VatorNews interview highlights in 2008

Bambi Francisco Roizen · December 29, 2008 · Short URL:

Founders of Slide, FriendFeed, Twitter, hi5, RockYou and more sit down with VatorNews

In 2008, VatorNews was fortunate to interview some of the hottest entrepreneurs and movers and shakers in Silicon Valley. From Slide founder and CEO Max Levchin to FriendFeed co-founder Paul Buchheit to Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey. VatorNews tries to give you the voices of those who're making a big, big, big difference, to those helping to innovate.


Here are some highlights of 2008, starting with Paul Buchheit:

 FriendFeed is an extremely easy-to-use service that lets you see the content across the Web your friends or people who randomly end up in your network are sharing. It’s a mash up – to use the au courant term – of more than two dozen sharing and communication tools and services from Digg, Reddit, Twitter, Flickr, Netflix Queue, Amazon’s Wishlists and YouTube.

Prior to FriendFeed, Buchheit spent his time as an angel investor. He is an investor in He was also the 23rd employee at Google, and a key engineer behind Gmail.

See full story and interview: FriendFeed - the ultimate e-spectator sport

See Paul's Lessons Learned/advice: Get the product out fast, learn from your user

2) Slide founder and CEO, Max Levchin


Max Levchin raised  $50 million for what many consider to be a widget company. That company – Slide – was last valued at half-a-billion. With such a high bar, comes hard work. Levchin’s mission over the next year or two – besides continually finding more ways to iterate upon Slide’s popular SuperPoke -- is to get profitable. If Slide isn’t making money in a couple years, as Max puts it: “I’m really screwing it up.”

Social networking is undoubtedly a ubiquitous feature of our online lives. But whether these platforms can make a lot of money is a big question. To this end, the business models of widgets - Slide, Flixster, iLike, RockYou - built atop of these “social graphs” seem somewhat tenuous. 

See full story and interview: Slide's Levchin on making money in social media 

See story and interview: Slide's Levchin on self-expression 2.0

See Max's Lessons Learned/advice: Change and self-organizing teams

3) Twitter co-founder, former CEO, Jack Dorsey


It all makes sense when you learn that Twitter's former CEO and co-founder, Jack Dorsey spent 15 years writing dispatch software for couriers, taxis and 911. Dorsey's concept of "ambient social awareness" - which is what Twitter delivers - is derived from the crackling sounds of voices, coming from two-way radios, saying what patient is going to which hospital, or which passenger needs a pick-up at what location.

Dorsey ended up resigning in October. But when he came in for an interview with me, he spoke at length about the ways Twitter could monetize its business.  

See full story and interview: Twitter - I'm followed, therefore I am (in-depth discussion about Twitter's business model)

See story and interview: Jack Dorsey on how Twitter came to be

Jack's Lessons Learned/advice: Constraints and the 70's punk movement

See all Jack Dorsey/Twitter related news, profiles across Vator

4) RockYou co-founder and CTO Jia Shen


RockYou, which makes popular applications such as Super Wall, is gunning to be a top five Web destination in the world. RockYou hopes this can be achieved as more Internet users browse and interact on the Web through a social context. 

Jia Shen, RockYou's 28-year-old co-founder and CTO, came in for an interview with me. Besides telling me that RockYou is much bigger than its oft-mentioned rival, Slide, Shen also said the company was valued at a $230 million valuation.



See full story and interview: RockYou - We're bigger than Slide

See Jia's Lessons Learned/advice: Rapid technology development

 5) Socialmedian founder and CEO, Jason Goldberg


I included socialmedian’s Jason Goldberg as a highlight because it was very impressive for Goldberg to start his company with about $600,000 in funding and within 12 month sell it for $7.5 million to Xing.

socialmedian, for those who don't know, is a “second-generation social news site.” Think Digg meets FriendFeed meets Drudge Report. The first generation social news sites were like Digg, which were about the popularity of news sites. The next-generation is about personalized news. Clearly, Goldberg, who also founded Jobster (and raised $50 million for that site) convinced Xing about his vision.


See full story and interview: The aggregators aggregator

See Jason's Lessons Learned: Raising a little vs a lot

See acquisition story: Socialmedian sells to Xing for $7.5 million

6) hi5 founder and CEO, Ramu Yalamanchi


hi5 is one of the leading social networks in the world. When I interviewed Yalamanchi back in June 2008, hi5 had 80 million registered users, of which 80% resided outside the U.S.

Besides discussing how hi5 became profitable early on, Yalamanchi and I discussed OpenSocial and how hi5 created addicts.

Noted in my post was Quantcast analytics, showing hi5 doing a much better job creating addicts than Facebook. According to the measurement firm, 73% of hi5's visitors are addicts while 63% of Facebook's visitors are addicts.


 See full story and interview: hi5 makes online addicts

See full story and interview: OpenSocial milestones

See Ramu's Lessons Learned: Focus on profits

7) Tapulous co-founder and CEO, Bart Decrem    

Tapulous was founded by Bart Decrem and two other founders, Andrew Lacy and Mike Lee. Tapulous is the maker of the popular iPhone application, called Tap Tap Revenge.

Decrem came to Vator to tell me more about Tapulous and to give me his lessons learned. In the "Lessons Learned and advice" segment, Decrem says that 'too much of a good thing, isn't always a good thing after all. And, when it comes to entrepreneurship - getting too much attention in the beginning can be a hurdle. 

"One of the things I learned from my previous startup was a company called Flock," he said. "People got really excited about it; it got a lot of hype and attention before the product was ready. We got ahead of ourselves; we raised too much money; we got too much publicity."

