Clark’s Company Graveyard
The following sites and services have been mentioned by Clark over the years and each one has its own special place in our hearts. May they all rest in peace…
Fresh & Easy – Died December 2012
British grocer Tesco is retreating from the U.S. market after they spent nearly $2 billion trying to launch their Fresh & Easy brand. Like their name suggests, Fresh & Easy stores had a focus on freshly prepared food and were smaller than your average grocery store. Tesco managed to launch about 200 stores in Arizona, California, and Nevada before they announced plans to shutter U.S. operations.
Cisco Valet – Died November 2011
Back in 2010, I was jumping for joy about Cisco’s Valet. The device, which originally sold for $160, promised a plug-and-play way to get an instant wifi hot spot at your home without having to be a tech wizard. But it turns out the public was not interested at all. I recently saw the Valet on one of the deal-a-day sites being sold for $14! Let me tell you, that is the sign of a failure in the marketplace if there every was one. I just had to laugh!
CommonCentsMobile.com – Died May 18, 2011
This Sprint subsidiary offered a pay-as-you-go mobile plan that at just 7 cents per minute or per text message undercut even Net 10. Plans started at $20 for 30 days of service with up to 565 minutes. CCM had a unique ’round down’ policy, where if you talked for 1 minute and 46 seconds on a call that would only count as one minute of your time. By contrast, most other companies would automatically round you up to 2 minutes. But in mid 2011, Sprint decided to fold Common Cents into payLo by Virgin Mobile. Existing CCM customers are being grandfathered in at 7 cents as long as their account is active.
The Flip – Died April 2011
I ‘flipped’ over this ultra-small handheld camcorder that initially entered the market with prices starting around $100. The Flip was only about the size of a pack of cigarettes, making it easy to find without having to fumble around for your camera at the right momnt. It even passed my own ‘dunce cap test,’ so I didn’t even need to look at the owner’s manual to operate it! Unfortunately, the advanced cameras and HD video capability of many smartphones made the Flip obsolete. (Flip devices and software like FlipShare will continue to be supported by manufacturer Cisco through the end of 2013.)
SaysMe.tv – Exact date of death unknown, but believed to be early 2011
Targeted TV ads had traditionally been too expensive for small business owners until SaysMe.tv leveled the playing field. SaysMe bought unloved ad inventory at a fraction of the regular cost and sold it on the cheap. In late 2010, buying an ad spot through SayMe on MTV, for example, in the Raleigh, N.C. market at 4 p.m. cost just north of $180. If you wanted to run your ad before 4 p.m. on the channel, the asking price dropped to a little more than $90 because your target audience was still at school. Non-peak ad slot in smaller market went for $20 or $30!
Wesabe.com – Died July 31, 2010
Much like more popular competitor Mint.com, Wesabe.com offered free online budgeting tools. You gave Wesabe access to all your accounts and it automatically tracked your spending. The unique name apparently derived from saber, the Spanish word for ‘to know’ because the goal was to empower consumers with insight into their spending habits. Lack of funding and poor customer service stemming from understaffing were cited as reasons for going bust in a goodbye message to users.
Dash.net – Died June 30, 2010
The Dash was a pioneering unit that offered real-time traffic updates compiled from drivers on the road. This massive appliance was six or eight times the size of a GPS, and it sat on your car’s dashboard. With a wifi connection, the Dash compiled live traffic info from other motorists on the road who also had their Dash units enabled. In cities where it reached critical mass with drivers, you could travel on a secondary surface street and know what the traffic was like. But Dash was expensive to buy and had a high monthly service fee. In addition, the popularity of smart phones with built-in GPS features made any kind of standalone unit obsolete.
Lala.com – Died May 31, 2010
While it’s illegal to share copyrighted digital music, sharing CDs is fine. So Lala initially offered an online CD-exchange service, taking a finder’s fee of $1 to arrange a trade. The service later began paying the record labels for music and making it available for free streaming on your computer as a loss leader, with the hopes that you’d discover new music and buy the album at normal market prices. The service was bought by Apple and shut down.
Venjuvo.com – Died August 2009
This early ‘cash for old gadgets’ venture offered an online trade-in center that paid you for your pre-owned electronics — everything from cell phones, MP3 players, computers and cameras to GPS systems and gaming consoles. Venjuvo offered pre-paid shipping and users typically received their payment in three business days…until the service went caput.
JetAmerica.com – Died July 2009
This American hard discount airline promised nines seats for $9 on every flight, with fares stepping up from there. They planned to start with one single aircraft per route and add more over time so as to not risk growing too quickly. Well, they sure avoided that pitfall!
