Opportunities don’t just come knocking on the door. But if they do, we need to be bold enough to seize it. That one decision we make could change our lives forever and that’s exactly what happened to these people; yet not in a good way. The fact is that they chose to pass on an opportunity that could have made them billions. While some of the best companies in the world came into existence because of smart decisions, others were formed out of sheer rivalry.
1. Blockbuster and Netflix
Netflix was founded on August 29, 1997 in Scotts Valley, CA because Reed Hastings was late returning a video. The Netflix founder and CEO rented Apollo 13 from his local Blockbuster Video store and lost it. Hastings was forced to pay a $40 fine, which he found to be a slap on the wrist. This gave him the idea of a DVD-by-mail rental business, which would soon put all DVD rental businesses out of business.
In 2000, Hastings approached John Antioco, CEO of Blockbuster, and offered him to purchase Netflix for $50 million. At the time, Antioco only saw Netflix as a DVD mailing service and didn’t see a future for the company. Although Hastings set up a few meetings to negotiate the sale, Antioco rejected the offers. Today, Netflix is worth $3.7 billion with nearly 118 million subscribers worldwide and Blockbuster is out of business.
2. Excite and Google
Launched in December 1995, Excite is an internet portal that provides its users with news, weather, search results and many other things. The web-based company had no rivalries until September 4, 1998, when Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Ph.D. students at Stanford University in California, founded Google. Since its creation, Google started gaining popularity for their simple yet powerful search engine. In 1999, Google’s founders offered Excite the ability to purchase their company for $1 million.
Excite’s CEO George Bell negotiated and brought the price down to $750,000 but the sale never took place since he backed out of it. By early 2002, AOL, Yahoo and Google started battling it out for dominance but by 2006, Google managed to dominate all other rivals to become the most used search engine in the world. According to GoBankingRates, today Google is worth more than $279.3 billion, whereas Excite is only worth $2 million.
3. MySpace and Facebook
If you ever had a MySpace account, you would remember Tom, your first friend. The social networking site was founded on August 1, 2003 by Tom Anderson, Chris DeWolfe and Jon Hart, and was the largest social networking site in the world from 2005 to 2009. The company had more than 75.9 million users in 2008 but Facebook was slowly starting to gain popularity. At this time, Facebook was becoming one of the biggest competitors for MySpace. Chris DeWolfe, one of the masterminds behind MySpace, decided that it was best to either acquire Facebook or to merge the two companies together.
Despite the fact that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg offered DeWolfe his entire company for $75 million, he turned it down. Today, Facebook is worth $138.3 billion, with more than 864 million daily active users worldwide.
4. Marvel and DC Comics
DC Comics, a subsidiary of Warner Bros., was founded in 1934 by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. Since then, the American comic book publisher has created some of our favorite characters, such as Batman, Superman, Justice League and many more. In 1984, Warner Bros. did not consider DC Comics to be as successful as it was back in the day, and offered its entire properties to Marvel.
Of course, Marvel thought that DC Comics was dead weight to Warner Bros., and the comic was failing because of the poor characters; not the management. A little over a decade later, Marvel spiraled into bankruptcy, while DC Comics gained worldwide popularity. If Marvel had made the decision to acquire DC Comics in 1984, it would have been a very profitable venture for them.
5. Nintendo and Sony
In 1989, Nintendo and Sony were working together to create the Super NES with a built-in CD drive. Of course everything was going perfectly but the Nintendo board members were concerned that Sony was trying to make its way towards the gaming business. Their worst nightmares came true when Sony publicly announced that they were stepping into the field of gaming. Nintendo board members weren’t happy about this since they wanted to keep the $4.7 billion video game market for themselves.