See full story and interview: Hot iPhone app, Tapulous, eyes profitability

See Bart's Lessons Learned/advice: Don't get ahead of yourself

8) IBeatYou founders Cash Warren, Abdul Kahn, Baron Davis


At the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit, I was lucky to catch up with the three founders of iBeatYou (aka IBY), a site where anyone can compete with celebrities like Jessica Alba or NBA star Baron Davis.

Baron happens to be a founder, along with Abdul Khan (also CEO) and producer Cash Warren, Jessica's husband. As I said in the past, I give this site a big thumbs up, as it's very addictive.


See full story and interview: Part I - Bridging Hollywood and Silicon Valley

See story and interview: Part II -  Hollywood promo drives traffic

See story and interview: Part III - IBeatYou's goals beyond Hollywood

9) Fark founder and CEO, Drew Curtis 

Fark is a 10-year-old aggregator of strange and humorous stories, and the granddaddy of news aggregators. 

An online equivalent of “The Daily Show,” Fark draws 4.2 million unique visitors, 60 million pageviews per month. The average time spent on the site is more than seven minutes. While many startups spend millions to buy or ramp up to that kind of traffic and loyalty, Fark (watch video pitch here) remains one efficient shop. Curtis runs Fark out of his home in Lexington, Kentucky, with essentially 16 virtual part-time moderators who edit the over 67,000 user-submitted stories per month.

See full story and interview: How one guy makes milllions laugh

See Drew's Lessons Learned/advice: Hold onto your equity

See Drew's Lessons Learned/advice: Surviving the downturn

10) Search expert, Google's Marissa Mayer


Search is at its infancy, said Marissa Mayer, VP of search products and user experience at Google, in the first of a five-part interview with me at the Vator studios. In this segment, we talk about how search is evolving, and how far we've come. Mayer's role at Google has included developing Google's search interface, and launching more than 100 features and products on To this end, Marissa's view on how search is going to evolve is pretty valuable, if we want to know what's ahead for Google.  


See full story and interview: Google's Marissa Mayer on search evolution

See Mayer as Vator Box guest host: Marissa Mayer on Woome

See Mayer as Vator Box guest host: Marissa Mayer on Searchme

See Mayer as Vator Box guest host: Marissa Mayer on Viewdle

Marissa Mayer search across Vator

Image Description

Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder Vator, Managing Partner - Vator Investment Club; Former Columnist/correspondent Dow Jones MarketWatch; Business anchor CBS affiliate KPIX

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Related Companies, Investors, and Entrepreneurs

Tapulous, Inc.


Joined Vator on

Tapulous is a Palo Alto, CA based startup building a family of fun and social apps for the iPhone.  We are angel funded and have released two apps for the iPhone (as of early August, 2008): Tap Tap Revenge (a music game) and Twinkle (the app that lets you connect with people nearby and your friends on Twitter).


Joined Vator on

Fark is a satirical news forwarding site.  The Fark community identifies
odd, funny and entertaining news stories from across the Web and Fark
presents them in a clever and engaging way.

In January the site had over 4 million unique visitors and 60 million page
views - and there's tremendous growth potential beyond these numbers.  The
Fark community also submitted 60,000 stories and posted almost 900,000
comments in January alone.

In addition, the site is in a pivotal strategic position as it directs
substantial traffic outbound to other sites (Fark generated approximately 50
million outbound clicks in January).



Joined Vator on

Ibeatyou is a platform for competitions.



Joined Vator on

What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.



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hi5 Networks, Inc. is a privately-held firm headquartered in San Francisco, CA. Its flagship service, hi5, was launched in 2003 and is now one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing social networks — ranked by Alexa® as a top 20 website globally and the #1 social network in 25 countries across Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa (the #3 social network worldwide). More than 80 million people in over 200 nations are currently registered for hi5, which is available in 23 language options (with more to come). Individuals use hi5 to stay connected and share information with friends and family around the world, meet new people, express themselves, and discover social linkages throughout their lives. For more information, please visit or 



Joined Vator on

Slide is the largest personal media network in the world, reaching 144 million unique global viewers each month and more than 30 percent of the U.S. Internet audience. We help people express themselves and tell stories through personalized photos and videos created on and viewed anywhere on the web or desktop.

Slide's products — including Slideshows, FunWall and SuperPoke! — are popular on top social networking and blog platforms, including MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Hi5, Friendster, Tagged and Blogger. Slide is also the leading developer on Facebook with more than 84 million applications installed and the most active users than any other developer.

Launched in 2005 and founded by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, Slide is backed by Mayfield Fund, Blue Run Ventures, Khosla Ventures and Founders Fund.



Joined Vator on

FriendFeed makes it fun and easy to share and discuss web pages, photos, and videos with your friends and family.



Joined Vator on

RockYou is a leading provider of applications and widgets on the web. RockYou widgets include photo slideshows, glitter text, customized Facebook applications and voicemail accessories that are simple to use and enable people to frequently refresh their online style. Founded in 2006, RockYou has over 35 million users, serving over 180 million widget views per day in more than 200 countries. RockYou applications are customized for easy integration across all social networks including Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Friendster, Tagged and hi5.



Joined Vator on

On December 19, 2008, socialmedian announced that it was sold to Xing for $7.5 million, $4 million upfront and $3.5 million in an earn out

socialmedian delivers the news you need to know.

Track news on any topic from thousands of sources - create your own News Networks!
Discover what your peers are reading and discussing today, and join the conversation!
Share news from sites like Google Reader, Twitter, Digg, Delicious and more

Bart Decrem

Joined Vator on


Paul Buchheit

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Jason Goldberg

Joined Vator on


Abdul Khan

Joined Vator on


Marissa Mayer

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Drew Curtis

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Founder/CEO/Sole Owner Fark, Inc