The five horses struggling to haul the tram up the slope of Jackson Street from Kearny Street had one job to do. But as Andrew Smith Hallidie watched in horror that morning in 1860, their hooves slipped on the cobblestones, damp from summer fog, and they tumbled to their deaths. From that ghastly failure was born, in Hallidie’s mind, the invention that would become the iconic San Francisco cable car.
Our region’s history is rich with entrepreneurial success and creative ventures. Along with accomplishments, however, come failures in many forms: the brilliant idea ahead of its time, the too-clever “concept” restaurant that didn’t make it much past the laughter stage, the disruptive technology that garnered several rounds of funding before going kerplop. For every invention like Levi Strauss’ denim jeans, still going strong in San Francisco after 149 years, there’s a Google Glass version 1.0.