Stand down, Instapaper fanatics: Betaworks has no plans to shut the service down. That was the first question out of Alexia Tsotsis’s mouth this morning at Disrupt, when she took the stage to interview CEO John Borthwick.
Wearing his ubiquitous brown corduroy jacket, Mr. Borthwick told her no, followed by an awful lot of throat-clearing.
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.
Can You Digg It?
In the winter of 2004, soon after the husks of once-great dot-com startups had dried and shriveled, a 27-year-old college dropout named Kevin Rose deployed a barebones new site, simply named “Digg.”
It was one of the first social networks in existence. Back then, the term “social networking” hadn’t shouldered its way into our lexicon yet. Facebook was a nascent, walled platform for college gossip; Google was still idly toying with its search algorithm; Twitter wouldn’t launch for another two years.
News itself was a hierarchical affair, largely produced and disseminated by trusted broadcasters and editors. Journalism’s democratizing forces hadn’t congealed, yet; bloggers weren’t sitting front row at fashion shows or making a living off of Google Ads. The idea that a community of Internet geeks could manipulate the news cycle would’ve elicited howls of mocking laughter from the Conde kingmakers.
Can You Digg It?
On an aptly named new website called Rethink Digg, the Betaworks and News.me teams proposed a rather ambitious plan today: completely rebuild the ghost town-like social news aggregator–which saw many users decamp for Reddit–from the ground up. Oh, and they’re going to do it in six weeks.
Can You Digg It?
Just a couple of months after the Washington Post poached most of its staff, Digg proper–the “core assets,” anyway–finally has a fate: It’s been purchased by New York’s own Betaworks, to be combined with News.me.
As for what to expect: Betaworks CEO John Borthwick told Betabeat by email, “We are reverting digg to a startup, expect more things like paperboy,” a feature that lets you automatically update whenever you leave your house.
As for the price tag, well, that’s a little unclear. Mr. Borthwick refused to comment. However, someone with knowledge of the deal told Betabeat said that ballpark number of $500,000 had been floating around and that was the only figure the source had heard. That’s a long way from the $200 million Google is rumored to have once offered for the service, before an acquisition fell through.
After a brief interlude, wherein an organizer appealed to whichever publicity-seeking startup might have released the still-chattering bird high aloft in the rafters, TechCrunch marched onward. M.G. Siegler (formerly of TechCrunch, currently of CrunchFund) opened with what sounded like an invitation to coffee, rattling off the overlap between their respective organizations’ portfolios and concluding, ”We should probably talk more.” Betaworks CEO John Borthwick didn’t bite: ”We probably should, but we’re doing just fine.” He also added rather pointedly that, “as you know, we are not a fund,” though Betaworks, of course, has investments.
Mr. Borthwick proceeded to, at Mr. Siegler’s inquiry as to how they work with investors on the sunnier side of the country, essentially dismiss any notions of conflict: ”This bicoastal thing, I think it’s fun and games” but added that “the market is bigger because of the complementary skills that both coasts offer the market and entrepreneurs and so it’s not, it’s fun to sort of pit one coast against the other, but companies are better for having East Coast and West Coast investors.” Some companies might be a better fit for one coast or the other or both, but regardless, more options are better.
New York-based startup non-incubator Betaworks announced today that it’s making a new investment in Bloglovin, the fashion and design lover’s answer to RSS, according to GigaOm. Bloglovin is a Swedish company that curates blog posts, much like an RSS reader, but with a strong focus on aesthetics. It also can notify you via phone or email whenever one of your followed blogs updates.
Ever since news broke last year that satirical news source The Onion was shutting down their New York office and heading to Chicago, The Atlantic reports that the core team of staffers has pursued every avenue to keep the company from heading west. One bizarre but apparently legitimate option was to have startup non-incubator Betaworks buy The Onion.
When you’ve got Evan Williams, John Borthwick, and Max Levchin chatting it up on your “curated discussion platform,” it’s probably just a matter of time before the high-powered investors,
incubators makers, and other loosely-defined collectives come a’ calling.
Today, Branch, the startup that initially launched in New York City as group blogging service Roundtable, announced that is now partnered with Obvious Corp and picked up investments from Lerer Ventures and SV Angel. Although Branch has been working out of Obvious headquarters since the beginning of this year, the startup will move to Betaworks this summer. Cofounder Josh Miller’s announcement is somewhat obliquely worded, but it sounds like Rick Webb, Lucas Nelson, Ryan Freitas, and David Tisch also joined the round.
The size of the round wasn’t disclosed. However, this Form D SEC filing for Roundtable Media (the startup’s original name) filed by Joshua Alexander Miller, seems to indicate that the size of the round was $1,999,997 and fully subscribed. The address on the Form D, for example, is the same address as Obvious Corp. According to the Form D, the funding was an equity round with seven investors and the date of first sale is listed as February 15th. We have reached out to Mr. Miller for confirmation.
When we first told you about Vibe, a New York-based pseudonymous mobile messaging app, last September, Occupy Wall Street was in full swing. In fact, Vibe app creator Hazem Sayed earned the nickname “White Hat” for walking around Zuccotti Park passing out flyers for his protester-friendly service. There was even an iPad hooked up to a projector showing hashtagged messages about #OWS.
Well, as TechCrunch reported yesterday, we weren’t the only ones to take note. Betaworks quietly acquired Vibe back in December. According to the blog, the deal was “likely in the low six figures, with Betaworks now owning a majority of Vibe.” In a post on the Betaworks Tumblr this morning, CEO John Borthwick wrote, “There’s no better feeling than falling in love,” noting that Mr. Sayed will stay on to run the company.