Bye bye beta
Branch Media, which builds conversation platforms Potluck and Branch, has been acquired by Facebook.
Proving that he’s a company man already, cofounder and CEO Josh Miller announced the news this morning on Facebook writing that the social network wants his team to emulate his company’s products on a larger scale.
Conversation platform Branch announced in a post on its blog today that it is now out of invite-only beta and open to the public. With no more wait list, users can sign up immediately to start a conversation or group on Branch.
2012 was quite a year for the New York tech community. Several NYC startups scored monster exits, while others raised millions to up their chances of scoring a ping pong table for the office. Whether or not that hotly debated bubble bursts, we imagine 2013 will be another exciting year for NYC’s tech set. Here are some New Year’s resolutions from some of the NYC tech community’s boldest names.
Lala Land When you plunk down $18 million in hard-won settlement earnings on an 8,000 sq. ft. manse with “a jetliner view of L.A.” you don’t just around on the couch watching Bravo. Especially not if your names are Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.
The strapping venture capitalists recently hosted two parties at their new Hollywood Hills home. The first was feting Katie Finnegan and Erica Bell, cofounders of the fashion startup Hukkster, which recently scored a $1 million seed round from the duo. Guests included actor Jason Lewis (Samatha’s boyfriend to the rest of us).
Power Literary Hire: Twitter cofounder Ev Williams’s new publishing tool, Medium, just added an impressive member to its team. Kate Lee, a former literary agent from International Creative Management (ICM), has joined Mr. Williams’s startup as the director of content. Ms. Lee was responsible for plucking several bloggers out of obscurity and giving them book deals. The Observer announced her leave from ICM back in April. In a blog post on the site, Mr. Williams described her job as “encouraging, soliciting, commissioning, and contextualizing interesting ideas, authors, and institutions” and noted that she would be building a small team in New York to help her do that.
Branch Finally Lets You Hang Out With Your Friends: Branch, the social conversations site, just launched a groups feature yesterday. In an email to Betabeat, Branch cofounder Josh Miller described it as “Branch’s equivalent of a Follow button.” The idea was inspired by the conversations that people have at dinner parties, in which smaller groups form to discuss topics that they care about. On Branch, these groups can be added into a conversation. Branch’s example site includes a group featuring Mr. Miller, Medium’s Ev Williams, John Borthwick from Betaworks, Michael Sippey from Twitter and Facebook’s Sam Lessin. These groups have a possibility to create Bloods and Crips-like warfare in tech. Choose sides wisely.
Non Hustlers Need Not Apply Lerer Ventures is looking to hire a new analyst. The job requires one or two years of experience at a venture backed startup or major tech company. You have to also be “a sweet and cool person,” so no mean losers need apply. According to the listing, they’re looking for “A hustler and/or hacker who works smart.” We’re sending this to Cassidy right away.
Playing Hooky Not Cool On Friday, AT&T and NYC Digital will kickoff a hackathon designed to help Mayor Bloomberg’s Truancy Task Force. Designers and coders will be given the challenge to create a mobile app to keep kids in school. The first prize is pretty sweet and includes $2,500 in Gift Cards for the team to split, a $5,000 donation from AT&T to the team’s choice of non-profit organizations, and one year of the “Small” service from Github for each team member. No word on whether college dropouts are allowed to compete.
Teach Me How to Startup
The elevators to the BuzzFeed office are magnificently slow. Each fits about six people comfortably, and they trundle and groan up to the 11th floor, where the company’s ops, tech and marketing people sit. “Considering how fast the company moves, it’s amazing how slow its elevators are,” quipped one dapperly dressed man as we all awkwardly waited for the doors to open.
Betabeat was visiting the BuzzFeed office for the first time to attend a real-life roundtable. Hosted by Branch cofounder Josh Miller, the event included beers and mingling among some of New York’s prolific tech reporters and entrepreneurs, as well as a discussion with Twitter cofounder Ev Williams and BuzzFeed’s own cofounder Jonah Peretti.
Made in NYC
Less than a day since it switched out of private beta, Branch is already proving that its civilized discussion platform can house more than dry tech speculation or a chorus of bubble cant. Today, fellow Betaworker Lauren Leto used to platform to ask the question burning up literary hearts across New York City: Fuck, Marry, Kill the Jonathans (i.e. authors Jonathan Franzen, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Jonathan Lethem).
It was sticky and rainy outside, but scores of people showed up to see Mayor Bloomberg shake his tech pom-poms today at Internet Week HQ. The Mayor trudged to 82 Mercer to announce a new initiative alongside chief digital officer Rachel Sterne, NYCEDC president Seth Pinsky and–surprisingly–Josh Miller, the cofounder of Branch.
So what exactly did Mr. Mayor have up his sleeve? Turns out it was a new interactive map that displays the locations of tech companies around New York City. A sidebar also displays which of these companies are currently hiring.
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Josh Miller, the precocious 21-year-old Princeton dropout behind Branch, one of tech’s most buzzed-about new startups, took The Observer on a tour of the Obvious Corporation, a growing operation helmed by the cofounders of Twitter that advises and invests in an elite set of fledgling tech companies, Branch among them.
The San Francisco office radiated industrial California coziness, with tall windows and exposed pipes, dark grey walls and a fridge overflowing with Vitamin Water. Mr. Miller, who is tall and insouciant, with the laid-back linguistic tenor of one who spent his childhood in Santa Monica, bustled about the office, seemingly unthreatened by the fact that he is both much younger and less experienced than the majority of Obvious employees.
“Check this out!” he called from a breezy conference room with a panoramic view of downtown San Francisco. He pointed to a wet bar fully stocked with top-shelf bottles. “You know, I’m just out of college, so sometimes I’m, like, afraid to drink any of this because it’s so expensive! It’s like, where’s the Franzia?” he joked, referring to the cheap boxed wine favored by destitute college students.