One of my favorite podcast episodes from the end of 2022 was a conversation with Ian Freed, who led the team that build the Amazon Fire phone. The product failed and Amazon lost over $100 million, but the way they failed amazes me.
From the ashes come multiple successful products, including the Amazon Fire Tablet, the Echo speaker, and even the maps used for their package delivery service.
The interview includes lots of lessons about how you can build from your failure.
One of the best stories comes from Amazon’s failures competing with Ebay that ultimately led to enormous success. Early on Amazon wanted to compete with eBay so they built an auction product.
That did very poorly so they pivoted and created something called Z- sellers, make your own storefront to sell a product on Amazon, such as “Jono’s Cedar Toy Store” – wooden you want to shop there??
The seller tool failed because with so many pages navigation proved difficult. And the biggest obstacle came in the need for Jono-the-toymaker to market their own page.
Ultimately that led Amazon to start the seller marketplace with a single page for any product. That meant that for one style of Levi’s jeans, different sellers could offer their product and whoever had the best price and customer feedback won the buy box. Today the seller marketplace products make up around 50% of Amazon’s sales volume.
Ian Freed tells the story that Jeff Bezos specifically told him not to worry about the terrible consumer reception that the Fire Phone received. Bezos told Freed, “You can’t, for one minute, feel bad about the Fire Phone. Promise me you won’t lose a minute of sleep.”
This example has encouraged me to find valuable gems from each and every project, particularly the failures. What’s one past “failed” project you’ve done and how can you turn it into something useful?
** If you enjoyed this, check out my 3 Mistakes to Avoid When Inventing a New Product **