He’s known for bootstrapping MyBlogLog and selling it to Yahoo for (a reported) $10 million. In this interview, you’ll hear how he did it.
You’ll also hear why he didn’t end up with equity in IGN when it went public, even though he helped launch it.
And, you’ll find out why he launched Gnip and why he recently moved on.
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Hey everyone it’s Andrew Warner, I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. And today’s guest is everything you wanted in a Mixergy interview, all rolled up into one. I’ve got with me, Eric Macourlier, and it’s true Eric, there he is. He is a boot strapper who founded MyBlogLog on a shoestring budget, and sold it to Yahoo for a reported $10 million. I got a lot of requests for that. He is also a funded entrepreneur who, launched Gnip, the company that serves as an API hub, we’ll find out about that. And he’s both an investor and advisor to a collection of startups that include Zinga, Foodsy, NeighborGoods, iMantra, a list way too long for me to include here. And he’s the founder of IGN, which was sold to Fox a few years ago. Eric, welcome to Mixergy.
Interviewee: How ya doing man?
Andrew: So, I, I don’t know if people noticed but I stumbled a little on the Gnip part because I wrote that you are, that you run it. But, things have changed. Can you tell us about that?
Interviewee: That is true. After two years, my consumer heart has gotten the best of me. And I realized that even as Gnip is doing better and better and better, it’s in the enterprise space, and that’s not my core passion. My core passion is dealing with individuals, not organizations.
Andrew: What is Gnip? I gave like the three word summary. And I think I did pretty good. I probably copied it from Crunchspace. But, what is it?
Interviewee: You nailed it, right. There’s all these API’s out there. Folks want to get data from Twitter, folks wanna get data from Flicker or YouTube or Facebook. And each one of these API’s tends to be completely unique. Have it’s own integration technology. Whether it’s, whether they’re pushing data, via, via streaming API, or via PubSubHubBub. Whether they’re want you to poll, whether they’re pushing [inaudible], is that data going to be served, as Adam or RSS, or you know, the developer [Franks] preferred format, or activity streams right. There’s all of these complexities. And if somebody just wants to get data from an individual source, you know they just want Twitter data. Nine times out of ten, the best thing for them to do is go to Twitter and get that data. But as companies start wanting to get data from more and more sources in order to make informed decisions, business intelligence decisions. Then, it very quickly becomes more, resource efficient for them, to work with an individual, with an aggregator, who can, learn all of the ins and outs of every single one of those API’s. And then just have a single API, which just works for them. And that’s Gnip’s job.
Andrew: And you know what? Now that you say it, I’m looking at all the companies that you’ve invested in, that you’ve spent time launching and building. And they are the kinds of companies that just about anyone in the audience can hear about and then go and interact with. You know NeighborGoods you can go and check out even if it’s not in your city yet. Foodsy of course you can go and see for yourself. Zinga most people are playing it, and addicted to. MyBlogLog so many people have had on their site. Why enterprise all of the sudden?
Interviewee: So, when I left, I was talking…
[The transcribers still working on minute 5 to minute 10]
Interviewee: or decoding with something like URLs that get shortened. And when I left…and, you know, one of the things that I really like to do is solve problems with a startup and there’s a problem there. APIs suck if you’re trying to do them at a large scale. And it seemed like a good choice.
Andrew: You know, let’s bring more people in the conversation to make sure they’re following. What does API mean?
Interviewee: So API is an application programming interface, I believe. I’m not the most technical person in the world. But in layman’s terms, it’s a way for one computer talk to another computer. So if you’re using Twitter, and you’re a human, you go to the website and you can see a list of all of the different Tweets that your friends have made. Well, if a computer wants to take advantage of that to do something interesting, let’s say to find all of the mentions of cars that your friends have said in the last six months, maybe to help you figure out what car you should buy, the computer can’t go to the web interface. Well, I mean, theoretically it could in a scrape but that’s even more grossly inefficient. So companies, especially became very, very big in [web two], to make it possible via APIs for one computer to get a whole bunch of data and then store it locally. It’s essentially copying the data and then doing interesting things with it.
And every company, every web company, creates their API with the same, you know, the same aspiration which is the Twitter aspiration of: we only need to build a little bit, right. We build the core platform and then thousands of companies are going to build all of the cool features on top of it that all of the users love and, you know, it’ll be great. We don’t have to do that much work. It doesn’t usually work that way.
Andrew: I see. And I actually remember when my blog log started tapping into Delicious’s data and everyone was really excited about it. I think Fred Wilson said it was a game changer because I think the idea was that if you’re on Fred Wilson’s blog, and there are other people who are also passionate about Fred Wilson’s blog, you can see what bookmarks they saved in Delicious. And through that, discover websites that are interesting to people who you care about and who share your interests. And I can see how it would be really frustrating to put this out there, to have a game changer on your hands and then be stopped by a small technical problem or a problem that should be small. And now I understand why you’d want to go out there and solve it.
Andrew: I think…
Interviewee: Oh, no. Keep going.
Andrew: You know what? I think in order to talk today we should go back and talk history just to get a sense of where we are. Why don’t we talk about…and I don’t…I’ve got too many companies that you started and are involved with to even put in that little [kyron] that I put on for the live audience, but let’s touch on a few of them. IGN. What was your involvement in launching IGN?
Interviewee: So let’s go back even further then because this is fun.
Interviewee: So I got online in…the first time I ever got online was in ’91. I was a freshman at [Twolane] and was doing a [Paschal] course and like somebody had left a piece of paper that said, ‘Tell net and some number.’ And I had no idea what any of this was, but I typed it in and suddenly found myself in like a Swedish mud. And some dude walked up to me and said something in Swedish and then walked off, you know, all in command line, or in a V term. And I thought, ‘That’s interesting.’ And I didn’t log on again, I didn’t use the internet again for close to three years. So it wasn’t…my first experience wasn’t all that dramatic. It was like, ‘Oh.’
But then in, I guess, late ’93 early ’94 got online again and absolutely fell in love. Started a consulting company that did incredibly poorly. Imagine some like senior in college schlupping a desktop computer around from company to company to give demos, had no idea that, you know, buying a laptop would have probably been useful. Eventually, dropped out of college and moved from Florida to San Fransisco to go put a company called Imagine Media online.
Interviewee: And they had published four magazines at the time. They published PC Gamer which had a sort of an externally run bare bones website. It was sort of like an [advertorial] site. The Net Magazine, which they just published their second issue when I got hired and so they had a website. and then two other websites: Game Players and Next Generation Magazines. And I kid you not, when I went for my interview at Imagine in ’95, in August of ’95, I took a briefcase with me that had printouts of every single video game site on the net. Period.
