Paul Allen and Bill Gates first business venture was company that measured traffic patterns by counting the car wheels that ran over pressure-sensitive rubber tubes.
They develop software and ran it on a 8008 Intel Micropocessor. Between 1974 and 1980 Traf-O-Data totaled net losses of $3,494. Paul and Bill closed the business shortly thereafter.
Bill coined the name "Traf-O-Data" and as Paul Allen says "I have made my share of business mistakes, but Traf-O-Data remains my favorite mistake because it confirmed to me that every failure contains the seeds of your next success." in his just published autobiorgaphy Idea Man.
Two lessions for me from this experience:
1). You may not succeed at your first entrepreneurial venture...but keep trying as you might eventually hit on a winning business model/idea.
2). While "experience is the best teacher" often in business the lesson you learn comes at the expense of your business' life! So, it is wise to learn as many lesson as possible from other people's experiences and protect your business from you making those same mistakes.
This is why I am such an advocate for CEO Peer Groups as a way to learn from the experiences of other CEOs and business owners.