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The whole world knows Coca-Cola or post-it notes, but their creators ended up being poor

Ingenious inventors who came up short: Why did others get rich on Coca-Cola?

06.Feb 2020
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2 minutes
Coca-Colu zná celý svět, ale její vynálezce zemřel chudý.

Do tell, did you know that the inventor of the world's most successful beverage, Coca-Cola, was drowning in debts and died in poverty? And he wasn't the onle one; other geniuses and businessmen have similarly sad stories. They invented things used by people all over the world, but never got rich. We've chosen five of the most famous inventions.

1. Coca-Cola

American pharmacist John Pemberton wanted to create a new analgesic for pain relief and after several attempts, he managed to mix a formulae that contained, aside of other ingredients, mainly coca leaves and cola nuts. However, he discovered that rather than helping against pain, the drug worked as an energy booster, and so he started selling it as a syrup for reinvigoration and treating nausea. Later, he dilluted the syrup with sparkling water and the legendary refreshing drink was born. Unfortunately, Pemberton had already accumulated huge business debts and failed to get the drink out among the people. To cover the worst of his debt, he sold the complete formulae for $ 1,750. And the new owner turned it into a drink enjoyed by people all around the world.

2. Excel spreadsheets

The Excel programme widely used by people around the world, be it at home or in the office, was actually not invented by Microsoft, but by a programmer by the name Dan Bricklin. His first spreadsheet saw the light of day already in 1979 and was called VisiCalc. Unfortunately, the inventor had forgotten to patent his unique idea, this he didn't earn any money on it in the end.

Luxusní penthouse na Praze 1 - 226m
Luxusní penthouse na Praze 1 - 226m, Praha 1

3. The web

The man we should thank for the fact that we're able to surf the web from our computers or mobile devices today is computer researcher Tim Berners-Lee. Back in the 1980s, he created a technology that made it possible to link individual hypertext documents on the Internet. He called the technology the World Wide Web (WWW) and released it into the world without patents. It might have made him famous, but it didn't make him rich.

4. Post-it notes

Adhesive post-its for quick notes were invented by Spencer Silver, who gradually perfected them in cooperation with his colleague. However, he was but an employee of a large 3M company, who held the patents. That's why even though post-it notes are sold by millions, the inventor didn't gain any money on them, with the exception of a few extra employee benefits.

5. Letterpress

The story of Johannes Gutenberg's may be older, but it is worth mentioning, because his invention of letterpress influenced history more than many inventions that came after. Until the 15th century, books had been basically handwritten, even illustrations had been made by hand. It was Gutenberg who made mass printing of leaflets, books and newspapers possible, enabling information to travel across Europe and reach millions of people. Unfortunately, Gutenberg has never made decent money on his ingenious invetion during his lifetime, and as an entrepreneur he was always in debt or going bankrupt. In the end, this man died poor and lonely.

Luxusní byt na prodej Smíchov - Praha 5 - 73m
Luxusní byt na prodej Smíchov - Praha 5 - 73m, Praha 5

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