Archive for the ‘john borthwick’ tag
I’m happy to announce that I’ve sold a majority stake in Instapaper to Betaworks. We’ve structured the deal with Instapaper’s health and longevity as the top priority, with incentives to keep it going well into the future. I will continue advising the project indefinitely, while Betaworks will take over its operations, expand its staff, and develop it further.
I’ve known Betaworks for years, and I’ve spent a lot of lunches at their office. They have great engineering talent, great product direction, and plenty of experience running services at Instapaper’s scale. I wouldn’t put Instapaper in just anyone’s hands, and I know that they’ll do right by it.
With Betaworks’ drive and resources now behind it, I’m confident that Instapaper has a very bright future. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do.
I think Borthwick & Co is exactly the right group to see this to the next level, too.
As an avid user of Instapaper, I have a few thoughts that I will put to paper, mostly about what goes on after hitting the ‘archive’ button, because I want to hold onto many links, and share them with others. And for that, I have been trying out a long list of interesting but incomplete tools, like Dispatch.io, Mightybell.com, and others. Best would be a single tool, which could be Son of Instapaper.
More to follow.
Congratulations to Betaworks and Marco.
Last summer, New York-based hybrid investor / incubator / holding company thing Betaworks acquired social news site Digg and relaunched it soon after, hoping to bring back some of its mojo in the process. Nine months later, Betaworks has acquired another news-oriented application, this time bringing Marco Arment’s popular story-saving app Instapaper into the fold.
In an email, Betaworks founder and CEO John Borthwick remarked that the acquisition clarifies Betaworks’ role as a company that builds and operates multiple products, rather than just as an incubation space for new ideas which eventually got spun out. And, more importantly, with Instapaper’s purchase model, it makes Betaworks into a company that actually makes money.
“Starting 14 months ago I began to move Betaworks into being an operating company,” Borthwick wrote. “In our first three years we were a factory for building companies, we built them and spun them out, hired CEO’s and got other people to fund them. 14 months ago I paid our investors all their money back and started making the shift to operating company.”
As part of the transition, Betaworks has been building around the social reading an discovery space. With the acquisition of Instapaper, Betaworks is adding even more tools for saving — and sharing — news that is important to readers. Borthwick wrote that Instapaper will be a “perfect fit” with Digg and its forthcoming Digg Reader, which is being positioned as a sort of Google Reader replacement.
In a blog post, meanwhile, Instapaper founder Marco Arment said that he was passing on responsibility to Betaworks so that he could “try other apps and creative projects.” In looking for a new home, he wanted Instapaper to find a place where it could be fully staffed and grown.
With that in mind, the deal was structured to ensure the health and longevity of Instapaper, “with incentives to keep it going well into the future.” Arment said he will “continue advising the project indefinitely, while Betaworks will take over its operation, expand its staff, and develops it further.”
Digg, for its part, seems to have benefitted from the change in ownership: It’s reportedly grown 93 percent over the last 12 months, since being relaunched under Betaworks management. Adding Instapaper to its existing roster of social reading and discovery products could help to advance its aim of capturing that market.
The Gillmor Gang: John Borthwick, Danny Sullivan, Doc Searls, Kevin Marks, and Steve Gillmor — struggled with Comcastic bandwidth and hours on hold as Twitter and Apple tweaked their business models. It seems that Twitter is refurbishing the accomodations within 140 characters to create a nice new home for Twitter apps, in the process giving the Flipboard to aggregators outside the mother ship.
Apple, on the other hand, is opening Apple TV and the iPad to Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video respectively. @dannysullivan thinks it’s bad news for Roku fans, and Doc, who’s now working on Rupert Murdoch’s boat, is busy stealing content from his own bad self over transcontinental Slingbox. It’s TV Everywhere, except here.
@stevegillmor, @dsearls, @borthwick, @dannysullivan, @kevinmarks
Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor
Gillmor Gang - Doc Searls, John Borthwick, Kevin Marks, Danny Sullivan, and Steve Gilllmor. Recording live at 1pm Pacific.
After just six weeks of hard work, Digg‘s new owners at Betaworks just flipped the switch and re-launched the site. The new Digg was originally scheduled to launch tomorrow, but despite the tight deadline, the Digg team managed to get this completely rewritten version of the site out ahead of schedule. As promised, the new version of Digg puts a strong emphasis on images and is currently free of ads. With this relaunch, Digg is also shipping a new iPhone app and mobile web app.
Why Relaunch In Just 6 Weeks? Old Digg Was Too Expensive To Run
Over the last few days, the Digg team already provided a few sneak peeks into the thought process that went into redesigning the site. Earlier today, I talked to Digg’s new CEO John Borthwick who seemed genuinely surprised how much interest there still was in Digg. During our interview, he told me that one of the reasons why the team wanted to rebuild Digg as fast as it could was the simple fact that Digg’s old infrastructure was very expensive to run. According to Borthwick, it would have cost “hundreds of thousands per month” to keep the site running on its old platform. Even though the site was state-of-the-art just a few years ago, most of the infrastructure would be considered legacy technology by a modern startup. Because of this, the new Digg team decided to throw away virtually all of the old underpinning of the site in favor of a fresh start. Borthwick wants to rebuild the company and to do so, he says, it’s important to turn it back into startup mode and develop a completely new and modern platform to develop the new Digg on.