Interviewee: You could do that back in ’95. That’s not that long ago. That’s 16 years ago, 15 years ago. There were five of them. There were five video game sites, Hyperactives out of Australia. There was Nuke which was from EGM and two fan sites and a PC game room and that was it. That was the entire world of video games online. So, my job was to go get Next Gen game players online. And so, I was webmaster. It’s a term that is greatly derided these days, sort of the same way that social media expert is and for good reason. Within a couple of years webmaster just became the sort of nebulous “I do stuff online, but I can’t actually tell you what it is.” Back in the day–I don’t know why I’m saying that-back in the day in ’95 that meant I was doing the design. I was doing the HTML, doing basically product manager, technical product manager and started putting these two sites on. They were very stacked. It was basically take some content from the magazine once it gets published and throw it on and very much again advertorial. PC Gamer had more of a community side so even back in’95 there were already companies doing bulletin board software so we tried to do that. Next Gen was always about news, and so the real tipping point for Imagine, and this is pre-IGN, was they brought in this dude, Colin Campbell, right around the same time that I got hired. And he had been editor of Next Gen Edge Magazine in the UK, and then had gone off and done some other things. They brought him in to do a fax news service for video game companies, so for like EA and Activision. They were going to subscribe to a daily fax service of news.
Andrew: And get a piece of paper delivered by fax every day coming out of the fax machine. OK.
Interviewee: This 22-year-old punk–are you serious? Joy in the modern age. Let’s not do this. Let’s go build something cool. Fax machines are dead. And so, they agreed and they put Colin on to doing news. So, this was in, I want to say, mid-October that Colin started doing investigative reporting, if you want to call it that, but calling up video game companies and writing stories of anywhere from 200 words to 500 words. And I kid you not, within a month we had 20,000 visitors per day, and so it was not just that there was a website. There was daily news and by the end of the year we were getting 60,000 visitors a day to Next Gen, and these were running… Do you remember when Ron Amelio took over Apple?
Andrew: Mm-hmm. It was Gil Amelio.
Interviewee: Exactly. He created the power PC line.
Interviewee: So, we were running Next Gen on a power PC that sat under my desk, running Webstar. And the best thing was that they knew, so basically Colin would write the stories. Then I would go through and HTML-ify everything, just put them in templates. And they knew, all the users knew, that at 6:00 p.m. Pacific time the site would get updated. And so, every day at 6:00 I’d hit publish and then the site would break because everybody was banging against it. So, I hit reset. I’d literally sit at my desk and for two to three hours a day I would just keep resetting the server until traffic slowed, and then I could go home. Within the next six months I did a revision of Game Players Magazine, and then sort of the genesis of IGN came about that I was doing these two sites. And, as I said, Imagine already had another site which was PC Gamer. I went around lobbying all the publishers of the magazines, let’s not do big content here. It’s silly that we’re putting game news on PC Gamer and Next Gen and Game Players. We’re putting sheet codes on all of these different sites. Let’s just do Next Gen as news, Game Players as codes, PC Gamer as downloads, right? It makes sense, and every publisher was, like, are you kidding me? I want to own my own brand online. They were smart that way, in a sense, that they knew that the brand online was important, but it was sort of miserable for me. At the same time my boss who ran the Games Division for IGN, Jonathan Simpson-Bint, was this sort of forward looking guy. You know, two years ago when you came, a year prior when I came to Imagine
Interviewee: …a year prior when I came to Imagine, two years, sorry. Two years when I came to Imagine, there were five sites for video games online. By this point there were thousands of them. We were like, let’s go sell ads on all of them. We’ll just sell ads because that’s what we’ve got internally.
Andrew: So, you don’t have to own them. You just want to rep them.
Interviewee: Exactly. You don’t have to staff them up. And so, he came up with this concept of the Imagine Games Network which would be some core sites in-house and then a bunch of affiliates that we vetted and sold ads on, very early ad sets in a way. So, my job then was to build an entire platform for internal sites to be built on, and his job was to set somebody up as the business guy, set somebody up as the EIC. And over the next four months we launched a Nintendo 64 site. We launched a Sega Saturn site and a Sony Playstation site, and they just blew up, just internally. The core secret here, either of two things, was a few things: one, for the longest time we had N64.com which was the way that everybody referred to the Nintento 64, and there was a legal battle for eight months with Nintendo with them threatening to pull all advertising and everything else, but during that time N64 grew to, I want to say, 150,000 users per month which back in ’97, a decent number. When we finally turned over the domain, it became IGN64.com. We’d already done with we needed to do, we built that. And the second thing, of course, was the content. Those three sites started out with one editor each, and within two months each moved up to two editors. So, we had six guys dedicated full time plus an editor-in-chief churning out games news and information every single day and that was what built IGN was that editorial content. So, fast forward a year and a half, now IGN is doing six million unique users per day, and everybody finds out that they’re spinning out IGN to go public, and six months later I was gone.
Andrew: Why did you leave at that point?
Interviewee: Because, and this was a very painful subject, a subject that made me very mad for years and years and years. Only recently have I fully come to understand things. For the longest time I used to say, at this point I was 24-25, I would never have expected me to be part of the executive team for a company at 25, for a company that is going to go public.
Andrew: At the time there were people at that age who were on the executive team, no?
Interviewee: No, not on IGN’s staff.
Andrew: For public companies but sort of like this.
Interviewee: Absolutely. So, Imagine itself which is now called Future Publishing, by the way, so Imagine was owned completely by this dude, Chris Anderson, who now runs TED. And so, Imagine was his company and IGN was his property. The dude is a smart dude, and frankly, I think, he thought that what I could contribute and what other people he could bring in could contribute, and he figured let’s go build a rock star team of executives who all raised loads of money and IGN ended up raising a hundred and some million dollars before going public. So, again, 24-25 year old dude, no experience. I don’t in the end really begrudge him not putting me on the executive team. What I was angry about for years and years and years was what got spun out was the result of a lot of people’s effort. And there was a couple of folks who were sort of management. There was Jonathan, there was Simon, there was myself, there was the EIC, Julian [?], some folks at ad and sales who really were the core team of this. And none of those group, none of those people got any sort of remuneration, no big piece of equity, no, like, “hey, thank you for building this. Here’s two percent of the company or five percent or half percent.” It was: dude, you are an awesome employee. Hey now, you’ve got a job over here. It took me until – I swear to God – two weeks ago, maybe, three weeks ago when I was sitting at dinner and I was talking it over to somebody else. I suddenly realized, “You know what? When I look at equity, it’s for what are you going to do for me next?” It’s not what have you done for me. It is incentivizing future behavior, and
Interviewee: … incentivizing future behavior, and I’d already done, sort of, what I could do in Chris’s eyes to make IGN successful. They spun it out, they got a new team to take it to the next level, so to speak, and there was no real reason, you know, to give me any huge financial incentive. What was galling beyond that was hearing all the new executives constantly talk about how much money everyone was going to make and how that was going to be the last job and retire and it was just like, “fuck y’all, we built this for ya!” At least shut up, you know, don’t talk about your summer and winter Porches. and so after six months it was just… it was… it was a good time to leave and go do something new.
