Y Combinator-backed online calendar web app Kiko has attracted a lot of attention since being placed for sale on eBay last week. We’ve interviewed one of the founders to understand a bit more about the reasons behind the sale…
All kinds of reasons have been put forward for the move, prompting Paul Graham of Y Combinator, which invested in Kiko, to lay out his thoughts in no uncertain terms: “What nailed Kiko was Google Calendar,” he wrote in his blog last week.
“Once that came out, not only did Kiko’s growth stop, but a lot of existing users defected… The killer, unforeseen by the Kikos and by us, was Google Calendar’s integration with Gmail. The Kikos can’t very well write their own Gmail to compete.”
Many say the demise of Kiko raises questions over the threat posed by ‘Google-creep’, and how Web 2.0 start-ups will have to work around the services the search giant chooses to launch (the same is true of Yahoo, a much bigger email player).
However, as Ian Delaney of twopointtouch pointed out recently, all the responsibility can’t be laid at Google’s doorstep. Ian says that ventures such as Kiko can survive, if they find better ways to lock users in, perhaps by integrating their applications with other web services.
Meanwhile our editor Chris pointed to the need for start-ups to think early about potential revenue streams, and not just how they can get as many users as possible to sign up (for free, without revealing too much information about themselves), nor focusing on a single endgame of ‘sell it to Google’.
We offered Kiko co-founder Justin Kan the opportunity to answer a few questions…
Was the decision to sell Kiko to do with money, technology or both?
Justin: “We didn’t stop Kiko because we ran out of money. I think we could have easily continued until we burned up the rest of our investment, but that would have hardly been fair to our investors. We decided to bring Kiko to an end because we were ready to work on another project.”
What business model did you plan to adopt to make money, while also competing with Google?
Justin: “We were planning on being ad supported. Our first priority, however, was always to create a great product that our users loved first, and then introduce ads later.”
You say you’re planning to start work now on something else. Could you say what/why?
Justin: “I think all entrepreneurs have a little bit of creative ADD in them. The part of working on a startup that I really love is thinking about new business and product ideas and talking them over with people. That can cause problems if you don’t keep yourself focused. I’m excited to work on this new project because I think it will be a huge success and will revolutionise the way people think about the web. Who wouldn’t want to work on a project like that?”
Paul Graham said quite recently that start-ups “will increasingly be ruled by technical people rather than business people”. Do you have any thoughts on this now?
Justin: “I don’t necessarily think this is a new lesson. In my limited experience, it seems like many successful companies, whether software or not, have management with direct experience as line workers. I think that having a grasp on the technical side of things is very important for management, as it allows management and engineers to speak the same language.”
What sort of support did Y Combinator offer you, other than investment?
Justin: “Y Combinator has been supportive of us the entire way through this process. They have made many introductions for us, including to our later set of angel investors, and acted in an advisory capacity (they are all guys who have done it before). I feel quite fortunate to have been a part of a Y Combinator funded company.”