Failure indeed: How I not executed on an idea

A couple of articles have been published yesterday and today, by David Noel , Bajin Sabet and Igor Schwartzmann on failure, and by Amber Rae on the fear that is connected to failure. I would like to weigh in with my own little story on failure and you’ll see that fear plays a big factor.

It starts with me getting my first iPhone in 2007 and ends with the December 2010 order of the iRig guitar iPhone adaptor, finally testing the app and nearly crying about it. Here’s what happened in between.

I used to be a pretty good guitarist but dropped it almost entirely while at university and never really came back. I blamed that on equipment not being there 😉 (I sold all the amps to pay the rent). At the time I got the iPhone I was looking at small carry-around amps like the PocketPod. Then it hit me, the phone has an output and an input, all you’d need is an adaptor.

I started telling people about the idea at re:publica ’08 getting good feedback but reaching out to coders was slow (I was slow). And the ones I talked to didn’t really want equity for work, they’d rather be paid. I also reached out to Steinberg and Native Instruments, makers of Guitar Rig (great software). I finally found interested coders in the fall of 2008, but then their work got in the way – paid gigs were more important to them which I understood. Thus 2009 passed with be being passive and 2010 came along. Meanwhile I could feel other coding teams getting closer, Paul Reed Smith came out with distortion, PocketAmp was doing something similar but not what I had envisioned.

Finally, one day one of the people I had talked to sent me the link to an Amplitube announcement and I was crushed. Their app was what I had dreamed. Their screenshots looked just like the scribbles I had done, scanned and sent to the coder in the US. I had to sign-up for the newsletter and downloaded the app on day one. Crushed. Then German magazine Spiegel online did a review of several of these apps including Amplitube, but totally missing the point. The idea was not to replace other amps, but to carry one less item on the road. Or to have a super simple set-up at home, just get the guitar and the phone from your pocket.

In the last week of 2010 I tried it out myself, couldn’t bring myself to order the adaptor earlier. You see, I even had the adaptor part sorted out, had a supplier in Germany who offered the cable for a third of what iRig retails at. In practice, sure it’s no real amp but it sounds ok. And the app is great. They did a great job adding up extra in-app purchases. Have a look if you have the time:

Having tried it out, I think I am over it. And maybe it’s for the better that I didn’t invest my own money in it, because there’s much more coding to this final app than one person could have done. Probably a good thing that I concentrated my free time on my son who was born in August 2007. Probably good that the fear of being broke, spending money we now used on our appartement and of having an app that wasn’t up to par was bigger than the entrepreneurial spirit. But still, for a long time this missed opportunity, the fact that I never even got off the ground haunted me as failure.