Welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy startups and venture capital news. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I wrote about the defining moments of VC in 2019. Before that, I noted some thoughts on U.S. VC activity in Europe.
2019’s lost startups
Startups perish for many reasons but there’s one constant: this is an incredibly difficult business. Launching a successful company isn’t just a matter of drive and finding the right people (though both, clearly, are important). Doing well in this business requires the stars to align perfectly on a billion different things.
A cursory look at this year’s batch of companies doesn’t find any story quite as spectacular as last year’s big Theranos flameout, which gave us a best-selling book, documentary, podcast series and upcoming Adam McKay/Jennifer Lawrence film. Some, like MoviePass, however, may have come close.
And for every Theranos, there are dozens of stories of hardworking founders with promising products that simply couldn’t make it to the finish line. There’s also room for debate about what is and isn’t a startup. For our purposes, we’re focusing here on independent startups, not digital initiatives from larger companies — though in at least one case, the startup was acquired by a larger company before shutting down.
So without further ado, here are some of the biggest and most fascinating startups that closed up shop in 2019.
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