Andrew: I see. So how does that now influence the way that you give equity to people who work with you? Do you do the same thing where you say, “it’s not what you;ve done up until now, but it’s what you can contribute in the future?”
Interviewee: It’s a tough question. I mean I think in… in… in my blog log, for instance, the developers who… who built that didn’t get remunerated the way that they should have.
Andrew: Mmm hmm.
Interviewee: And it’s… it’s weird. You go… I think you go through, you know… there are people who are just, bu nature, good and smart and they do things right the first time. I am like, professional idiot-boy, and so I need to go and do… I make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. So i think, you know… if, you know… the next time I do on my blog log or, you know, the next startup the guys who are building it early on will… you know… that are essentially doing it for free will get, you know, different.. different equity stakes. So, you know… if, when… when those guys are listening to them… to this… no, I don’t think I did a… I don’t think we did a fantastic job of remunerating them.
Andrew: That’s honest. What about with Gnip?
Interviewee: With Gnip things were… were greatly different, as far as the co-founding goes…
Andrew: I mean the equity allocation.
Interviewee: Right. So the specifics obviously not reasonable to talk about, but let’s just say that Judd and I… had… had… pretty… both very good stakes in the company, and then folks that we hire on, we tended to… you know… do the higher end of the normal spectrum of what you would bring somebody on as, you ,know, series A, series B sort of rounds.
Andrew: I see. Okay. alright, let’s talk about MyBlogLog next. I know this has been it’s… it’s one of those sites, those business that people didn’t just talk about, but they studied in depth because this was one of the models of what you could do with Web 2.0, but I’d still like to spend some time and just collect a lot of these… a lot of these stories together and have many of them come from you and maybe you can just fill in some of the gaps. So the business started in 2005. Was it January or March of 2005? Do you happen to remember?
Interviewee: Yes. So the idea for the original MyBlogLog was January 1st, 2005.
Andrew: Okay, and what was that original idea?
Interviewee: I was a multi-times failed blogger, and was a big fan of Cot Key (sp?), was a big fan of BoingBoing and other, you know, “link” blogs where you just… you find something interesting online, you write a pithy sentence or two about it and you post it. What I quickly found is that with a “link” blog people come to your homepage, they see something and then they leave. That’s very different than a traditional content site like I’d… like I’d done at IGN. with IGN, you looked at your logs and… or your stats, and you posted six stories today, one about Mario and one about Madden 2000 and, you know, N and one about, you know, some pissant racing game. You could very quickly just look at… alright… how many peole went to each story and ascertain generally what is the most interesting thing on the site… what do people care about the most. With a blog, especially a “link” blog where you don’t have lots of stories that don’t have premalinks that people are linking to… it’s all… it’s all a black box. People would come to your home page and then they’d leave and there was no really goo way of… of tracking outbound links, you know there was… all there was was CGI’s, which by that point… Chirst… 10 year old technology… 12 year old technology? So basically link redirects where you would… you would have a… a CGI in the background rewrite the… the location and then send you on and track that. So I sent email to a buddy of mine, Todd, who I’d known since fifth grade and had a consulting shop in Florida and said, “Dude, I can’t believe this is, you know… this is still a problem, there are no solutions for this.” And, you know, I’ve got the IM log somewhere and he just responded and said, “Dude I think you’re high. OF course there’s a… there’s, you know… of course there are solutions for this out there. I’ll go find you one and send it to you.”
And a week later he comes back and says, you are not high, there’s no good solution for this. We started building you one. Would you like to check it out. And it was a really smart thing. The thing that Cloudspace has always been awesome at, and what finally more and more companies are starting to figure out is this idea of dom manipulation. So you could actually, dynamically rewrite things on the page on job events. So specifically with how they build my blog log was when you clicked a link on the odd click event, they would dynamically write a one pixel gif on that page calling their server with all of the information, so what was the link that was clicked?, what was the text of the link?, where did it go?, what is the browser information? And so any time somebody clicked we would log that event using dom manipulation. And I think one of the things that really captured folks attention early on with my blog log was that when it was released, it was like March 13 and March 15, it was a complete package. They didn’t want you to see it as my blog log alpha or my blog log beta, it was just my blog log. Here’s this thing that works really well. It’s not complex. It’s not expansive, but it does this one thing really well. That was all Todd and the team. I remember registration, for instance. I gave them this six page registration to lock up, and they were like are you fucking kidding me? Look let’s just put your email address, your password and a site name and that’s it. And if you look at those sites now, that is the way that that you register for a site. It gives an email and a password. If there’s one other core piece of information that is required for it to function, throw that in there, but it’s done. And I like to think that my blog log was really sort of one of the pioneers in that? And hopefully I consider that humorous, because it wasn’t my fucking idea. I was the one that was saying let’s go and do the old thing, and they’re smart enough to go no,no,no here’s the future. And the same thing with just the site itself. You just register, it gave you a piece of job descript, you threw it on the page and you suddenly got real touchdowns where people were going. And…
Andrew: Let’s just stop right there for a second…
Andrew: …’cause I want to really fill in some details here. The first is Cloudspace invested about $200,000 of what I, as I understand it, not in cash, but in work they did to build this site. They were the biggest contributor, the biggest outside contributor, right?
Andrew: Okay, so, when you took this idea to Todd in Cloud Space, he just said I’ll build it for you? You said I already built it?
Interviewee: So, Todd and I have been the absolute best of friends for, for decades now.
Andrew: So this is way more ok.
Interviewee: And so… This is not the first time we’ve worked together. When I left IGN, and I was very pissed, I decided to go launch a site called Buzzsite that was going to do all the things that I never got to do at IGN and to sort of prove everybody wrong. Never, ever start a business in order to get revenge, because you’re an idiot. You’re not thinking straight when you do that. So Buzzsite was sort of like… it became… it was one of…it was a very early example of all these content aggregators that you see now. But it was right during the bursting of the Dicon bubble, when people didn’t need more traffic. They desperately needed to monetize their own traffic. And so, it was a dismal failure. But so, we worked together. We had a blast working together. We’ve done some contracts for other folks together. We just had a very nice working relationship. And so, we initally thought… he just thought this was just going to be some cool little hack that he built for me. Then we’re like, hey let’s go build this into a service and see if we can build an annuity. And the cost itself was… It’s one of those things that you don’t look at the cost until after it’s been going on for six months or a year. So he had two guys working part time on it for eight months. And at the end of it, he probably invested 40 k. But at that point we were both really, really into the idea that my blog log could at least be a good annuity for us. And it was great, right. And so I came up with the idea, so I was the chronic guy who just said I get 50%,and Todd, I mean Cloud Space gets 50%, and Todd owned all of Cloudspace, and so it made sense.
