Failures / Innovations We Love: July Edition

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  • by Courtney PeGan Stevens

You’ve probably heard that “failure is the mother of innovation,” but you may not be aware of just how many seemingly successful products or services almost missed the boat. Without an openness to learn and the ability to pivot, products like the Jacuzzi, Champagne, and Post-it notes wouldn’t exist today. 

Inspired by this month’s media coverage of the seemingly “failed” launch of Quibi, a new short-form entertainment platform, our Senior Vice President of Operations, Courtney PeGan Stevens, started wondering which of today’s “failures” may actually be tomorrow’s “Innovations We Love.” Read on to see her predictions.

INNOVATION/FAILURE: Segway Ends Production

Why I’m Watching To See What Happens Next: 

I remember when Segways were first introduced as THE transportation of the future, and that thought made me giggle. Fast forward twenty years and the manufacturers of Segway are finally crying defeat as manufacturing stopped on July 15th, 2020. 

One of the factors cited in the business’s failure to grow revenue was its superior engineering and reliability, reducing the need for repeat purchases. When I read that, I was reminded of another sturdy vehicle that found footing in the tourism industry: the Duck Boat. 

While Segway tours are already available in most cities, I foresee the novelty and interest increasing over time. As our culture cycles through eras of nostalgia, the Segway would be a perfect artifact to celebrate the optimism of The Aughts. Additionally, with the right maintenance team to keep the fleet road-ready, Segways will maintain an advantage over the now ubiquitous electric scooters. I am not counting Segway out just because they stopped new production; I look forward to seeing how scrappy entrepreneurs may still find their Segway success after all.


Why I’m Watching To See What Happens Next: 

The last decade was devastating for the retail industry, and Malls were cast as the centerpiece of the impending “Retail Apocalypse.” Unfortunately, COVID-19 has only accelerated the decline as many retailers face permanent store closures and possible liquidation. Mall occupancy rates hit their lowest level in a decade during the second quarter of 2020, leaving the future of shopping malls looking grim. Now, mall owners are going to have to get creative to survive, and I am excited to watch the adaptive reuse innovation spring forward. 

Already I’ve seen really smart reuses of vacant mall space that inspire me, like converting to Senior Health Care and Living Facilities, Amazon distribution centers, a 50,000sq ft Haunted House, Massive Entertainment Centers (go-karts, laser tag, arcade games, indoor water parks, etc), and Food Halls featuring local chefs. 

Ultimately, I am reminded of this Ray Kroc quote about McDonald’s, “We are in the real estate business, not the hamburger business.” So, while the shopping mall’s heyday may now be long gone, I am not ready to count out these sleeping giants sitting atop prime locations in most cities, often located near highways and featuring ample parking. There is one thing I know we humans will need after this pandemic: ample space for gathering, and malls can be that solution for many communities in the future. I look forward to the day when I might non-ironically say, “Let’s go to the mall today."

INNOVATION/FAILURE: The Original “#GirlBoss” Resigns Again, but Launches Her DTC Side Hustle Bible.

Why I’m Watching To See What Happens Next:

For those who are not familiar with Sophia Amoruso, here is a TL;DR style overview: Accidental entrepreneur transformed her scrappy vintage eBay store into a hyper-fast growing online retailer, Nasty Gal, took on lots of venture capital, wrote a book called #GirlBoss, lost her company Nasty Gal, and then founded a new company, #GirlBoss, on a revenue model that couldn’t survive the pandemic.

Sophia announced just last month that she was stepping down from #GirlBoss and is already releasing a new direct-to-consumer 37-page e-book she calls, “The Side Hustle Bible.” Additionally, she’s starting a weekly email newsletter -- a format that has had a very interesting, profitable resurgence attributed to millennials. What I find so compelling, particularly for this moment in history, is her agility and ability to capitalize on her ethos in a DTC format. Whether “The Side Hustle Bible” is successful or not, Sophia is always at the forefront of trends; this DTC move is just one of many to be on the lookout for as founders are stepping down and the entertainment world is still figuring out how to safely produce new content in a pandemic.

Which recent “failures” do you think have the most potential for innovation? Let’s keep the conversation going. Join us on LinkedIn or email me directly: