Editor’s note: Kakul Srivastava is CEO and co-founder of Tomfoolery, Inc. She was General Manager for Flickr from 2004 – 2009 and helped the product grow from 37,000 users to over 60 million. Simon Batistoni is VP of Platform and co-founder of Tomfoolery, Inc. He joined Flickr in 2006 as the engineering lead for internationalization.
People can’t help but look at the Tumblr acquisition through a lens colored by the many examples of large, public (and often screwed-up) tech acquisitions by Yahoo and others — Marissa even refers to it in her blog post announcing the deal.
As leaders who helped to guide the Flickr team in its early history at Yahoo!, we had front-row seats as Flickr was (sometimes painfully) integrated with the larger Yahoo! organization. Despite this pain, we believe that Flickr has come a long way as part of Yahoo!, and yesterday’s announcement of a major redesign and refocus is a testament to the continued excellence of the core Flickr team.
Kakul, a product/business professional, joined Flickr just as the ink dried on the acquisition deal. She represented Flickr’s needs through painful acquisition-integration check-ins and figured out how (and if) any of Flickr’s roadmap needed to change based on Yahoo!’s larger corporate needs. Simon, a hacker/engineer, was responsible for creating the translation technology and internationalization infrastructure that allowed Flickr to begin serving customers in Yahoo!’s overseas markets.
Yahoo! is on an upswing — at least in hype — and hope is rampant.
The advertising powerhouse has acquired fast-growing sites featuring rich-media content and extremely passionate communities.
There are ardent reassurances that independent growth will be nurtured.
Both products are missing “e”s in their names.
So as former Flickr employees, here is some practical advice from us to our friends at Tumblr, humbly shared:
Don’t pretend it’s not happening or that it doesn’t matter.
Regardless of who’s involved, acquisitions always make communities nervous, if only because they represent significant change. For some people, an acquisition can feel almost like a betrayal, and some Tumblr community members will be looking for any reason to justify their distrust of the situation.
The more honest you can be about the direction you’re taking and the reasons behind it, the better. Give your members a means to easily communicate back to you — the Flickr Forum, while sometimes contentious, has always been a great bellwether of how the community feels, as well as an opportunity for the team to explain and (hopefully) reassure.
Open discussions can be exhausting to manage, but they’re often more rewarding (and instill more confidence in your community) than pronouncements with no outlet for feedback. Avoid reassuring platitudes that gloss over the issues – if putting ads on the Dashboard will allow you to reach a goal of tripling annual revenue, it’s better to say so plainly. Honesty is appreciated by most communities, even if the truth is unpleasant.
Don’t forget you’re awesome.
Merging your company culture with another is a bit like combining a Trifle and a Tiramisu into a single dessert, layer by layer — hard work, probably messy, and it might taste a bit weird for a while. Losing focus on how you all work together can make the difficult moments seem worse than they really are.
Don’t forget that your culture isn’t just important to you — it’s important to Yahoo! too. Over the years, Flickr had many opportunities to influence the wider culture at Yahoo! including:
Innovative approaches to database sharding, website localization and geographic data handling which were adopted by other teams, and informed company-wide initiatives.
A highly productive team culture focussed around continuous deployment, which influenced a general trend towards faster development of many Yahoo! products.
Faceball, one of many ongoing experiments in office clowning, which became something of an official Yahoo! “sport,” and was even played live onstage by senior company management.
Tumblr can set new precedents on how to join and influence Yahoo!’s culture and management. Equally importantly, a truly strong product is usually the result of the strong, connected team behind it. When acquisitions wither on the vine, it’s often a symptom of that team having dispersed over time, taking too much knowledge and culture with them.
However, the magic that really binds a team is larger than any one individual and can persist through multiple “generations” of people, provided everybody feels ownership of it. Ensure that new team members understand the value of the culture you’ve built, and the history that led you from being an experimental blog engine to a 400-million-user powerhouse.