Andrew: I see what he contributed. So what did you contribute after
Andrew: What did you contribute after you came up with the idea?
Interviewee: So first it was on the product side and then the thing that tide always goes back to whenever we were talking about new ventures or when he is looking at ways of cloudspace over the years has created some really incredible technology. He hires absolutely brilliant developers who all have good ideas and so they put together really cool things like early advertising platforms where you can suddenly tie in 15 different ad networks and you don’t figure out what unit, the most [35:37] ad to display stuff that less people have installed for hundreds of millions of dollars for building. The challenge that they have always had is they are basically at this point I think like 24 engineers and a receptionist. So they sre really good at building stuff, they are not really great at supporting things, like building a community, of excitement around things, and so Todd has always gone back to thing that he thought made MyBlogLog very successful early on was that I came up with this list and at the time there was, and again this is five years ago now, which seems like a world away we had a lists and like A list, a B list and C list of bloggers. There were lists of venture bloggers that you could track down, and so I compiled all these lists and then everyday we just emailed 15 or 20 of these people and take the time to create a very specific message, so Hey Brad Feld, love your blog, been a long time reader, I have got this service that I just launched and would desperately love your feedback on it. Here is what it does, you got all these links on your homepage, you might find out that this was more popular that that and therefore rate differently, let me know if you’d like to try, I would give a free account, and maybe one in fifteen people responded but when those one in fifteen people are Brad Feld and Fred Wilson and [37:04], it pays off. So that was really my contribution, if you get my LinkedIn profile, the only thing in general description is I bring the fire. I am an idiot in more ways than I can possibly count, the one thing that I bring is enthusiasm and typically an ability to make other people enthusiastic, and then I like wake up the next day like I had been on a hypno liquid, what is I am so excited about but for a period of time there is a much smaller reality distortion field than Steve Jobs but it’s enough to get people in the close vicinity pretty excited.
Andrew: Can you give an example of how feedback someone like Brad Feld help shape the product in the early days?
Interviewee: Yeah, Brad was crazy, Brad used it and, first of all, just having somebody like Brad Feld
Andrew: Brad Feld is the investor in some of the top internet companies and also a big blogger.
Interviewee: Merlin Mann was another one. So, Merlin Mann stalls it and says game changer this is just [38:17] should be launched. Incredible amount of validation. Now you can go weeks, you can go months with not another piece of good news when somebody like Brad Feld or Fred Wilson says, dude this is awesome, I am loving using it and then starts asking for more features. And so things like, all we were initially was real time outbound links and that’s how we planned on being. The simple edition of things like where do people come from, like you are first and outbound, that was enough, that was I think Fred Wilson saying hey I like the real time nature of this, can you get me some more. And so we did that for until February 2006 just taking feedback from folks and very, very occasionally adding to the core base. Really we didn’t do this real fast or anything, we just didn’t work on that that much.
Andrew: Let me pause it right here because I know what’s coming up next but I want to make sure I understand what happened up until now. The first thing I want to clarify is use the word annuity, what did you mean by that when you said that you thought MyblogLog would be an annuity for us.
Interviewee: So we weren’t building anything life changing, right. It wasn’t like let’s go build the biggest social network out there, or let’s go build a platform, it was simply there is this one thing that stats don’t give you, let’s go fill that gap. And as a result our horizon, our bar, or vacations weren’t to go sell for millions of dollars or hundreds of millions of dollars. It was hey let’s see if we can get people to pay three bucks a months or 25 bucks a year and at some point if
Interviewee: and at some point, you know, if we can get 50,000 people using this and or, you know, hundreds of thousands of people using it, but 50,000 paying, that’s pretty damn good. And that would be a nice way to, if we wanted to, sort of, you know, just kick back and relax whenever we wanted and just have income. Our sights just weren’t that high early on.
Andrew: How high did the revenue get?
Interviewee: Oh, not much at all. I think at peak we had maybe, when I left, a thousand people maybe paying three bucks a month. And so that was enough to cover server costs. That was what we were always able to do was cover the server costs.
Andrew: I see. Okay. I read 20,000 and I didn’t know whether that was 20,000 over all or 20,000 a month. Basically, what we’re saying is the pro accounts brought in about $20,000 over all throughout the life of the business?
Andrew: Okay. All right. The second thing that I heard you say was free account, so that explains it. Did you have…did you have a freemium business or did people have to pay right away?
Interviewee: No. Freemium, so you…
Andrew: Freemium. So at what point did they have to pay?
Interviewee: Well, so this was fun so when you registered you got seven days of pro. And so what pro meant was real time. You could get the, you know, up to the minute stats on what people were clicking to leave your site and then after seven days you would revert to basic. And basic just meant that it was no longer real time. We computed it once a day. And so, you know, for most people you don’t need to know what people are clicking on right now because it’s not meaningful. It’s not actionable.
Interviewee: But there are a lot of people that are just real, you know, stats junkies and were happy to pay three bucks a month to get a real time fix. And it worked really well because you get people sort of hooked on this idea of, ‘Man. I can go on. I can see right now. I can see right now.’ And then it converts. You’re like, ‘Do you want that back? Twenty-five bucks for the year or three bucks, you know, recurring on Paypal.’ And we actually, I mean, we had like four percent conversion. Maybe, I think at one point it was like five or six percent. For a freemium service that is not bad.
Andrew: Okay. And let’s see what else that I’ve got here that I wanted to fill in the gaps on. The original site, what did it look like what you launched with?
Interviewee: It was ugly. That was another Todd special which was…he’s got this belief that if you’re site is ugly they’ll bitch about that more than anything else. And it’s sort of like, give them the easy thing to tear apart and then also the easy thing to fix. So if somebody says, ‘Man’…you know, it’s sort of like the -what is it- plenty of fish model. You know, you’re so focused on how ugly the damn thing is, that you overlook any technical inadequacies.
Andrew: Okay. All right. And then doesn’t that though distract you from improving the actual product because people are giving you all kinds of design feedback instead of product feedback?
Interviewee: The goal…again with my blog log it wasn’t early on. It wasn’t meant to be a full time job. I had a startup that I was running. Todd had his consulting company that he was running. So we really, we didn’t want something that required a lot of effort.
Andrew: Okay. And did the traction come just from you pinging people who were popular bloggers and saying, ‘Can you try this and give me feedback?’
Interviewee: It came from those people, those influencers, writing about it and then also we had one widget or we had two things. One was a little widget that showed the top five links out that people put on their sidebar. And some people would, you know, powered by My Blog Log and they’d check that out. But then the other thing that we did -and this was, I don’t know, one my ideas that I’m surprised as many people liked it as they did- was that for the top 50 links out on a site, which typically were all things on the home page, when you’d mouse over it, it would literally pop up and show in real time, ‘You have 52 links in the last 24 hours powered by My Blog Log.’
