4 big thinkers who missed (or nearly missed) the chance to get rich from big ideas

(Photo Credit: Selfie Stick - iStock.com/Pete Best - Canadian Press Images)

Whether it was poor timing, poor choices, or both, business history is rife with examples of missed money-making opportunities. Sometimes it’s bad business sense. Other times, it’s just bad luck that prevents some people within grasp of the next big thing from cashing in.

Here are some examples of lost and forgotten success stories that just missed out:

1. Wayne Fromm

As ubiquitous as the “selfie stick” is today, the idea of people toting camera-equipped smartphones as well as a monopod for taking self-portraits didn’t catch on when Wayne Fromm first introduced it in 2002. The Canadian inventor is known today as the father of the selfie stick, a product he once marketed as the Quik Pod.

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Fromm, the original patent holder for a selfie stick that can be attached to a digital camera or smartphone, later said he regretted bringing his product to China for sale at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where copycat manufacturers quickly produced their own versions.

2. Pete Best

You’ve heard of The Beatles. You know their songs. But unless you’re a true Beatle-maniac, chances are less likely you know the name Pete Best. The original drummer for the Fab Five, his mother owned a coffee house where the Beatles played a few gigs. He was dismissed after the first recording sessionof Abbey Road, missing out on the British Invasion and Beatlemania. Best ultimately left the music industry to become a civil servant.

3. Sahil Lavingia

When the photo-sharing app Pinterest launched five years ago, web designer Sahil Lavingia was reportedly the company’s second employee. But Lavingia, who was hired as a teenager, had aspirations of creating his own Silicon Valley startup. At a time when Pinterest was just emerging to become one of the most successful social-media sites on the web, Lavingia called it quits. He left the company one month before his one-year employee anniversary, meaning his stock options in the company never vested. Pinterest is projected to reach 50 million active users in the U.S. by 2016. Lavingia says he has no regrets, however, and managed to raise $7 million as the CEO for his own company, Gumroad.

4. Carolyn Davidson

Quick, think of the most famous sports logo you possibly can. If you’re envisioning the Nike “swoosh,” you can thank Carolyn Davidson. As iconic as her emblem has become over the past few decades, the former Portland State University graphic design student was for years an unsung branding hero of sorts. Her payment for coming up with that world-famous design in 1971? A pretty paltry $35 from Blue Ribbon Sports, later to be renamed Nike. Davidson was fortunate enough to have a generous client, however. In 1983, about 12 years after Davidson first submitted her swoosh idea to Nike boss Phil Knight, the business magnate took her out to lunch, then presented her with an envelope containing an undisclosed amount of Nike stock. Davidson retired in 2000.

Video: Wayne and Sage Fromm pitch their selfie stick.