At Flickr, we had several traditions to aid in ensuring that history and culture were passed along. When veteran members left the team, they were asked to provide a “last lecture,” summarizing the most important things they knew, and the lessons they’d learned at Flickr. Equally, new employees spent time with managers from each department during their first week on the job, learning more about how the team operated, the product philosophy, and the engineering infrastructure that made it all work. Every new Flickr team member was also encouraged to spend a day answering member help questions, which allowed everyone to understand how to communicate with the community, and the common problems they had with using the product.
Finally, the importance of goofing around was also underscored by regular bouts of spontaneous dancing, foam-dart wars and liberal posting of lolcats on the walls.
Plan for the Bear Hug.
Yahoo is a friendly place — and everyone will want to greet the new neighbors. Everyone will want to figure how they can work better with you. Everyone will have ideas about what Tumblr can do to support their property. By and large, these meetings come from a genuine desire to be a better partner, but they can take time and focus away from your core mission and slow the whole team down. Sometimes too much of this “love” can be overwhelming, and at times it definitely led the Flickr team to handle the overtures less than gracefully. In some cases, this led to relationship management headaches for years.
Allocate a “first point of contact” to triage the ideas and opportunities that come your way. Filtering in this way will allow you to seize the best opportunities and execute well on them, without draining your resources trying to handle too much. And remember that, while the occasional approach will be from someone furthering an agenda of their own, most folks are trying to help both Yahoo! and Tumblr get better. Even if their approach is clumsy, they mean well.
Tumblr has promised to continue executing on its own roadmap, and right now that’s essential. But Yahoo! wants 1+1 to equal 5 (or even 15), not just 2. Back when Flickr was acquired, it seemed everyone was thinking about what the “Flickrization of Yahoo” might mean — except for the team at Flickr. We just wanted to keep Flickr as “Flickrized” as we could. In our case, we missed out on some promising avenues for product improvement and growth.
Don’t forget to leverage what Yahoo! can really add to your business. Whether it’s 24-hour datacenter support, the world’s largest Hadoop cluster, international legal expertise or better Tumblr schwag, you now have access to the resources of a large company that wants you to succeed. Relying on these resources whenever you can will free you up to focus on the things — your core team and your product — that you’re truly the experts on.
Know how deep the rabbit hole goes.
For both parties to really benefit from the acquisition, Tumblr will need to embrace certain Yahoo! technologies and infrastructure, but sometimes a successful integration can be much more complex than it initially seems. Will it require that you host Tumblr in Yahoo! datacenters? Perhaps you’ll also need to start using Yahoo! IDs or introduce new features to comply with foreign laws? When large, complex “sub-problems” crop up halfway through a project, the knock-on effects can cost months of time to address.
Make sure you’re always asking questions and scoping out the entire landscape – a large company like Yahoo! has some intrinsic challenges and approaches that will be unfamiliar, and you need to be ready to embrace and work through them. Being a part of Yahoo! will subtly change a few things about how you do business.
You’re a bigger target for hackers hoping to get access to Yahoo! data, or to “punish” Yahoo! for a mistake that might have nothing to do with you.
You’re a bigger target for opportunists like patent trolls looking for a quick payout from an “Internet giant”
Yahoo! is a multinational company with offices in many countries — the legal landscape in which you operate will likely change as a result.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people for a “gut check” even if you feel like you’re asking a silly question. It’s better to spend 20 minutes before you start ensuring that your security measures are adequate, or you’re legally compliant, versus having to significantly rework a project after you thought it was finished.
We are still passionate advocates of Flickr, we use Yahoo! Mail, and run our company blog on Tumblr. We are thrilled about these marriages and can’t wait for you all to show us how well it can be done.Read More →
There is no sadder moment than the one where you realize it’s time to upgrade your computer. The load times are too slow, the battery no longer holds a charge, and it’s just too damn heavy. Now, imagine a school with dozens of outdated computers, and think just how bad that moment of realization can really be.
