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, HowStuffWorks.com 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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