Stumble Upon Stumbles Out of Toolbars

The upside of writing a book entirely focused on a few Web 2.0 companies is you get to know them -- and their founders and investors-- extraordinarily well. And if you pick wisely, that can be a mighty good career move for a reporter in a crowded field. But the downside is you miss some other startups that are worth getting to know. One of those neglecterinos for me was StumbleUpon, which my brother, Peter, apparently can't live without.

I've since spent a bit of time with Garrett Camp-- Stumble's founder-- at last year's Lobby Conference, an Outcast dinner and this morning at Outcast's offices. Oh, and this coming Saturday at his sure-to-be-raging 30th birthday party on, um, a Navy tanker?

Saturday, we'll no doubt be talking about how OLD he is. Today, we were talking about StumbleUpon's new plans to allow people to discover sites they may like without downloading the toolbar and its plans to have Stumble-like discovery within partner sites the Huffington Post, and, soon, RollingStone and National Geographic. Also, the homepage has been dramatically redesigned.

It makes sense and is a big move for the startup eBay bought for $75 million last year. StumbleUpon has pretty much locked up the the six million or so early adopters who want to download a toolbar and now it needs to expand. The strategy reminds me of Yelp's: It doesn't need all its users to be active Yelpers writing reviews, but it does need an increasing base of passive Yelpers who use the site as a restaurant or service provider search engine. Also, I like that StumbleUpon sees itself less about finding news -- ala Digg-- and more about finding images and videos, which there is no good search or discovery engine for to date, IMHO.

It's a good strategy and, so far, the implementation looks good too. But the bigger takeaway for me isn't techy or featurey-- it's Garrett Camp continuing to do his job. Frankly, the still-29-until-Saturday founder doesn't have a lock-up with eBay and I don't know how many young founders who've had their first win in his position would still be so committed. Maybe it's that Canadian work ethic, but he sees it as a reputation issue: He doesn't want to be the guy who sells and checks out. Amid the young Web 2.0 hotshots--who notoriously take off as soon as lockups expire-- that makes him a rarity. I hope to have Garrett on TechTicker soon once the financial "OMG!!!!!!" dies down, and we can get back to covering tech.


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I love the service, but I wish I didn't have to download a toolbar. Reaching the non-downloaders will be hard.

Stumble is one of the smartest web 2.0 site. It is fun and really able you to discover some sites.
But it has seemed to reach a kind of glass ceilling may be because of its toolbar.
Hope that now e-bay will develop this rough diamond to help it to find its place in the top ten of 2.0 sites

Arrrg. I didn't read this post correctly before I commented. (I was on my iphone.) Reading it again, I see your whole point is that I won't need to download a toolbar.

I think the best part of the post was the last paragraph - its a testament to Garrett's dedication and his untainted belief that he has a product that people want and enjoy. I really admire that - he seems like on the unheralded web 2.0 heroes, but I bet he prefers it that way.

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Srah Lacy

Sarah Lacy is an award-winning reporter who has covered high-growth entrepreneurship for more than fifteen years. She is the founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of, the site-of-record for the startup ecosystem. She lives in San Francisco.

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