And it was a really…it wasn’t too in your face that it was distracting. And, in fact, as a user it was pretty informative and it also got a lot of people going, ‘Huh. What is this?’ You know, ‘What’s this My Blog Log? How can I get it?’ So everybody…it was one of those, you know, it was a truly viral thing where somebody installs it and suddenly they’re showing it to every single person who comes to their blog.
Andrew: I think Fred Wilson still has it on his site. I know the first time that I saw it -I don’t remember where it was- but I thought it was the coolest thing. You can see how many people clicked that link. It was just…it was damn impressive. Were you a link blogger before you built this or did you become
Andrew: Were you a link blogger before you built this or did you become a link blogger afterwards?
Interviewee: So, I became a link blogger approximately two weeks before we built this.
Andrew: And this is Andy the founder of…or the cofounder of Upcoming.org and the guy who is now with Kickstarter. He’s the guy who you said influenced you and got you to start a link blog.
Andrew: And as soon as you started it, two weeks into it you said, ‘This is something that I need.’
Interviewee: Well, at that point I had maybe five people, six people a day coming to my site, right, you know, a couple people who searched for [xx] and then, you know, my mom and I think Todd. And even with like five or six people I desperately wanted to know what did they like, you know. What stuff that resonated with me, resonated with them? I truly believe, you know, as users were either narcissists or stalkers, and I definitely fell into the narcissist camp, right. You know, when I post something on Tech Crunch, I will follow up for days. And all I really care about is, you know, did anybody respond, right? What did people think about what I wrote, you know, because that defines to a certain way how I feel about what I wrote, you know. Was it smart? Was it stupid. Whatever. And so, even with just five or six people coming per day, I desperately wanted to know how my stuff resonated with them, how we connected. And that simply wasn’t available.
Andrew: All right. It’s kind of cool that we talked about [Brad Feld] and Fred Wilson’s influence on the site, two guys who’ve been on Mixergy before. And the next person who I’m going to bring up is going to be on Mixergy in a little bit, [Scott Raiffer]. How did you guys connect with him?
Interviewee: He reached out via Linked In, sent me an email saying, ‘I have an investor who wants to build a distributed social network. I think we could build it on top of My Blog Log. Would you guys be interested?’ And so, I was in Massachusetts at the time, came down to New York City to meet him, and he was delightfully weird and also obviously very, very, very smart given that he suddenly can do his stuff. We immediately started building.
And it was just, you know, the core idea that he brought to the table, which was actually [Josh Complimens] from [First Run Capital], was this idea of why when I go to…why can I only see my Myspace friends on Myspace? Why can I only see my Facebook friends on Facebook? Why can’t I have a network that goes with me from site to site to site?
And Scott, right I mean, Scott’s power -and he’ll say this. He’ll probably say it when you interview him. Ask him about this- is he’s never employee one or two. And [xx] was the first change. He likes to say, ‘I’m always number three,’ and I think may have changed after My Blog Log. But his modus operandi prior to that had been: Find one or two people that were doing something cool and figure out how to blow it up.
And so, he came aboard and said, ‘Look let’s just, you know, let’s take the fact that you’re tracking people from site to site and make it visible.’ And, I mean, shit. It sounded like a brilliant idea. And, you know, Todd had a great [depth] team. I knew how, you know, I’d used enough sites to go design something like that. And so within two months again we’d launched something in beta. And this time we had to do beta because it was far too complex to launch fully formed.
Andrew: Right. Now I have to unpack this and ask a lot of questions around what you just said there. But the first question is, why did he seem so weird? What was it about him? Delightfully weird you said, I think. But what was different.
Interviewee: So, I grew up in the South and so I’m as homogenous as you can get. And at the end of the day [Raiffer] is this quirky, acerbic like five foot eight, maybe, little Jewish dude who had his big beard at the time and just like delighted in just saying nonsequiturs about technology. And it was just a blast to be around.
Andrew: It was pretty risky though to take this content, to take this analytics company and make it into a social network. Why did it make sense to put a social layer on top of an analyitics business?
Interviewee: I think Todd and I have always just really enjoyed smart ideas. You know, anytime somebody comes, and it’s almost [passe] to talk about but
interviewee: It’s passe to talk about but…the Jungian personality tests…I’m personally an ENTJ which basicly means I am absolutely decisive and it also means that I am willing to throw out everything that I knew yesterday based upon new data from today. And so when somebody comes and says, “Hey, you got this cool thing how would you like to go and make it a lot cooler?” Ok, I’m already in. You don’t have to say anything else I’ve bought into this. And Todd’s not really into those sorts of tests, but I think he’s fairly similar in that space where…I think why Todd and (unintelligible) especially Todd though, lasted so much longer at Yahoo than I did. As a product guy if I can’t ship something…if users aren’t actually interacting and providing feedback, I’m miserable. And Todd used to say, “Look, we’ve got resources. I get to build stuff. The fact that they never let me launch anything sucks, but I at least get to go solve the problems. And so…you’ve got Scott coming in and saying here’s an interesting new problem, “Let’s go make visible all these people who are hidden.” Todd was like, “Ya, let’s go do that.” And I was like, “Let’s go do that.” And there we go.
Andrew: It’s not just make those users visible. It’s get their permission to do it and get them to actually create an account with their picture. So, all you had was the blogger relationships. What he wanted was the end user relationship too and there was a risk that you’d be able to get it or not, right?
Interviewee: Yes, but I mean an entrepreneur…I just left my job as CEO of Gnip(spelling?) and I literally came home and told my wife, “Hey, you need to know I quit today.” As usual, no back up plans, no idea how we’re going to make money. I had no thought about this than I’m no longer happy and that needs to change. And my wife has been through this enough where…the look on her face of sort of “Wow” lasted about three seconds and then it was, “alright, go figure things out.” Entrepreneurs are delusional. We live in this world where we always believe that something good will happen. We’re the ultimate optimists even when we have no right to be. So, I don’t think you really look at risk until you’ve got something that you feel like you’re risking. And with my blog log…people loved it. It was getting traction and we were…”well of course. We’re making something now that was that much cooler, why wouldn’t everybody love it… love it that much more?”
Andrew: I see, ok… and you said earlier that you had an investor that wanted to build a social network. Who was the investor?
Interviewee: That was Josh.
Andrew: Did Josh end up putting any money into the business?
Interviewee: He did not. He didn’t believe that you could turn an analytics company into a social network.
Andrew: I see…but Scott believed in it enough that I think I read that he put up $24,000. of his own money?
Interviewee: He…about midway through the year when server costs were starting to outpace revenue he just kept putting money in.
Interviewee: He…Scott also got an incredible deal. And this goes to both Todd and I being absolute optimists but also being very trusting and the hope is that you trust the right people and with Scott we absolutely did. We never had…we weren’t a company until the day we sold. And we didn’t have a contract with Scott until the day we sold. We talked about it, but we just never really felt like…there was so much inertia and so much other things to do that neither Todd nor myself nor Scott ever felt like, “Ya let’s go get paper written up on this.”