Neverware, a company based out of NY, is aiming to change all that with a turnkey solution that automatically boosts performance of old computers for a low monthly fee. Obviously, demand for this type of service is high, especially in the education industry, which is why Neverware has just closed a $1 million round from investors that include Thrive Capital, Khosla Ventures, General Catalyst, Collaborative Fund, and Nihal Mehta.
Founder Jonathan Hefter started Neverware back in 2011 and launched in January 2013 with around $600K in seed funding. Since then, the company has been working to evangelize the product to NYC schools, and the response has been great. According to Hefter, Neverware’s latest seed round is somewhat of an emergency raise, considering that the demand from schools is much higher than expected.
Hefter explained that they expected to sign on with between five and seven schools for the first semester, starting in January. However, they’ve blown way past that number and seen around 3x the customer sign-ups. According to Neverware, most of the new seed round will go toward smart engineering hires, as Hefter looks to double the seven-man team with more employees who care about what Neverware is doing.
Neverware works by setting up a Juicebox 100 in the schools. That piece of hardware integrates with the school’s network to bring automation and intelligence to the system. The Neverware virtualization technology then boosts performance to each computer, giving kids the access they need to actually get things done.
Schools pay an adjustable fee per month, per computer, and the Juicebox comes free.
“There is a huge challenge in deploying software on appliances across a wide variety of networks that we do not control,” said Hefter. “In order to be a reliable solution, we engineer an incredible amount of intelligence and automation into our system that allows it to function in many types of network environments that schools might have and recover from a wide range of network-related issues, without any associated downtime. These are engineering challenges that you simply don’t face when you’re running a website on uniform Amazon instances in the cloud.”
For now, Neverware is focused on expanding within the greater New York area, and will eventually expand beyond that into new regions.Read More →
Yahoo has now officially confirmed that it is buying blogging platform Tumblr for $1.1 billion mostly in cash, after reports on an impending deal first surfaced last week. It says it will keep it as an independent company, with founder David Karp at the helm as CEO. “The product, service and brand will continue to be defined and developed separately with the same Tumblr irreverence, wit, and commitment to empower creators,” it writes.
The deal will close in the second half of this year.
With a lot of negative comments coming in from Tumblr users in lead-up to the deal, and some competitors claiming that they’re witnessing a kind of exodus from Tumblr as a result, Karp has also weighed in with his own announcement about the deal, emphasizing the same independence line: “We’re not turning purple,” he wrote:
“We’re not turning purple. Our headquarters isn’t moving. Our team isn’t changing. Our roadmap isn’t changing. And our mission – to empower creators to make their best work and get it in front of the audience they deserve – certainly isn’t changing.”
Karp also points out that Tumblr, joining up with the “original Internet company,” will be getting more resources to create the “ultimate creative canvas.” Some users have complained about certain features around the site, such as how video works, so the implication here is that areas like this will be addressed faster from now on, but — again — in a way that “doesn’t compromise the community and product we love.”
To get into the spirit of things, Marissa Mayer has fired up her very own Tumblr account and has posted on the news herself, complete with her own GIF to commemorate the deal (and, yes, also respond to the negativity):
Although both Karp and Mayer are pushing hard on the “we will not screw this up” line, there are of course business reasons behind it.
The deal, as many have pointed out, will give Yahoo not just access to more younger users (Tumblr is strongest in the 18-24 age bracket), but a fast-growing number of consumers who are in general very engaged online. Yahoo notes that Tumblr currently has 300 million monthly unique visitors and is growing by 120,000 signups every day, “one of the fastest-growing media networks in the world” with 900 posts per second and 24 billion minutes spent on site each month. There is also a strong mobile story that fits with Yahoo’s new emphasis on that platform: more than half of Tumblr’s mobile users using the mobile app on an average of 7 sessions per day.
Yahoo says it expects Tumblr to expand Yahoo!’s audience by 50% to more than a billion monthly visitors, and to grow traffic by approximately 20%.
