startup rundown

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

Mr. Vinh (Photo:

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

New York Internet Week

Are Apps Art? Some More So Than Others, Judging By This Exhibit

A few of the featured apps.

There’s clearly quite a lot of creative talent being devoted to the creation of iOS apps. Even hipsters are flocking to the craft. But does something like Path really rise to the level of art? Yesterday, Betabeat ventured downtown to the Internet Week-pegged gallery opening for “The Art of Apps,” to hear the argument out.

By the time Betabeat arrived at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art (the name stencilled sternly in white against a revolutionary red background), the party was winding down. We stepped inside to find a dimly lit gallery studded with high-definition flat-screen televisions, each offering up some element of iOS user design, attempting to recontextualize it as art, not just app.

The first screen offered a note from gadget blogger and host Peter Rojas, which explained a bit about the curatorial philosophy at work:  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 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


Back in July when Betabeat talked to design guru Khoi Vinh, the former design director for the, 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, 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