Vote for your favourite tireless innovator

Here are the shortlisted entries in the If At First You Don't Succeed category of the Real Innovation Awards.

by MT Staff
Last Updated: 10 Feb 2017

Innovation is seldom straightforward and successful inventors rarely make a huge breakthrough on their attempt. Just ask James Dyson, who famously created a whopping 5,127 prototypes of his eponymous bagless vacuum cleaner before striking lucky. The If At First You Don’t Succeed Award celebrates an individual or organisation who tried something that didn’t work out – but which provided the stepping-stone for a subsequently successful outcome. Here's a look at the shortlisted nominees.

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Dubsmash is an app allowing users to record themselves lip syncing over famous quotes, songs and movie clips and share these "dubs" with friends. Founders Jonas Drüppel, Roland Grenke and Daniel Taschlik created their first prototype during a Berlin Hackathon in 2012, testing it first with friends and then at tech meet-ups. It didn’t quite work, so they tried again with Starlize, an app for users to video themselves lip-syncing.

Sales were poor, and in November 2014 they tried again with an easier-to-use app called Dubsmash. It became Germany’s top seller within a week and has now been downloaded by 100m people in 78 countries. Dubsmash is still innovating: version 2.0 is a social platform that will go head-to-head with Snapchat and Instagram. Drüppel says: "Video will be the predominant way we communicate in the next five years. Dubs are just the beginning."

Hertfordshire Independent Living Service

Hertfordshire Community Meals Ltd was founded in 2007 to deliver meals-on-wheels in Hertfordshire. In 2010, the company was weeks from collapse when a catastrophic £250k trading deficit was revealed after the tragic death of its CEO.

The operating model was flawed, with extortionate lease costs for an unreliable fleet, unaffordable pay, wasteful operations, inconsistent service and overly restrictive contracts. By re-designing the operating model, renegotiating contracts, cross-utilising assets and diversifying and improving services, failure was turned to success.

The company, renamed Hertfordshire Independent Living Service (HILS), is now the largest community meal service in the country and an innovative sector leader. It provides 500,000 meals/annum, 365 days/year, employs 200 people (many facing employment barriers) and provides independent living services to over 10,000 vulnerable people.

Norwood Systems

Paul Ostergaard founded Norwood Systems, a Bluetooth-enabled service linking mobile phones to the fixed-line network, in 2001. He raised $20 million and won several tech start-up prizes. But the business model conflicted with that of its partners (the handset manufacturers) and he sold the company in 2004.

Paul Ostergaard continued to work within telecoms and in 2011 he re-launched Norwood, this time taking advantage of Smartphones & WiFi. His first app, Work Phone, flopped. But in 2015 Norwood launched World Phone, and finally struck gold. The app, which offers inexpensive international calling at home and abroad, has been downloaded more than 4.5 million times, and used in more than 200 countries.


Brazilian entrepreneur Tiago Dalvi created the one stop shop platform OLIST in 2015. OLIST connects small businesses to the fast growing Brazilian marketplaces space. He began selling artisan products in a shopping mall in 2007, but the business model wasn't scalable. He tried selling the products direct to major offline retailers but soon realised he needed a leaner business model.

He launched his first online business, Solidarium, in 2011 and by 2014 it had more than 15,000 artisans and 1 million monthly visitors. After seeing a major market shift, where traditional e-commerce companies started becoming marketplaces but struggled to connect with long tail merchants, he adapted his business model and created OLIST. By the end of 2015, OLIST was on track reaching 2,000 merchants and 100,000 products during the next 12 months.


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