian back in 2008. Faced with huge debts, he’s closing branches across the country in an attempt to save the business – after just ten years. So, what went wrong? After a rapid period of expansion, underperforming restaurants in his chain appear to have driven up costs – something that has been compounded by the cost of closing branches and realigning the business. Currently, the chain has debts of £71.5m. Will Jamie be able cook up a quick recipe to save the business in 2019? 

Watch your subscriptions

Instead of buying an expensive new watch, why not subscribe to a watch rental service and impress your friends and acquaintances by wearing a variety of new premium watches over a period of time? When it launched back in 2013, Eleven James made a splash with exactly this novel and well-publicized concept. At its height, the business was said to have had thousands of subscribers on its books and offered vintage-style watches as well as popular luxury brands, including Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Breitling. Dubbed the "Netflix of watches," the company’s inability to raise additional funds appears to be behind its immediate demise. What the underlying causes are, we don’t know.

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