Digg + Facebook + Twitter
This means that all of Digg’s voting algorithms are gone, too, but Borthwick said that users will be able to use their old Facebook-based Digg accounts on the new site and will be able to get back most of the data they put into Digg in its earlier incarnations in the near future. Just like in the last version of Digg, users will use Facebook to sign in to the site and vote. This Facebook integration also means that users’ diggs will be posted on their Facebook timelines, by the way.
Digg’s new algorithms now also look at signals from Twitter and Facebook. The team, however, stresses that it cares “first and foremost about what Digg users have to say — measured, as always, in diggs.” Similar to Techmeme‘s “tip @techmeme” system on Twitter, users can also submit tips to the site by using attaching “tip @digg” to their tweets.
Focus Still on Tech, Science And Weird And Wonderful News
With Digg v4, the old team had strong aspirations to take the site mainstream, but as Borthwick told me, the new site will likely continue to be biased towards technology and science news, as well as the odd “weird and wonderful” story thrown in for good measure. While the voting algorithm is still the core of the product, a number of human moderators will also ensure that the content that appears on the frontpage remains relevant.
Here are Digg’s plans for the next few months:
- introduce network-based personalization features (like we do in News.me) to make Digg a more relevant and social experience
- experiment with new commenting features
- continue to iterate Digg for mobile web
- move the website forward with features like the Reading List, different views into the top stories on Digg, and more data to help users better understand why a particular story is trending
- launch an API so that members of the development community can build all the products that we haven’t even thought of yet
When the social news tool Digg relaunches next week — Wednesday to be exact — it will get help from a new product called Realtime, a search engine that surfaces links being shared the most across the Web.
Realtime is owned by Bitly, the URL shortening company with the biggest market share. Bitly has long worked to offer useful analytics around the vast troves of data it collects from the links people are sharing with its service. And with its Realtime, which launched today (TheNextWeb appears to have seen it first), Bitly is bringing a version of that offering to users for free with a much nicer interface. Realtime lets you filter searches of links by subject, social network, keyword, domain, language and country.
When I first saw the report this morning about Realtime, I pinged John Borthwick, chief executive of Betaworks, which now owns Digg, and which also owns a large stake in Bitly. He confirmed that Digg will be drawing on Bitly’s intelligence, including from Realtime.
Yes, that’s Bitly’s silly little logo at top left.
Betaworks is a major investor in a bunch of companies, including Bitly, Chartbeat and SocialFlow, that are all collecting realtime data about information being published around the web (VentureBeat uses Chartbeat to track the traffic of our stories). While Betaworks is building quite a focused portfolio with these properties, it’s also true that Betaworks no longer has full control over some of them, including Bitly. Bitly recently raised $15 million from Khosla Venture and other investors. That company launched a social search engine product for enterprise customers in October.
The Realtime service is in beta. I went to its site (http://rt.ly/) and registered, and got access immediately. See below a screenshot of the results the service gave me when I searched for “Olympics” under topic “sports” with no other filters. The results are quite relevant, pulling up what look to be very popular results (about the opening ceremony, and Ryan Lochte’s win of the first U.S. gold medal).
However, other searches show the service has some ways to go. For example, I searched for “Microsoft” under the topic of “news”, and found completely irrelevant results (“Usher’s Stepson Buried” and “Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong joins The Voice”).
Digg has its work cut out for it, because Facebook has just launched a product that looks like a Digg-killer: a recommendation bar that shows you articles from around the web based on what your friends are reading. If Digg borrows from Realtime intelligence, however, it can easily expand beyond what’s popular on Facebook, and draw from a bunch of networks around the web, including Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn and Ameblo.
And then there’s Google’s launch of its own URL shortener service, to take on Bitly. That, combined with Google’s powerful search technology, as well as Google Plus, gives Digg yet another competitor.
See more details about the plans for Digg’s relaunch here.
The Gillmor Gang — John Borthwick, Danny Sullivan, John Taschek, Kevin Marks, and Steve Gillmor — turned into Google fanboys on a dime, or $200, with the release of the Nexus 7 tablet. This thing is amazing,, small, fast, and did I mention $200. Just weeks after Microsoft Surface didn’t ship, pre-ordered Nexi did, selling out in most if not all the stores that carried it.
The Gang touched on @borthwick’s Digg acquisition and 11-day relaunch, but had no time to talk Yahoo and Mayer despite repeated requests from the producer and chatroom. It was all Nexus all the time. Did I mention it’s $200?
@stevegillmor, @dannysullivan, @borthwick, @kevinmarks, @jtaschek
Produced and directed by Tina CHase Gillmor @tinagillmor
Betaworks, the company behind bit.ly, news.me, Chartbeat and a number of other successful products, has acquired the social news site Digg.com for an undisclosed amount. Betaworks’ founder John Borthwick will become the new CEO of Digg. The site’s current CEO Matt Williams will join Andreessen Horowitz as Entrepreneur in Residence after the Betaworks transition is complete. Digg’s founder Kevin Rose joined Google a few months ago after the search engine acquired his latest startup Milk.