It basicly said let’s take a value on My Blog Log on the day Scott reached out to us with the new idea. Let’s just call that a million bucks…so Todd owns 500K of My Blog Log, Eric owns 500K of My Blog Log. From this point moving forward for every $3.00 of value that is accrued on My Blog Log Eric earns one…Todd slash Cloudspace(spelling?) earns one and Scott earns one. And we’ll put that at a cap of …
Interviewee: I forget what it was, but it was…Scott could get like 30% ownership of the company…which wound up…I think it was like 7 million dollars or 8 million dollars of value. And the expectation…so Scott came to us and said “Here’s this idea…” Initially he was like, “Ya you know…
Interviewee: You’re gonna need to go raise some money for this. You know go raise the money in [inaudible]. And, he was like, “You know, I’d like to go be, I’d like to be chairman of this.” And we said, “That’s pretty cool.” And then we started cookieing people and saw just how many people were going through these sites that we could get information on. And, we all got a little greedy. And I think Scott, would, would admit that he was, in some ways, he was the greediest. Because he had had, with the [inaudible], he’d raised like $20 million dollars in the past. So, this was ad dude who knew, who had experience in raising, big money. So his, he asked this question of, “Eric, do you want to be CEO of a company that raising 4 or 5 million dollars?” And it was like, “Yeah, no thanks, I…I’m not ready for that.” And, he asked Todd, and Todd was like “Yeah.” And I sorta kicked Todd and said, “Dude you’re the fucking CTO, you’re not gonna be the CEO. Uh, we’re partners here.” Douche baggery at it’s finest. And, Scott was like, “Alright well then it’s settled. I should be CEO.” And it was like, “Okay fine. Let’s go do that.” And so, from that point on, right we’re, Scott’s now CEO of this company and we still have no paperwork whatsoever. We’re not even a real business yet. And we’re just doing this on faith, that three people who get along well, that, that have good ideas that mesh, that we can go build something great. The result, it turned out all right.
Andrew: Why didn’t you guys end up raising money after you started getting traction with the, with the social networking component?
Interviewee: So, we went out to a lot of folks, to go raise capital. And, ultimately, what I think is that, and, and you should chat in detail, cuz Scott has very, very strong and very public views, about [BC]. We were trying to raise money from, from folks who, who Scott doesn’t really, I think, see value in early on. He’s, got a, and it definitely works for him. Is that, early on raise angel, and then when you need a lot of money and when you’re, when you’ve still got control of your company, then go raise money and maintain, ownership, which I think is a fantastic strategy. What we were trying to do, is raise money where we didn’t have a lot of success. We were sort of raising, trying to raise four or five million dollars, for something that was more exploratory. And, as a result, they, we weren’t getting the, the traction that we wanted. And ultimately, we were, we were hours away from signing the final paperwork to raise capital with, Fred Wilson and, Bryce over at [OA] TV, with Brad [Phelp], who was part of the syndicate, when we sold to Yahoo. And I think a lof of it just boiled down to, Scott already knew in his head this new strategy, that he wanted to go to, about maintaining as much ownership as possible, which is always a good thing. But, all of the investors, and all of the investors knew that, that that was the way he wanted to go, and he was unhappy with the way we were raising capital. And it just sort of, we can’t do this Scott, and Todd and I, we’re loyal guys. We’re not doing it without Scott cuz Scott’s the third amigo. It just, it was a painful process, trying to raise funding.
Andrew: So if I’m understanding you right. The big issue was, that if you would’ve raised funding, you would have given up control and more specifically, Scott would have given up his control and share of the business, and that’s just not what he was ready to do at that point.
Interviewee: So yeah, so, we would’ve, we would’ve raised, what I think it was, 1.5 on 2.5 maybe, for MyBlogLog.
Andrew: I see.
Interviewee: Which isn’t, it’s not, depending upon who you talk to, if you raise capital whatsoever, you’re giving up control. Unless you’ve got, unless you’re in a Facebook or a Twitter position, where the last thing that a [VC] wants to do, is screw with whatever you’re doing right. You know Mark Pincus, does not have to worry about, about, the investors, about Fred, and, and Brad telling him what to do. All they want to do is make sure that, they give him the support he needs to keep kicking ass like nobody’s business. MyBlogLog, was literally, in the process from going from thing one to thing two, and rightfully can, you know, part of raising capital with the, with the, with Fred, was gonna be that, Scott resigned as CEO, and that we go hire a new CEO. If that isn’t the definition of losing control, I don’t know what else it is.
Andrew: And at the time you had 50,000 bloggers when you sold but, you were just getting rolling as you said, with the social network. Do you remember how many people actually had profiles at the time?
Interviewee: 40,000, actually at that point we actually only had I think it was 12,000 installs of the Readerall [?] widget.
Andrew: Okay, and you said…well actually, before we get to Yahoo, let’s talk about what it was like for you after you had that sale. Your a guy who just told me here you’ve had several setbacks in businesses, that you’ve worked for other people and didn’t end up with the big pay day even though everyone else at the business did. What was it like for you when you finally saw, not just the shares, but the cash in the bank?
Interviewee: Life didn’t really change. You know Douglas Adams? Writer, [? 1:00:44] the Galaxy? There’s this story that I tell, I’m sorry if you’ve heard this. So he’d done all this work on Hitchhikers and the books, and the radio show, and the TV show in the UK, but the US is really the large market. So when he sold the rights to publish the first book, The Turkish GuideXXX, in the US, he knew he was about to become very wealthy because that was where all the sales would come from.
And so he was interviewed once right before the book was gonna go on sale in the US. So it was this really weird place where he had been dirt poor for a long, long time; knew he was about to be very wealthy, but wasn’t yet. And a reporter asked him, how do you think your life is gonna change? And he said this thing that has affected me always since then is… Money doesn’t change anything except the size of your bills. If you’re an asshole without money, you’re gonna be an asshole with money.
And it’s just, hopefully I’m not that much of an asshole, but the point being that my wife and I were middle class before and obviously 33% of a reported $10 million isn’t life changing. It isn’t fuck you money. But we’re middle class people afterward. I bought a $16,000 car. I put a $6,000 stereo in it, but you know, you wind up, life is just you are exactly who you are after money as you are before.
Andrew: What’s the best part of it?
Interviewee: A little bit more freedom.
Andrew: What kind?
Interviewee: In multiple ways. It’s worth it to go back a little bit. So when we were doing MyBlogLog, I was working for a game company and that game company went out of business. So I went to my wife and said, can we go take a second mortgage on the house so I can buy the asset of this company?