That’s presuming there will be advertising against all of that content and all of those users. While Yahoo and Tumblr say that we won’t be seeing the birth of Yahooblr here, it’s also careful to note that advertising and Yahoo’s other monetizing services will most certainly be finding a place at Tumblr.
Tumblr, it appears, will be using Yahoo’s “personalization technology” and search infrastructure in its services to help users find content that fits their interests better. This is directly connected to advertising: “In turn, Tumblr brings 50 billion blog posts (and 75 million more arriving each day) to Yahoo!’s media network and search experiences,” Yahoo writes. Still, these apparently won’t be standard Yahoo display ads like the ones we see everywhere else: “The two companies will also work together to create advertising opportunities that are seamless and enhance the user experience.”
Tumblr has been working on services like this for some time, for example with its Spotlight highlighting Tumblrs from brands. This last year helped the company make some $13 million in revenues — not much by Yahoo standards. It will be interesting to see whether Yahoo will be able to raise that figure without lowering the others around usage that attracted it to Tumblr in the first place.
The companies are holding a conference call at 9am Eastern time; we’ll be listening in and updating from that.Read More →
Amid grumblings of a “general fatigue” when it comes to software-based startups, a potentially transformative technology called 3D printing is poised to reach critical mass and mainstream awareness. Today’s news headlines about the technology tend to focus on the extreme possibilities in being able to print objects on demand – from the terrors of things like a homemade 3D-printed gun to heartwarming tales of printed robotic hands for children born without fingers. But the innovation is also powering a revolution of a different kind. An emerging class of creatives are using 3D printing techniques, not to either save or destroy the world and the people in it, but simply to create a little beauty along the way.
These creatives, makers of the new “handmade” goods, are selling their art in online storefronts like Etsy and Shapeways, as well as within brick-and-mortar stores, and even museums.
They range from technically adept programmers who never dabbled in hands-on art involving paint or clay or other materials, to formally trained artists and even do-it-yourselfers who taught themselves 3D modeling by watching tutorials on YouTube.
Regardless of how they got there, the end result is an output of affordably priced, print-on-demand goods that reflect their own unique vision and inspirations, whether that’s a new kind of jewelry that couldn’t exist before the capabilities introduced by 3D printing, one-of-a-kind items used to decorate your home, or objects which buyers help craft themselves, using simple online tools.
Here are some of their stories.
This is part one of an ongoing series which will showcase some of the art that’s being fueled by the increasingly accessible 3D printing technology, and the artists behind the work.
Part One: The Formally Trained Artist
Summer Powell has always been an artist. She has both undergrad and graduate degrees in graphic design, and has worked on a number of products involving mixed media, vacuum forming, and lenticular technology, while exploring the intersection of art and technology in years past.
Along with a collaborator, she once produced a clock which used high-resolution animations to tell the time, for example.
Powell says she first heard about 3D printing around 10 years ago and had been watching the space ever since waiting for it to become viable for use in her art.
“I had industrial designer friends in New York, and I’d go see their prototyping 3D printing machines,” she says. “They were making prototypes of consumer electronics and some furniture.” But it wasn’t until a few years ago before Powell had the opportunity to begin playing around with 3D printing techniques herself.
She decided to pay a visit to Silicon Valley-based TechShop, one of the earlier “maker spaces,” as these tool-filled workspaces are called. TechShop, which has since expanded to several cities in California, New York, D.C., and elsewhere, offers a wide range of professional equipment which members can train on and use for just about any kind of project. It was where Square co-founder Jim McKelvey once built the first three protoypes for the Square card reader, and where a datacenter technology startup called Clustered Systems designed a prototype of a fanless liquid-cooling system which outperformed IBM in a “chill-off” contest.
But Powell didn’t want to build gadgets or technological components; she wanted to produce art.