Update: Rumor has it that the price was just $500k, but that number doesn’t really make a lot of sense, given that the site still gets enough traffic to make more than that in a year by just selling ads. One source close to the negotiations tells us that the price was indeed not $500k, but we haven’t been able to pinpoint an exact price yet. There is always the possibility, of course, that there is an equity portion to the deal as well.
Betaworks promises to turn Digg “back into a startup,” with low budgets, a small team and fast update cycles. None of the remaining Digg employees, it seems, are moving to Betaworks. Instead, the News.me team will take over the management of the site. Betaworks, says Digg, will soon unveil a new “cloud-based version of Digg” that will complement News.me’s iPhone and iPad apps.
According to Digg’s outgoing CEO Matt Williams, his team “considered many options of where Digg could go, and frankly many of them could not live up to the reason Digg was invented in the first place — to discover the best stuff on the web. We wanted to find a way to take Digg back to its startup roots.” Betaworks says it’s planning to “build Digg for 2012.”
Once a poster child of the Web 2.0 revolution, Digg slowly faded into the background over the last few years, especially after its 4.0 update alienated many of its users. After that, Digg never quite found a niche for itself as content sharing moved to social networks like Twitter and Facebook (and the competing social sharing site Reddit). It still has a sizable amount of users, but it’s really just a shadow of its former self today. While an announcement like today’s acquisition would once have received hundreds of “diggs” and comments within a few minutes, the fact that today’s announcement has only 16 diggs and four comments so far is rather telling.
Earlier this year, the Washington Post Company hired 15 of the site’s engineers to power its own social products. Ever since, it was pretty clear that the site was likely going to be acquired sooner or later.
In 2008, Google was reportedly interested in acquiring Digg for around $200 million, but walked away from the deal. That deal would have been a nice return for the service’s investors. In total, Digg raised $45 million from a number of SiliconValley most prominent investors since its launch. The last funding round – a $5 million Series D round – closed exactly a year ago. At that time, the site was still valued at around $35 million and TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington reported that without that round, the company would have had only had about 6 months of runway left before it would have had to close its doors.
Bloglovin, a startup that has been compared to Tumblr and RSS, ha just raised a $1 million Series A.
The company bills itself as a fun, simple way to follow all the fashion blogs that interest you. Like RSS, you can sign up to read updates from any blog (not just the ones on a single platform or content management system), and like Tumblr, there’s an emphasis on high-quality visuals and community. Bloglovin even held a fashion awards ceremony in New York earlier this year.
I first spoke to the Bloglovin team about a month ago, shortly after New York City-based incubator and early-stage investor betaworks had bought some secondary shares in the company from a seed investor. At the time, betaworks CEO John Borthwick sounded particularly excited about the startup’s numbers. It has about 1.5 million registered users, and more impressively, its ratio of daily active users to monthly active users is 50 percent. Put another away — people who use the site must love it, because they come back a lot. The average Bloglovin user also follows 37 blogs.
The Series A is betaworks’ first direct investment in the company. Other investors in the round include:
- Lerer Ventures
- RRE Ventures
- Hank P. Vigil & Fritz Lanman
- Eric Martineau-Fortin
- Rob Wiesenthal
- Jill Greenthal
Bloglovin CEO and co-founder Mattias Swenson says his next big target is mobile. He notes that even blogs with a tech-savvy readership rarely see more than 10 percent of their traffic come from mobile — compared to social sites like Facebook and Twitter, where mobile usage is more like 50 percent. Bloglovin has already released a smartphone app, but Swenson says, “We’re not really proud of it.” He’s planning to launch of a new iPhone app at the end of July, with the aim of presenting one of the first blog reading experiences that looks really great on a smartphone. The company plans to release iPad and Android apps further down the road.
In addition to mobile, Swenson says he’s looking to add more social features. After all, he says his girlfriend, a fashion blogger, has hundreds of thousands of monthly readers, but “she doesn’t know any of them — they’re just numbers in Google Analytics.” That’s why Swenson wants to “bring the social fabric to the blogosphere.”
And if that’s not enough, the company also wants to release localized versions in key international markets like Japan. After all, when you’re featuring such visually-driven content, it can appeal to readers who aren’t native speakers of a given language.
The Gillmor Gang — Robert Scoble, John Borthwick, John Taschek, Keith Teare, and Steve Gillmor — found plenty to write home about in Microsoft’s Surface tablets and Windows 8 rewrite of the Windows platform. Coming hard on the WWDC Apple announcements, it’s clear Redmond is stepping up its game.
With Skype and the still-not-closed Yammer acquisitions, Steve Sinofsky is trying to buy his way in to social. But once the smoke clears, straddling the desktop and tablet metaphors may turn out to be the biggest threat to Office yet. The only way to save Office revenue may be to give away social and the hardware to run it.
@stevegillmor, @borthwick, @scoblizer, @jtaschek, @kteare
Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor