Betabeat covered the rise of Turntable.fm this summer and the pivot/restart founder Billy Chasen made from his previous company Stickybits. During the most recent episode of Founder Stories, he told Chris Dixon about how he came to make this hard decision and break the news to his investors and employees.
“I was looking at the health of the company, just a dozen different metrics, how are users liking it, where is the product at, and everything was just kind of a mediocre success. So I wasn’t as excited going in, I was like, can I really see myself doing this for another year.”
There is no more overused and reviled word in the world of tech start-ups than pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Pivot.
It seems to capture the manic energy of the current tech industry, in which an idea can get millions in funding before building a product and, if the users never materialize, or the business model never emerges amidst all hype, simply change their direction and try something new.
No company better epitomizes this idea of second chances than Turntable.fm, a social music site, born out of the ashes of a failed venture called Stickybits. Founders Billy Chasen and Seth Goldstein raised almost $2 million for Stickybits and worked on the project for about a year. The idea was to leave little stickers on physical objects that contained links to stories, photos and video on the web. Big brands like Pepsi thought it was a great idea. Users, not so much.
With little momentum and cash running low, they decided to pull a monster pivot. Turntable.fm, which launched a little over one month ago, has already attracted over 300,000 users and the interest of top tier investors on the east and west coast. Suddenly a team that was running low on funds is being courted for a fresh infusion of $5-10 million at a $40 million valuation, Betabeat has learned from multiple sources.
Alternate headline: Productivity Plague as Turntable.fm Sucks in Start-Up After Start-Up!
StickyBits is now Turntable.fm, and while we bet that makes some investors very, very happy–namely First Round Capital, Polaris Ventures, and Mitch Kapor, who gave the company at least $1.9 million–others must be smiling through their teeth. “Biggest threat to productivity today: turntable.fm,” tweeted FastSociety’s Andy Thompson. Foursquare’s Tristan Walker called it “WAY too dangerous.” There are rooms for Foursquare Zynga, Twitter, Facebook, Formspring, TechStars, YouTube, Chartbeat, TicketMaster, Zaarly, Uber, and Google Wallet, plus the Coding Soundtrack room, which at time of writing had 137 listeners and at one time was speculated to be open in the browser of every developer in Silicon Alley.
AMUSEBALLS. When Color came out, Jimmy Fallon used it to give out tickets to his show. Mr. Fallon, who periodically features gadget maven Josh Topolsky on his program and does the occasional bit about iPhone apps, wants to be the next actor-investor a la Ashton Kutcher, Betabeat heard today. Mr. Fallon heard a pitch from a local founder recently about first-round investing in an iPhone game, we’re told, after the founder’s pre-launch app got a bunch of mainstream press. Dude follows Gary Vee, Fred Wilson, Leo Laporte, Kevin Rose on Twttr. Any other start-ups talking to Jimmy? Admit.
WEIRD THAT THERE IS SO MUCH CELEBRITY+TECH NEWS TODAY, but we hear Lady Gaga is going to release a Chrome extension. It would be an official Google-Lady Gaga Chrome extension, we’re told, and some New Yorkers are in the running to build it. Right now there is an unofficial extension that displays all Ms. Gaga’s tweets. Our minds! They are blown!