“I created a prototype of this idea I had – which I still want to produce – of salt and pepper shakers,” she says. The object is designed to look like a wall socket, if laid flat on a table. The actual shakers then extrude upward from that. “It’s sort of a funny, visual pun,” says Powell.
Coming from a background in graphic design, Powell was used to doing a lot of what she describes as “virtual” work. But 3D printing was different.
“It was really wonderful to envision an object or a form, and be able to hold it in two weeks time, and actually have a tactile object,” she explains.
Today, she thinks of the art of 3D printing as falling somewhere in between the world of graphic design and metal working, another artistic medium she’s practiced in the past, noting the “hands on” nature of the latter tends to be a bit more satisfying of the two.
It was about two years ago when Powell begin working on 3D printed jewelry. Her items were first sold to consumers on Etsy, an online marketplace known best for handmade items from DIY crafters, who sell everything from homemade clothing and accessories to watercolor paintings and woven baskets.
It’s not, perhaps, the first place you would think to go for items outputted by machines.
But Powell’s jewelry fits right in.
Still, despite the nature of those early designs, her first clients were often men who were drawn to the jewelry because of its technical underpinnings and geometric patterns, buying them as gifts for girlfriends, wives, and other women they knew.
Today, that client base is now starting to shift – around half of the shop’s customers know what 3D printing is, and those who don’t are just interested in buying because of the jewelry’s modern look.
Powell declined to discuss her sales saying that her business is still in its “growth stages,” but notes that one of her more popular items is her “Andromeda Necklace” (pictured above). This item is especially interesting because it comes out of the 3D printer with its interlinking, moving parts already hinged together, no assembly required.
The necklace, like many of her pieces, is made of a nylon-based material – a material she prefers because of what it can allow for.
“There are possibilities beyond what you can achieve in metals sometimes – thinnesses or having one object inside another – there are just all these great possibilities with form with the resin,” she explains.
After sending her designs off to a 3D printer following a customer’s order, the turn around time is about two weeks before she gets the items back so she can finish them by adding coatings, clasps or chains. Meanwhile, when inspiration strikes, Powell sometimes still turns to pen and paper to sketch, and other times, she skips straight ahead to the 3D modeling software she uses: Rhino 3D, a CAD program she taught herself to use.
Most of the time, Powell designs out of a desk she’s had at a local co-working space, Sandbox Suites for several years, but is planning to expand to a larger space where she can be more physical with the work – not only in assembling the jewelry, but also sculpting objects and then scanning them with a 3D scanner.
One that recently caught her eye was the Matterform, which just wrapped up a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help build an initial batch of scanners. The company was seeking $81,000 but ended up raising nearly half a million in just 35 days. It was the largest non-U.S. fundraise the site had seen to date.
Today, Powell sells her designs on her own website, as well in San Francisco Bay area retail stores. Her rep is also bringing her work to showrooms in New York and L.A., as she prepares to expand her business nationwide.
“I’d almost become a metal sculptor, and chose graphic design instead because of my love of pattern and symbol,” Powell says, looking back on how she came to 3D printing . “Now I can realize my vision and unite those loves in a 3D medium.”Read More →
Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the twin Harvard graduates who famously sparred with Mark Zuckerberg over the founding of Facebook and are now working as tech investors through Winklevoss Capital, are part of the growing group of venture capitalists who have taken a keen interest in Bitcoins. Last month, it was revealed that they personally own roughly one percent of the currency, a stake worth the equivalent of some $11 million. And now, the Winklevosses tell TechCrunch they have invested in Bitcoin in another meaningful way — by leading a funding round for a startup in the space.
BitInstant, a New York City based startup that operates an online platform for buying and selling Bitcoins, has raised $1.5 million in a seed funding round led by Winklevoss Capital with the participation of other strategic investors including money services veteran David Azar. The investment was closed this past fall, but the Winklevosses are just now publicly announcing it in the lead-up to the Bitcoin Foundation’s 2013 Conference being held in Silicon Valley this weekend.
