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Founder Loses $100 K. On His First Startup, Rebounds With an App Called Bubble

lee hnetinka Founder Loses $100 K. On His First Startup, Rebounds With an App Called Bubble

Mr. Hnetinka. (source: twttr)

Betabeat first met Lee Hnetinka, the enterprising former Hamptons broker who taught himself web design while making websites for rentals, at South By Southwest. He was promoting his first startup, Leetto, a location-based network that had something to do with local advertising and deals. “We kinda wanted to do something based around location. We wanted to do a lot. That was part of the problem–we had no real focus,” he said. “When I wanted to explain it I couldn’t really do it in one sentence.”

Lesson learned. After sinking $100,000 of his savings into the now-defunct project, Mr. Hnetinka is back with a second product–a dead simple web and iOS app called Bubble, derived from the concept of hashtags. It’s an asynchronous chat room for people talking about the same subject, or working in the same coworking space, and it’s heavily integrated with Twitter–so if you work in General Assembly and you want to share the blog post you just wrote, you could post in the General Assembly Bubble and tweet the post at the same time. “I kind of basically, what I did was, I kind of fired everyone,” Mr. Hnetinka said. “And me and one of the guys were like, what is something that we really care about and we want to build?”

He and his co-founder conceived of Bubble after overhearing an adjacent conversation at GA. Two girls working nearby: “Did you post it on Facebook? Did you post it on Twitter?” Mr. Hnetinka thought to himself, you want to share something with people who will look at it and like it. Why don’t you share it with the people here? Something like the coworking space’s Superheroes listserv, but outside the dreaded inbox.

As for the name, Mr. Hnetinka is aware of the obvious joke. But the name was perfect, he felt, and a survey of friends and advisers came back positive. (Mr. Hnetinka declined to comment when we asked if he was seeking funding, but mentioned he had gotten advice from a VC.)

From our end, Bubble looks good. Unlike Leetto, which on Crunchbase was described only as “a location network, a magical new way to connect with people, places and things,” we understand what it does and why people might want to use it. “Best lesson ever,” he said of Leetto’s failure in an email.

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com