Just one day after the announcement was made by Sony, Nintendo went ahead and struck a deal with Philips, who happened to be Sony’s rival. Sony’s president, Norio Ohga, was not pleased with this decision and decided to work with Ken Kutaragi, former Chairman and Group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment. Thus, the Sony PlayStation came into existence, which was one of the most popular video game consoles during the 90’s. Today, PlayStation still dominates Nintendo when it comes to gaming. As of 2018, PlayStation 4 outsold every other console, including Nintendo’s red-hot Switch, with more than 75 million consoles sold.
6. Hewlett-Packard and The Personal Computer
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was working at HP when he designed the first Breakout game for Atari. Wozniak and his friend worked for 4 straight days and nights without sleep to create the game. Even when Atari tried to offer Wozniak a job with them, he turned them down because he was loyal to HP. He then went on to design the original Apple I computer and offered the designs to HP, but they turned him down. Wozniak repeatedly offered his creation to HP but all five of his attempts were turned down by them.
Steve Jobs then went to Wozniak and encouraged him to work with him to create Apple. Wozniak was still reluctant to leave HP because of his loyalty so Jobs went to Wozniak’s family and persuaded them to convince him; which worked. Today, the creators of Macintosh and Apple iPhones are worth more than $1 trillion, with more than one billion iPhones sold worldwide from 2007 to 2017. When asked about the missed opportunity, HP co-founder Bill Hewlett reportedly said, “You win some, you lose some”.
7. Verizon and The First iPhone
On June 29, 2007, AT&T famously launched the first Apple iPhone, revolutionizing the phone industry. Before its release, Verizon’s management attempted to get Jobs and Apple to build a CDMA version of the gadget for Verizon. Jobs however, was not interested in that model and instead wanted a GSM-based device. Apple’s reputation for controlling every aspect of its products also worried many potential partners but without seeing their product, no one was ready to sign a deal except for Cingular Wireless, which is owned by AT&T.
Cingular chief executive Stan Sigman signed a secretive deal with Apple in 2005, without seeing any prototypes. For the next five years, AT&T was the sole carrier for the iPhone, who also helped grow AT&T. By January 2008, the iPhone had become AT&T’s most popular smartphone. Verizon only became an authorized carrier of the iPhone in 2011.
8. RealNetworks and The iPod
Tony Fadell, an engineer, inventor and designer, had an amazing idea back in 2000. He thought of a portable MP3 player with a streamlined content-delivery system, that would fit in everyone’s pockets. His idea was first presented to RealNetworks, a Seattle company that focuses on internet streaming media delivery software and services. RealNetworks saw no future for their company in the music industry and so, turned down Fadell.
Fadell then took his concept to Philips, who also turned him down. Third time’s a charm, so Fadell took his idea to Apple, who loved the concept and struck a deal with him. Besides, just a few months before Fadell introduced his idea, Apple had just acquired the music delivery service called Soundjam MP; which is known as iTunes today. So, Apple incorporated Fadell’s idea of the music device and their music streaming service to create the iPod. Apple has sold more than 300 million iPods since 2006 and 45 Million pieces last year.
9. Decca Records and The Beatles
Before the Beatles became the biggest rock group in all of England, on Jan. 1, 1962, they auditioned for Decca Records. The band drove in a snowstorm on New Year’s Eve of 1961 from Liverpool to London for the audition. Upon their arrival, they performed around 15 songs of rock, R&B, rocked-up standards and originals, in a few hours. Dick Rowe, the man who had auditioned them, was unimpressed and showed the band the way out. Five months later, the Beatles signed with George Martin, leading to arguably the most successful artist-producer collaboration in history.
10. Twitter and Facebook rejected Brian Acton
In 2009, Brian Acton was looking to work with the social networking sites Twitter and Facebook. Despite years of experience at Yahoo and Apple, Acton applied to work for Twitter in May but was turned down. He then applied to work at Facebook in August but was rejected again. When it seemed like the universe was turning against him, Acton took it upon himself and decided to become an entrepreneur.
He teamed up with another Yahoo alum, Jan Koum, and built WhatsApp. The start-up became the king of cloud-based messaging and in 2014, Facebook purchased the company for a whopping $19 billion.