BitInstant, which has a full-time staff of 16 led by CEO Charlie Shrem, has emerged as a key player in the nascent Bitcoin market: The company already processes approximately 30 percent of the money going into and out of Bitcoin, and last month alone facilitated 30,000 transactions, the Winklevosses said in a phone call this week. The funding is meant to allow the company to further scale up its staff and product as it angles to become the go-to site for Bitcoin transfers.
The Winklevosses say they were attracted to invest in BitInstant in large part because of its leadership. CEO Shrem is the vice chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation, and CIO Alex Waters previously worked with the core developers on the original Satoshi Bitcoin client. “Charlie has been in the space for a very long time, and he has an impeccable reputation among Bitcoiners. He knows everyone in the space and everyone in the space knows him,” Cameron Winklevoss said. “One of the most exciting things about people who are into Bitcoin it’s that they’re a really passionate community, and Charlie is a passionate entrepreneur. He would be in that category of someone who lives, breathes, and sleeps Bitcoin.”
Speaking of that community, the world of Bitcoiners does indeed have an interesting edge to it: There’s an underground vibe that seems like it would contrast with the more traditional East Coast prep style of the Winklevosses. In our phone call, Cameron and Tyler said that they’re intrigued by the current feel of the Bitcoin space — and its potential for becoming a bit more structured in the coming years.
“We’re definitely pretty fascinated by it. The classic issue with Bitcoin is that it’s very early days,” Tyler said. “The entrepreneurs in the space are very impressive, but it takes really two areas of expertise: One is technology, and the second is understanding money services and regulation and all those things that are important for sustainability. Most entrepreneurs and companies we see in the space have the tech down, and they’re super strong there, but in terms of being buttoned up and looking like an average bank, it’s hard to couple both of them together. We think that BitInstant and Charlie do a fantastic job of doing both.”
This marks the third big-name funding news for Bitcoin startups in just a few days. Earlier this week Adam Draper announced that half of the companies in his next Boost.vc accelerator program will be focused on bitcoin, and yesterday Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund led a $2 million investment in Bitcoin processing startup BitPay. It will be interesting to see how the Bitcoin space in general evolves as even more buttoned-up types and traditional money managers get involved.Read More →
EdgeSpring, an enterprise business intelligence and analytics startup, is emerging from stealth and announcing $11 million in Series A funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Lightspeed Ventures.
The EdgeSpring platform accelerates the building of analytics applications that parse business intelligence data like sales, financials and more. The company wants to allow businesses to derive insights from data of any size or structure. Edspring says that it enables applications to answer first and second order questions across structured and semi-structured data.
CEO and co-founder Vijay Chakravarthy explains that part of EdgeSpring’s secret sauce is in its patent-pending technology. The core of the platform is build around the EdgeMart, a powerful data store and the Lens Framework, a dynamic visualization engine.
The company is also releasing a new application using CrunchBase data to demonstrate the power behind its visualization platform by releasing. Called CrunchEdge, the app is an interactive and multi-layered chart “playground” which maps startup funding data in CrunchBase.
“As enterprises face an explosion of new types of data and as business leaders strive to go from raw data to informed decisions, Big Data Analytics creates tremendous value,” said Ted Schlein, general partner at KPCB. “EdgeSpring is poised to capture a large slice of the Big Data Analytics market with its powerful platform.”
Despite being in stealth, the company has been able to accumulate a number of high-profile customers including AppSense, Demandbase, Docusign, EllieMae, Equinix, Hara, HighWire, Intacct, Lithium, Neustar, Pandora, SpruceMedia, and Xactly.
As companies move towards business applications in the cloud, and generate more data in the cloud, we’re going to see the rise of startups like EdgeSpring who are trying to actually make sense of all of this data.Read More →
This is a promo for crowd-funding campaign for the documentary film directed by young author Lidija Špegar and produced by Restart Laboratory dedicated to pr…Read More →