My wife who’d been the primary bread winner at that point because she was working for a very large company and I was working for an infinite game developer, had just been laid off while on maternity leave. So I’m basically saying we’re gonna have no income, and I’m gonna go do a start-up, and I want to put a second mortgage on the house in order to do this. And my wife said, what else do we have to lose? Let’s go all in. She’s bad ass.
So again, money doesn’t change anything. Even as an entrepreneur or even when we were broke, I was still completely and utterly optimistic that something good would naturally happen. But now it’s more comforting to know that we’ve got some money in the bank so that I know I can go and quit my job if I’m unhappy. And spend a few months figuring out what I’m gonna do next.
I was able to do it with Yahoo. I’m able to do it now. And the other thing is definitely, even with a small win like MyBlogLog was, you’ve had an exit. And folks like Brad, and folks like Bjon [? 1:04:07], and Brad and Brice, and other folks who I greatly respect in the BC community, will return phone calls. If I send them an email and say, hey, I got this new idea, I’d love to talk to you about it. They’re ready to talk and provide feedback and guidance, and that’s phenomenal.
Andrew: That’s a good point. Let’s see, let’s see, there’s so much I want to ask you now about Yahoo. The first is circling back to a note that I wrote to myself earlier when you said that, Yahoo saw that Google had AdSense, and every time a new website and blog came up that it was good for Google.
They wanted something similar. They saw this thing with you. But how would having people’s profiles…
Andrew: How would having people’s profiles on a website add to Yahoo’s revenue or valuation or even traffic?
Interviewee: I don’t think they’d sort that far out, but I’d, and this is 100% props to Bradley Horowitz, I think what Bradley was ultimately trying to do was what Facebook just announced [1:05:29] last month. Who doesn’t think that Facebook’s valuation just doubled overnight based upon the universal likes and the ability to now take your profile and truly show up anywhere where there is content online. Bradley had that idea in 2007 and just like Scott, saw a stats company and said let’s go turn that stats company into a social network. Bradley saw here is a little upstart social network, let’s go turn that into Yahoo’s ability to own every visitor on every site on the internet and not in some, nefariously but to have insight into that. And it is sort of classic sort easy mantra. If you can get users you can figure how to monetize them.
Andrew: Okay, so the vision was clearly there. It didn’t work out, I am really curious about why that who ran Evite come on to talk about why Evite, even though he knew what needed to get down why he couldn’t do it? So I am always fascinated about why these bigger companies even when they have the vision, this golden vision, why they can’t execute. Can you tell me what happened now they had the vision, they had the company that could implement it, how did it play out?
Interviewee: So, first of all, there is stats and I am going to pull a number out of my bite, but I am going to be within plus or minus 5%, it is something like 92% of all acquisitions tale, right of the bat that’s tells you that there is something that is systematically unstable about a large company acquiring another company and from what I understand the only company are primarily the companies the small percentage that do well are other large companies that get swallowed up. And even then there is massive risk, but at least if you are Oracle eating SAP, SAP has got a business and all you are trying to do is take out some of the overhead that comes in running that business and adding that to your bottom line.
Andrew: Or Exxon and Mobil getting together
Andrew: Makes a lot more sense. But then you are talking, how does it play out in your experience? What do you see?
Interviewee: So here is what happened to us. We were at this point since when we got acquired, Yahoo was like, right we don’t really need a Scott [1:08:02] type person, we need developers and we need products guys, so [1:08:08] gone. So we were four guys. Right we were myself, Todd, John and Steve two developers, so we were four guys in a company of 14,000 people and they promised us that right off the bat we are going to be of the higher five people and eight days later, if you remember the peanut butter manifesto,
Andrew: That we are [1:08:34] Yahoo manifesto
Interviewee: Exactly the word spread too thin at Yahoo manifesto, the third and final reorg based upon that occurred and we were no longer reporting to Bradley Horowitz. We were now reporting to a guy who had just been brought in from Microsoft and he had been the biggest advocate against the acquisition.
Andrew: I see.
Interviewee: At that point Chuck [1:09:10] start up is done, we are done, that nothing else is going to happen.
Andrew: Now they don’t say hey, good bye, let’s give you a nice payout go away and don’t take anymore of our time, you are still in the business, you are still getting paid, Todd is still getting paid, you’re still doing work if you want to, and I know that you left soon afterwards, but they are just suffocating you by not giving you resources?
Interviewee: So that was the interesting thing and again I don’t even begrudge Yahoo if you are in that situation because we were a four person unit in the organization. They were end of lifing 360, do you remember Yahoo 360.
Andrew: They are a social network?
Interviewee: Yes, they were end of lifing that, and that’s a term that I learned at Yahoo, and they had a billion page views a month on 360.
Interviewee: …and they had a billion page views a month on 360, and they’re like this just isn’t big enough, the ten to twelve million unique visitors that we’ve got every month…this just isn’t a success. We need to wind this down, and put resources elsewhere.
So looking at a service like MyBlogLog, I understand why Toby Coppel probably didn’t even think about us when he looking at which pieces were gonna get reshuffled where. We were somebody who reported to somebody, who suddenly reported to some other dude; that dude not liking us at all. So you had everybody at corp. dev. and on the steering committee still you know, they just spent $10 million dollars on us reportedly – I’m gonna keep saying that – but they just spent a reasonable amount of money and they of course wanted us to be successful.
The challenge was they were not in a position to actually make any material changes to the way we were being run, and the only person who could really do that – in a company that size, you’re only gonna be successful as your corporate sponsor helps you become.
Your corporate sponsor is responsible for getting you resources, for getting you funding internally, and we’re all start-ups still and at a company like Yahoo. And if that person fundamentally believes that what you’re doing is wrong, but can’t cut your project because then the secondary, you know, the kill path comes into play, this easiest thing for him to do is refuse to let you launch anything.
So that’s what happened, and after six months I flew the coup. And the other guys took a while longer to do the same.
Andrew: What kind of kill path?
Interviewee: So, it was a time, it was a couple million for a two year vest. Sorry, three year vest.
Andrew: Oh, I see. Actually, how does that work?
Interviewee: So in most cases, not in all, with an acquisition you’re gonna have some money upfront, and then they’re gonna put a bunch of money, or some money, or whatever, on the back end to a traditional vesting sort of schedule in order to give you the golden handcuffs. In our case, we were trying to negotiate between X and Y; let’s call it we were saying we wanted between 8 and 10, and we preferred 10 up front. Yahoo was saying well how about 6 to 8, and we would rather give you 6.
So we came back to them and said, look, normally folks have like a 3-year vest with Yahoo acquisitions, 1-year cliff, then monthly after that. Tell you what, why don’t you take our 1-year cliff, get us to a point where we’re happy which is with the 10 number, and then in exchange we’ll go with a 3-year cliff.
So we’ve gotta stay there for three full years to see another dime. And Yahoo was like this is awesome, this is great, we’ve got them locked in for three years. And Todd and I are like this is awesome because we’re never gonna be at Yahoo for three years. The moment it sucks and we’re not actually doing something we’re truly happy with, we can leave knowing that we were never gonna see this money anyway.
