Something has been bugging me since I heard the news that Kevin Rose sold out to Google. First off, don’t get the wrong idea here, not many people would be able to turn down the deal that was (supposedly) offered and accepted – not sure that I could. What is so wrong about good old American capitalism? Nothing. Good on him for taking the money. Good on him for providing an exit for his investors and team. Good on him for all of this but shame on him for giving up so easily.
Milk Inc., the lab Rose started to incubate, build and deploy mobile apps, did have a mandate to test the viability of ideas in app form, build out the ones that resonated and quickly kill the ones that didn’t. Good idea. The only problem with this is that Kevin Rose is not an ordinary, “under the radar” tech entrepreneur, he is Kevin Rose and with his name comes a following and influence and belief. He can’t launch a product quietly, and when he puts his name behind something he is building it resonates more than some unknown 19 year old wunderkind fresh from dropping out of college.
By last count, Oink had managed to bring 150,000 users into its family – how many were active aside from Kevin and the Milk team? Not sure. Regardless, they built the hype, announced the app, released it, promoted it, used it and developed a following. More importantly, it was attached to Kevin Rose in name and reputation. People bought into it because it was Kevin and this is where I have issue.
There is no doubt a gold rush is upon us in the mobile sphere – pan handlers mining for riches, snake oil salesmen pushing miracle cures, etc – and this sphere is fragile. Kevin doing what he did brings with it a deeper concern around the confidence in this industry. How many times can we be led down a path because of social influence and status before we lose trust in everything we see? There is a lot of “boy crying wolf” out there today and these high profile starts and stops, if they continue, aren’t helping the industry.
One of my very early episodes for UNTETHER.tv was with Greg Grunberg, an actor (he played the cop in Heroes, was on Felicity and Love Bites and was the doomed pilot of Oceanic Flight 815 on Lost) and co-founder of Yowza! – one of the first coupon/discount apps out there. To say I was skeptical of his intentions was an understatement but in the 18 months since that episode it is quite obvious that Greg believes in the product and is still committed to it. He understands that when he puts his name behind something he needs to stick it out.
As I said, I’m not sure I would be able to turn down the money that Google offered (hey, Google, open to testing that theory out), but being able to get my data out of Oink is not a suitable way of ending a relationship. The next time Rose launches something – even at Google – I will think twice about using it.