startup rundown

Startup News: Etsy Goes Shopping for a Twee App Maker and Dwolla Goes to the Gov

Mr. Vinh (Photo: Tumblr.com)

Shopping Site Goes Shopping Back in 2011, Khoi Vinh, the former design director for The New York Times’s website, attempted to launch an iPad collage maker called Mixel that even Taylor Swift would love. The interface was kind of clunky, and the company soon pivoted to a smoother iPhone product, which became fairly successful. And now Mixel has been acquired by the custom product giant Etsy.

No, you won’t be creating any collages of your twee collectables any time soon. According to AllThingsD, The Mixel team is being acquired for its stellar mobile talents. Mr. Vinh and his cofounder Scott Ostler, along with employees Akiva Leffert and Roy Stanfield, will all make the move to Etsy’s Brooklyn offices. Mixel will be shutting down the social side of its app, but will leave up its collage-making tool. In an email to Betabeat, Etsy CTO Kellan Elliot-McCrea explains, “We expect our mobile traffic to surpass desktop traffic by the end of 2014.”  Read More

shameless rumormongering

Rumor Roundup: The Winklevoss Twins Take Hollywood and Branch Moves Up and Out

Hukkster Holiday Party Hosted By Louise Roe And Founders Katie Finnegan And Erica Bell

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).  Read More

Pretty Pictures

iPad Art Party! Khoi Vinh’s Favorite Mixels So Far: Taylor Swift ‘Won’t Be Denied’

11 Photos

(David Jacobs on Mixel)

It’s been almost a month since design guru Khoi Vinh launched his social collage app, Mixel, and after coming across a few inspired mixels on Twitter, we decided to check back with the first-time startup founder and veteran NYTimes.com design director. Mr. Vinh was in the middle of fixing some memory bugs that were causing intermittent crashing, but took time to Gchat Betabeat about how users have responded to the app so far.

But first we had to ask, based on evidence, would he consider Taylor Swift something of a personal muse? “Isn’t she a muse to everyone?” he wondered. Betabeat mentioned a surprisingly rousing rendition of “Fifteen” performed by some (adult) friends at karaoke night over the weekend. “She won’t be denied,” Mr. Vinh concluded.

As for the app at large, “Remixes are very popular,” noted Mr. Vinh, “Some of the remix threads get very long.” The last time we spoke, Mr. Vinh had pointed out that, for your average amateur, an art-making app without a social element was doomed to fizzle. “The threads are conversations, and when you open one up, it’s a little like walking up to a few people chatting at a party. People feel compelled to jump in and join.”

“They create a spur-of-the-moment opportunity to create something,” he added, “Because you have pieces and ideas to work with and add to or subtract from.”

He also noticed that early users were not reusing individual pieces as much as he and his co-founder Scott Ostler had expected. “Most of the images that go into mixels are pulled from the Popular tab or the Web Image Search tab (within the edit screen)…What we had thought was that people would also browse other people’s mixels and say, ‘Hey, I want to use that in a mixel of my own.'” A possible solution to that, he proposed a ‘drawer feature’, “So that when you’re looking at someone else’s mixel, and you see a piece you like, you can tuck it away for later.”

Mr. Vinh declined to share the number of users just yet, pointing out that, “We’re a creation app on iPad, so we don’t get the exposure that people will get to a Web site.” In that same vein, times of usage also differ, “We see a lot of activity at night, as people leave their iPads at home during the day, for the most part. And a lot of activity on Saturday, too. So it’s very different from the Web, which a lot of people will surf during work. We’ve also heard a lot of people say, ‘I’m having Mixel withdrawal’ when they leave their iPads at home.'” (That reminds us, we have some Words With Friends games to dominate . . .)

If you’re suffering from Mixel withdrawl yourself, here are five of Mr. Vinh’s favorites, followed by five of our own. Read More

Khoi Vinh Wants to Transform iPad Users Into Artists By Making the Collage Social

mixel

Back in July when Betabeat talked to design guru Khoi Vinh, the former design director for the NYTimes.com, Mr. Vinh criticized publishing companies whose approach to the brave new world of the tablet was limited to replicating a magazine experience within an app. Building an app, he said, only makes sense when there’s real utility: “I would build social features and sharing that really resonate with people.”

Well, Mr. Vinh’s stealth project made its debut in the App Store today and it appears he’s done just that. Mixel is a free collage-making app aimed at democratizing the creation of art the same way smartphones with cameras and apps like Instagram and Picctu have turned us into a nation of photographers.

This summer, Mr. Vinh and his co-founder Scott Ostler of Dump.fm, picked up $600,000 in funding for their startup, called Lascaux, from betaworks and Polaris Ventures. Since March, they’ve been working out of Dogpatch Labs in Union Square. We stopped by Dogpatch last week to talk to Mr. Vinh about why he felt compelled to venture into Startupland, how Mixel is avoiding IP issues, and how he plans on mainstreaming art-making into a new category of activity. Read More

Class Is in Session

Khoi Vinh: Publishers Should Be Developing for the Mobile Web Instead of Making Replica Apps

khoi

For this week’s cover story about Condé Nast’s struggle developing for the iPad, Betabeat had the opportunity to talk to Khoi Vinh, former Design Director for NYTimes.com. On his widely-read design blog, Subtraction, Mr. Vinh has repeatedly expressed his skepticism toward publishers like Condé Nast and Hearst and software companies like Adobe for thinking that what iPad readers want is a magazine replica app that takes a print-centric approach to tablet design. But we didn’t get the chance to include some really interesting predictions Mr. Vinh made about the direction he thinks consuming content on the iPad is heading (in short: back to the browser) and what readers really want.

Mr. Vinh, who recently released a book on web design, seem to have contracted that start-up fever making its way around the city and is currently working in stealth mode on an app of his own. He compared the bells-and-whistles of the current magazine app rush to the CD-ROM bubble and advised publishers to think more like Netflix. Read More