I love these types of episodes – the “whatever happened to” type where we get a glimpse into what happened to some of the early startups I interviewed. Today it is Yobongo founder Caleb Elston. Caleb launched Yobongo at SXSW in the spring of 2011 to much fanfare and super competition. The last time he was on was right before the launch, before they raised $1 million, before the big guys (Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Twitter) really understood this industry and started acquiring like crazy and before deciding to sell Yobongo to Mixbook about a year after launch.
This episode picks up where we left Caleb and is incredible in the honesty about the process of building, growing and ultimately deciding to sell his company. He is incredibly forthright with his view on the failings of Yobongo and the things he would do over again. He also goes into detail about why Mixbook – a business that was not interested in the business Yobongo was in would purchase them to apply the combined brain power of the team on a new challenge.
There are some incredible lessons in here for any entrepreneur trying to push the boundaries through mobile and Caleb doesn’t hide behind hubris, he tells it like it is and shows us what it takes to make sane, measured decisions while the world around you is on fire.
** This is part 1 of the interview – the whole conversation lasted close to 70 minutes so I split it into 2 parts. Part two will be focused on his new venture inside of Mixbook called Mosaic. **
Here is a quick reference of what we covered in the show. Click on the link and the video will take you to that clip
1. Recap – what was Yobongo? 3:45
2. What happened after the SXSW launch 7:00
3. How did they gauge demand for their product (tactic) 10:00
4. How did Yobongo roll out new product features 11:00
5. What happened when you rolled it out beyond the early adopters 15:00
6. How the competitive landscape shaped the Yobongo story 19:15
7. THE decision: To take more money and gamble or take an offer 22:00
8. Is there a way to compete as the small network in a world of fast acquisitions by big players 25:15
9. Lesson learned: Your product needs individual value 28:40
10. Lesson learned: Understanding when and where to use great design. Square vs. Snapchat vs. Yobongo 32:30
11. A year has passed, what is your view on Yobongo today 34:45
About Caleb Elston
Caleb Elston is an entrepreneur currently working on the stealth mobile sharing startup Yobongo. Previously, he was the VP of Product at Justin.tv.