shameless rumormongering

Rumor Roundup: AOL Is Sunsetting QLabs, Ron Jeremy Has Friends In Tech Places

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picture 51 Rumor Roundup: AOL Is Sunsetting QLabs, Ron Jeremy Has Friends In Tech Places

QLabs (Photo: Foursquare)

Good news, Silicon Alley denizens. After much demand from fellow gossip-mongers, Betabeat has decided to resurrect your favorite recurring Friday feature. Welcome back to Rumor Roundup! Overheard a juicy tidbit about impending departures or imminent acquisitions? Dying to dish about startup blunders or frothy financing? Holler at your girls: tips@betabeat.com

THE SUN SOMETIMES SETS ON THE AOL EMPIRE Multiple sources have told Betabeat that AOL Ventures plans on shutting down QLabs–the press-shy experimental think tank in Soho located at 670 Broadway. “The time frame must be darn near immediate,” one source told Betabeat, alluding to some urgency around winding down existing projects. “It’s dead,” said a source with indirect knowledge of the decision. “Their funding ran out,” the second source added, speculating that the initiative had a set funding size, but “nothing yielded.”

During a rare visit to QLabs in May, Betabeat discovered that the 4th floor space functioned as sort of the yin to AOL Ventures’ investment yang–with both organizations trying to keep their corporate parent nimble.

QLabs hired a number of hackers who collectively decided on ideas to pursue. After some market research, the team, which operates non-hierarchically, churns out a prototype in six to eight weeks. If the minimum viable product fails to take off, it gets scrapped. The unspoken expectation, QLabs director Chris Danzig told Betabeat in May, was that it would produce a hit within two years, or roughly five months from now. “It’s very possible it could be a successful business with a few tweaks,” Mr. Danzig said back then. “But I’d much rather throw away something that has potential than burn away time on something that’s not working.”

In an email, Mr. Danzig said, “As a general policy we don’t discuss the lab with the press (only the lab products).”

QLabs managed to get traction on at least two products, the incubator told us in May: Framey, which lets users post video comments on websites, and Brom.ly, an events recommendation service that pivoted into an events recommendation tool for the Huffington Post.

The recently launched HuffPost Labs, which operates like a startup for online news experiments within the Huffington Post, also works out of QLabs.  (Codecademy and Turntable.fm were working out of the spacious environs this spring.) But HuffPost Labs director Connor White Sullivan told us that the two incubator-like organizations are distinct. “We get our budget from HuffPost,” he said of his budding four-person team. “All I can tell you is they’re excellent engineers that built good products.”

“As we refine our strategy, we have become more focused on our innovation agenda,” an AOL spokesperson told Betabeat. “This was one component of a broader portfolio in AOL Ventures.”

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS A cadre of Silicon Alley citizens–including Onswipe CEO Jason Baptiste and CNET columnist Ben Parr–headed to Vegas two weeks ago for some end-of-summer partying and ended up having a meet cute with Ron Jeremy. Turns out that the notorious porn star likes hanging with the tech set. He showed up to the same mid-day party Mr. Baptiste and Mr. Parr were attending. “Ron Jeremy just came to our private party,” one source told Betabeat. “He told us about his rap song with Lil’ Wayne who the Hipset guys are close with.” Oh Mr. Carter, say it ain’t so?

WWJD? Apparently some trolls have signed Instapaper founder and bombastic blogger Marco Arment up for an email newsletter he certainly didn’t authorize. “Thanks to whichever of the trolls signed me up for all of these Jesus email newsletters yesterday,” Mr. Arment tweeted. “Not a good week for liking other people.” Following a very public spat, perhaps it was someone at The Verge?

SECRETS OF THE SOUL Whoever said ladyblogs are just for ladies clearly hasn’t met NYU journalism professor Clay Shirky. Professor Shirky copped to enjoying advice columns on the women-focused site The Hairpin at a reading at HousingWorks Books. “My favorite bit of anonymity on the web is this thing that Edith Zimmerman runs on the Hairpin, called ‘Imperfect Advice from Strangers,’” he said. “Which is the best name for an advice column, ever.”