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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.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Betabeat arrived at the arty brick headquarters where AOL’s startup alter egos, QLabs and AOL Ventures, take up an entire floor at Broadway and Great Jones in Soho. We were greeted by QLabs founder and hacker Chris Danzig, QLabs hacker Eric Skiff, and hacker-biz developer Michael E. Gruen. Everyone’s title is “hacker,” we were told. “We’re extremely flat,” Mr. Danzig said.
The hackers were having trouble controlling the temperature on what was a very humid day. The QLabs space is like the underbelly of the Titanic, with myriad chambers divided by arches and doors. “We have the AC, the heat on, and the windows open,” Mr. Danzig apologized, as we settled into a small conference room around a table made of reclaimed wood.
QLabs is an experimental think tank for the rapid prototyping of ideas on the web, one or more of which will hopefully become the next big AOL property. There are only seven hackers on the QLabs team, with about three more in support staff—but the corporation rented the entire floor with the foresight that it may one day be filled with thriving companies spun out of QLabs projects.
For Chad Gallagher, New York nightlife was an embarrassment of riches. “A lot of the time I was kind of paralyzed by all my choices for what to do on a Friday night, so I would just end up doing whatever my friends had chosen,” he told Betabeat.
One of Mr. Gallagher’s friends was a frequent business traveler who complained about spending 24 hours in a city, taking meetings during the day and not knowing what to do with his evenings. So Mr. Gallagher founded Brom.ly, a search engine that collects data from sources like Meetup, Eventbrite and partners like Thrillist, then uses social data from Facebook to recommend events to users.