SpiralFrog.com – Died March 2009
This site offered free ad-supported music downloads from major label partners like Universal and EMI. Since launching in 2006, SpiralFrog is rumored to have burned through more than $40 million in capital. In addition, some say the service’s pro-digital rights management (DRM) stance — an unpopular restriction in an age when people want to take their music across platforms — also helped seal its fate.
MyRichUncle.com – Died February 2009
The student loan website analyzed factors like GPA, desired field of study and the school you were planning on attending to make merit-based loans to students will little or no credit history. Goodbye, Uncle!
ThePudding.com – Died December 2008
This Web site offered free long distance with one slightly strange catch. ThePudding.com used artificial intelligence to listen in to your call and then generate keywords to feed ads to your computer while you used the free service.
ZOOTS – Died April 2008
This high-volume dry cleaner failed after finding out just how difficult it is to crack a mom-and-pop industry. Among the features ZOOTS offered was 24-hour service, easy online scheduling and pick up and delivery. The company is being disassembled piecemeal, so you may still see select locations with the ZOOTS name.
Eos Airlines – Died April 27, 2008
The collapse of this all-business class carrier with service between New York’s JFK and London Stansted Airport came as a surprise. ‘[It is] particularly regrettable since we have achieved so much, including having a term sheet in hand for additional financing,’ the airline’s website revealed before going permanently offline. Eos’ ad tagline was ‘Uncrowded. Uncompromising. Unairline.’ Well, they sure got the last part right!
Skybus Airlines – Died April 5, 2008
Modeled after Europe’s highly successful Ryanair, Skybus initially launched in May 2007 with one-way fares starting at $10. Skybus would ultimately serve 17 U.S. destinations before the high price of jet fuel and the slowing economy clipped the airline’s wings.
SunRocket Internet Phone Service – Died July 2007
Clark was a big fan of SunRocket, a company that offered some of the best deals out there on Voice-Over-Internet Phone service. Maybe it was too good a deal–they went belly-up without warning in July 2007.
Automatic vending machines – Died November 2003
Clark first saw these machines in Europe and Asia, and since then they were unveiled in Washington, D.C. Items in these huge vending machines built into a wall are much cheaper than in regular convenience stores because there is no need for labor. One machine called the Shop 2000 offered eggs, diapers, condoms and more. But it never gained traction in the States.
MGC.com – Died April 16, 2002
Mpower, the local telephone service provider formerly known as MGC, has now hit the skids. Clark and Kimberly took advantage of this plan, but they’ve had to find new service in recent weeks.
MyFreeCar.com – Date of death unknown
One of several car wrapping sites that has gone under. These companies pay you up to $400 a month just to drive around with advertising on your car. This car wrapping site appeared to have bitten the dust, but apparently it has been purchased by another car advertising company, freemedia.com. Others that have gone by the wayside are ‘UDrive4Cash’ and ‘carwrap.com.’
e-Voice – Died August 2001
This free voice mail service alerted members to new voice mail messages with an e-mail message. Once at your e-mail provider, you could view your voicemail messages online. When introduced, eVoice services were free. But as more people became addicted (Ahem, Clark’s E.P. Christa), the company started charging $1.95 a month and was charging up to $7 a month before it went bust.
AllAdvantage.com – Died Feb. 1, 2001
This was a free Internet service that actually paid customers who agreed to view advertising as they searched the Web. Users, like Clark, received $12.50 a month. What a great idea it was.
Freeway – Died February 2001
This once-famed long distance service offered up to two free hours of long distance calling a month for listening to ads. Customers had to listen to brief ads for two free minutes of calls. It went under after new visitors and non-members were asked to make some type of purchase before gaining access to the free long distance service. Bah-bye!
Virgin Connect Me – Died Nov. 15, 2000
This easy-to-use Internet device offered free Internet access and e-mail service for one year. Clark’s wife, Lane, Kimberly and Teresa (both staffers) all took advantage of the free device, which the first 10,000 qualifying applicants received. They all had to send the device back, however, when the company announced Virgin Connect Me was dead.
HM Vehicles Freeway – Died July 1982
I was an early adopter of this three-wheeled car that ran on a 12-horsepower Tecumseh engine and got 100 miles to the gallon. But it had no reverse gear. If I stuck the vehicle’s nose too far out in traffic at a yield sign, I had to get out and push the car back. And once I accelerated too quickly on a highway and the front lifted straight off the ground! The manufacturer went bust, but ah, those were the days!