And the six months that I was there the value of that earn out was cut in half by Yahoo’s falling stock prices. It was easy to extrapolate three years out it’s gonna be worth a good meal at Bennigan’s.
Andrew: I see, so you left some money on the table, but you understood that that money was gonna shrink and shrink and shrink until it became nothing.
Andrew: All right, what else do I have here? There’s so much. I think you can see we’ve already gone over and I still didn’t get to ask you questions about what happened at Buzz Sites, which you brought up; you brought up some interesting issues there. I didn’t get to ask you about the other businesses.
Tell you what, why don’t we…we’ll save it for…I hope you’ll do another interview with me, but I’ve got a couple more questions here.
Andrew: Thank you. I really love this. I didn’t want to interrupt and I didn’t want to move things faster because I just wanted more and more information. Why don’t I ask you about this, optimism. You’ve had setbacks. You’ve had setbacks that to many people would become, what am I saying, how do I describe exactly how? You’re a guy who just left your company a week ago. You should just be, Andrew, fuck off, I don’t wanna do an interview right now. Come back to me later on.
And when you told me initially before we started the interview that that’s where you were, I said, ah, now what am I gonna do with this guy? He’s just gonna sit there and I’m not gonna be able to get the good stuff out of him. But you’re not, and when you told me about these big setbacks…
Andrew: …but you’re not. And when you told me about the big setbacks, you kept talking about optimism. How does somebody who’s in my audience who’s going through a setback now, how do they ignite that optimism? How do they bring the fire as you say?
Interviewee: So I don’t know that I can speak to that. I go back to what I said before, I fundamentally believe that entrepreneurs have a psychological disease. We’re optimistic when we have no right to be optimistic. And that’s great as long as stuff works out. You know, the road to a $100 million exit is paved with guys who get run over and go bankrupt because they’re truly optimistic about something they shouldn’t be.
So I don’t know how to suggest somebody else reignite that passion. For me, it’s in there whether it’s good or not. Luckily it’s mostly been for good than for bad. I think the core thing is – my wife and I have been talking about this, I’ve got a 4-year old and a 2-year old and I still think that we are ultimately middle class. What’s interesting is the one are where we get to pretend that we’re upper class or upper income or whatever, is sort of man’s search for meaning.
I don’t care if my kids go to college, right. I don’t care anything other than they find work that satisfies them. And I’m gonna get to lead by example on that front. Daddy left his company because it wasn’t making him happy anymore. He didn’t think it was right to stick around. And he knew if he was unhappy he would not be able to make that a successful company. What do you learn from this kids? It’s that go find your bliss and success will happen.
When I look back at the last two years of Gnip what I ultimately see is I – and I put this in my blog post – any successes were due to the team, any failures were due to me. With my blog log, I was passionate about doing something fun. It was “consumery,” it was a need that I personally felt as a blogger, not as a developer, but as a blogger. And then as a social person, I really grocked [? 1:17:28] that idea and I loved it, and I wanted to show up you know, on people’s sites. Like I wanted to be there on Fred Wilson’s site. And the money just sort of happened at the end of the day and it was great.
And with Gnip, it was always an intellectual exercise. I’m a product guy. I’ve never actually had to deal with the pain of integrating with an API other than making a call to Delicious or Digg or somebody else, and say hey, can you up our limits, and getting a bad response.
That wasn’t what I was truly passionate about so I had to sort of manufacture enthusiasm for several years, and you’re never gonna be successful there. So the answer I guess to your question is, if you’ve got somebody in the audience and they’re sitting there going man, I just had an idea that flamed out, or whatever. It’s going and finding the next thing that makes you happy. You know, find a way you can survive while being happy.
Here’s the thing, as an entrepreneur, it’s almost like a mortal sin to leave a start-up without already working on your next thing. So everyone keeps going – I’m sure you get this a lot – what’s your next thing? I don’t know, like lose some weight. They’re like come on, come on, really, what is it? Clue me in, what’s the next thing. And it’s like seriously, I don’t know. I’m gonna go and try to lose some weight because that would make me happy.
Then once I’m happy and I can start looking at new ideas, then I can make a good judgment on what I want to do next. And until I reach that sort of point of clarity, the last thing I want to do is be working hard on any new businesses. I just wanna go be cheerful and thinner.
Andrew: All right, well, let’s leave it there. We’ve heard several entrepreneurs come on here and talk about their ideas, and it was in that in between area where they said I for once in my life don’t have an obligation to a boss. I don’t have an obligation to my last start-up. I don’t have investors screaming at me to figure out what I’m gonna do next. I don’t have college professors or high school teachers telling me I have homework due. And in that freedom I was able to come up with my next idea. That’s where inspiration came from. They said so.
I would love to spend another half hour with you asking you what your theories are, what you’re seeing in the world now, now that you’ve had a little bit of the weight lifted off your shoulders. I’m looking at the clock and I’ve got a call in five minutes.
How about this, one big, one big idea that you’re seeing now that the weight is lifted off your shoulders and now that you’ve got fresh eyes?
Andrew: now that you’ve got fresh eyes.
Interviewee: I’ll give you two, and frankly they are not new things, they are just thesises that I will be applying once again to whatever startup I do again in the future. One is that, actually I guess they are the same, sorry. It’s this: trying to change or create human behavior is very, very, difficult. And so, for me, what I am looking at, when I start evaluating new startup ideas, is how can I insinuate this service into the behavior that people are already doing and adding value to them. Ignore all of the privacy implications that facebook is going through right now. What they have done with the universe alike, and the facepile that shows up on there, the widget that shows “these are the most popular pages on these sites” and here are your friends, whenever possible, who have viewed them. That is like.. what they are saying is, just go about your day, you surf the web, thats awesome. We’re now making that better. And when you can find that thing, that is the holy grail to me. Its why I don’t use foursquare as much as I would like to. Its because it forces me to go somewhere and go “oh yeah, I need to go log in to foursquare”. My life is too busy for that. So if there was a way to check in automatically without the privacy implications, I would be on in a heartbeat.
Andrew: I see what you mean. Yeah, my blog log didn’t require me to hit a button on Fred Wilson’s site or Brad Feld’s site every time I got there. I just got there, they knew I was there, I knew that I was there, and that they were going to know I was there, it was good. I didn’t have to do anything. I see what you mean.
Andrew: Alright, well, like I said, I’ve got tons of questions. I know that this will not be the last time I will invite you back. You’ve got an open invitation, anytime you want to come out, come on mixergy and just have a conversation I would have you back on. This was such a great interview.
Andrew: Thank you, thanks for being here.
Interviewee: It was a pleasure.
Andrew: And guys, thank you all for watching, I will see you in the comments.
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[Thank you Marshall Kirkpatrick for making this interview happen!]