Business ideas that should have failed, but didn't

Some brilliant business ideas crash and burn just because they came out at the wrong time or place, or the founders made some simple mistake. Other ideas succeed where they probably shouldn't have done. Here are five of the most notable:

Ship your enemies glitter

It's such a stupid idea, but the concept of posting glitter, "the herpes of the craft world", to your enemies was too delicious to fail. Instead the site went immediately viral and really caught the imagination of the world. It was so successful that the founder sold out almost immediately, making a more than healthy profit for a simple site.

In reality, it's probably the excellent copywriting that made the site such a huge success. Witty and self-aware, it really helped flesh out what was essentially just a daft idea. Just take a look at the expletive-ridden content of their website’s FAQ page for an idea of their unique approach to customer relations.


A healthy proportion of the world's adult population now use microblogging platform Twitter. But it's such a limited concept it's amazing that it took off at all. Posts are limited to only 140 characters and it took ages for any additional features to be added. It was never clear how the platform could be monetised, which makes it a miracle the founders ever got through the early years, and the conventions such as the use of tagging are baffling to internet newbies. Somehow, the timeliness of the updates really seems to serve a function and Twitter is often cited in the most up-to-date news reports. Now used by most journalists, it's an essential platform to remain connected.

The million dollar homepage

Crazy ideas were there from the very earliest days of the internet. Student Alex Tew wanted a side business to earn money for university and came up with the idea of offering advertising on a web page. He sold each pixel of a 1000x1000 grid page at a dollar each, and somehow it caught on. Major brands even joined in and Alex reached his million dollar target in only a few months. 

Pet rocks

A stupid idea from the 1980s that made the inventor a millionaire several times over. Pet rocks were a sudden overnight craze that came in a 'crate' with an instruction booklet explaining how to care for your new pet. Again, good copywriting was partly behind the instant success of the idea; the witty booklet contained lots of puns, gags and plays on words which caused amusement for a short time until the fad died away.

Zombie runs

It may seem like a nightmare but people will pay money to be chased by an actor dressed as a zombie. These zombie survival events are regularly held in major cities across the world where actors chase victims across an urban landscape. You can also download a zombie jogging podcast.