Hires and Fires
This morning Betabeat learned that Rolling.fm co-founder and former Googler Tim Zhou had joined Tumblr. It has also come to light that another Rolling cofounder and Xoogler, Thomas Chau, has joined another prominent New York startup: Squarespace. “We liked Thomas’s strong entrepreneurial spirit (take risks and run fast) along with his perfect Squarespace DNA of product design sensibility coupled with engineering awesomeness,” Squarespace SVP Jesse Hertzberg wrote in an email. Squarespace, if you’re not familiar, is a website builder and hosting platform (that is often likened to Tumblr, as it happens) founded in 2003. Now we just need to suss out what has become of the third Rolling co-founder, Xoogler Nhon Ma…
Hires and Fires
Wondering what happened to Turntable.fm’s fast following, Xoogler-founded cousin, Rolling.fm? The social music site has been serving up errors for about two weeks; Tenka, the founders’ previous startup, is also gone. Co-founder and chief product officer Tim Zhou, whose resume includes IBM and Google, did not respond to a request for comment by email, and now we know why.
Back in September, Turntable.fm fast follower Rolling.fm was trumpeting achievements and rolling out new features. “We are excited to announce there has been over 1,000,000 friendships made on Rolling.FM since our launch a little over a month ago! Our platform has definitely become the music AND social discovery platform,” cofounder Nhon Ma wrote in an email announcing more social features and an enhanced profile browser. But the streaming music game built by former Googlers seems to have dropped off the map sometime last month. “Was curious to know what was going on with rolling.fm after their site hasn’t been resolving for previous couple weeks,” a tipster wrote in.
Indeed, Rolling.fm does not resolve and the last tweet was on November 19. Rolling’s precursor, a social deals site called Tenka.com, is also not resolving.
ROLLING ALONG. “We are excited to announce there has been over 1,000,000 friendships made on Rolling.FM since our launch a little over a month ago! Our platform has definitely become the music AND social discovery platform,” writes cofounder Nhon Ma in an email. Rolling is launching more social features–like “buy a drink,” whereby which users will be able to buy old and new friends “drinks,” and the enhanced profile browser to “view others’ playlist, photos, etc.”
I LAUNCHED DIS. Meet Tinyproj, an experiment from the prolific Kyle Bragger. “Hello. Tinyproj connects talented developers, designers, illustrators, and copywriters with folks who need a hand with paid, short-term* projects.”
IGNITE IT AGAIN. “Ignite NYC’s on 10/10. We will be announcing speakers this week. We have a room of 1,600 to fill, the largest evaaarrr!”
High Forms of Flattery
A FEW MONTHS AGO, AN ENTREPRENEUR in the tri-state area was soliciting web development help via Craigslist. “I’m looking for a Meetup.com clone script,” the listing said. “It must have all the social community features that Meetup.com has, including the capability to add new groups, users events, polls, connect to other social communities, shopping cart, sponsors and sub sites.” Meetup, which was founded in 2002 and has about 80 employees, is reportedly valued at more than $50 million. The asking price for a replica was $300 to $600.
Last week, two ads appeared from the other side of the fence: a programmer-for-hire looking for something to build who claimed to have built a Facebook clone in four days, a Flickr clone in three days and a Google clone in two weeks. He noted that he’d also created a Craigslist clone, adding, “but no one visits it so we are posting this ad to Craigslist.”*
When it comes to internet startups, much is made of the entrepreneurs who first bring an idea to market—innovators or “first movers,” in the parlance of market researchers. But vastly more common are “fast followers,” the ones who jump on a hot idea and dash off a carbon copy. After all, the first mover doesn’t always win the race: just look at the Mac, launched in 1984, versus the Windows PC, launched in 1985, or at Facebook, which came after Friendster, Myspace and the Winklevoss social network HarvardConnection.
Users felt a sense of deja-vu when Rolling.fm, an interactive music streaming start-up, launched just over a week ago. Rolling.fm’s interface–a virtual club with DJs lined up at a laptop and a floating chat room–looks so much like viral hit Turntable.fm that users, along with Betabeat’s own numero uno Turntable fanboy, @benpopper, immediately started calling it a knock-off and questioning its legitimacy. (One Betabeat tipster claimed the app, which has 2,400 daily average users according to the most recent numbers from AppData, is populated by fake avatars).
Rolling is hardly the first pop-up app inspired by Turntable.fm’s innovation and success. But the app, made by the three ex-Google co-founders of the daily deals / social media advertising start-up Tenka, features all the Turntable calling cards: avatars of DJs and listeners, rotating DJ spots, and a “weak-hot” rating system that can get DJs points or get a song skipped.
After some initial dodginess about where the idea came from, Rolling.fm’s founders are ready to own- up to their origins. “I think it’s obvious that the initial version of Rolling is inspired by Turntable,” co-founder Tim Zhou said in an email. “To say otherwise is not accurate. We started working on our pivot in late May.”
LAME. The evil music labels are considering a lawsuit against Turntable.fm, according to a high-level source on the West Coast, but haven’t decided how to proceed. Meanwhile, Turntable lookalike Rolling.fm is knee deep in lawyers trying to figure out how to keep the service up outside the U.S.
MIXED MESSAGES. A couple weeks ago, Betabeat noticed that Skillshare founder Mike Karnjanaprakorn was out in San Francisco for the launch of Skillshare in that city. Had he picked up some cash while he was out there, we wondered? Skillshare raised $550,000 in January, which was made public in May, so the company certainly could have sustained its five employees on that–especially with MK’s militant lean start-up mindset and the bit of cash it’s getting from the website. So when Mr. Karnj said he hadn’t raised a new round, we said ‘Oh okay.’ But then we kept hearing, over the transom, that Skillshare has raised a fresh round. And they’re trying to fill up their sweet Soho office with a backend developer, community team and founder apprentice. Any insights? Drop us a tip.