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 Vator.tv. 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 Google.com. 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
Related Companies, Investors, and Entrepreneurs
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
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 Twitter.com, 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 Twitter.com, 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 Virginamerica.com 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.
Joined Vator on
Networks, Inc. is a privately-held firm headquartered in
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 Slide.com 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 onRockYou 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.