Here’s one founder’s take on why her start-up failed. Talk about bitter! Now, there’s almost certainly another side to this story (like the VCs who would probably say that the founders didn’t know how to run a business, couldn’t shift the business model fast enough to respond to market conditions, and couldn’t expand their customer base to support a fast-growth enterprise… you know, the things VCs always say about founders), but this account of ArsDigita’s rise and fall is rather juicy.
But I’m interested in it for a purely personal reason – the one thing I take away from this write-up is that one of Eve Ander’s partners in ArsDigita, Philip Greenspun, made out OK. (According to Eve, Phil got a cool $7.6 million to leave ArsDigita. Not quite Mariah Carey money, but not bad all the same.) Philip is Philip Greenspun, author of Travels with Samantha. Published in 1993, TWS was the first publication I’d seen that really took advantage of the web. Back in the days when you doanloaded Mosaic from UIC’s servers, this was a true online publication. Not only was it well-written (and as a child who grew up with a Samoyed, I totally understand his attachment to his), but it used photos well, presented the content in a readable format, and its focus on cross-country travel spoke to my wanderlust when I was trapped in law school. To understand just how revolutionary TWS was, you have to know how little there was on the web that was worth reading. No news sites, no entertainment sites – just a handful of personal sites, lots of technically-focused sites and tons of educational institutions that were slowly converting from the wonderful world of Gopher.
Greenspun has done quite a few things since his publication of TWS – including co-founding ArsDigita and starting the popular photo resource site photo.net. Not bad. Don’t know the guy from adam, but I read his journal (which, if you think of it, really was one of the first weblogs) almost nine years ago – and at least a couple times a year, I’ve had a reason to swing by and read a chapter or two. If you haven’t ever read it, do it. You’ll be glad you did.