infoShare 2014: Mark Johnson, Lessons from the Trenches: How I sold Zite twice

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  • Why did we do this?
    Not great product design
  • March 9, 2011
    Over 50 original articles, including in print in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal
    Top of the iPad app store
    125,000 downloads in a week


  • First 100 days:
    * Employess
  • Could have given up and coasted, but we didn’t
  • infoShare 2014: Mark Johnson, Lessons from the Trenches: How I sold Zite twice

    1. 1. Lessons from the Trenches: How I sold Zite twice Mark Johnson Former CEO of Zite @philosophygeek
    2. 2. Goals What you’ll get • Tell you the story of Zite with some observations What you won’t get • An easy formula to build a successful startup • How to sell a company twice @philosophygeek
    3. 3. BE YOURSELF @philosophygeek
    4. 4. “I AM UNEMPLOYED” @philosophygeek
    5. 5. @philosophygeek
    6. 6. The Startups The Acquirers Travel Search Categorized Search Natural Language Search $180M $300M $100M
    7. 7. DON’T GIVE UP @philosophygeek
    8. 8. Zite Timeline: Key events @philosophygeek 2005: Worio founded March 2010: Zite launches on iPad August 2010: CNN acquires Zite December 2012: Zite 2.0 Launches March 2014: Flipboard acquires Zite
    9. 9. “A PIVOT IS A NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE. . . YOU ARE DOWN AT THE HEDGE ROW LEVEL, AND THE BRANCHES ARE GOING THROUGH THE FUSELAGE.” Mike Moritz, Sequoia Capital @philosophygeek
    10. 10. TECHNOLOGY IS EASIER TO PIVOT THAN PRODUCT @philosophygeek
    11. 11. The Pivot: Zite.com @philosophygeek
    12. 12. Hail Mary! @philosophygeek
    13. 13. Zite 1.0 @philosophygeek
    14. 14. Why was Zite successful? • Solved a serious problem of information overload • Mobile first • Powerful underlying technology; but with a simple interface @philosophygeek
    15. 15. Some awesome usage stats • Even after 3 years, Zite maintained 25% retention • 20 minutes per user per day • 9 articles per day @philosophygeek
    16. 16. YOU ARE GOING TO PISS PEOPLE OFF IF YOU ARE DISRUPTING* *ESPECIALLY IN THE MEDIA @philosophygeek
    17. 17. @philosophygeek
    18. 18. THE SALE TO CNN @philosophygeek
    19. 19. @philosophygeek
    20. 20. Why being part of CNN didn’t suck • Frank discussions during negotiation – Shared goals and objectives – Agreed-upon milestones (pros/cons) – My experience in a bad acquisition • Retained (relative) independence • Guaranteed funding • Hyper-focus on the first hundred days – Hire new employees – Release iPhone Fact: most acquisitions are failures
    21. 21. BUILD VALUE IN YOUR COMPANY @philosophygeek
    22. 22. What is value? • Product • Technology • People @philosophygeek
    23. 23. MAKE BIG PRODUCT BETS @philosophygeek
    24. 24. Zite 2.0 @philosophygeek
    25. 25. Lessons from Zite 2.0 • Know when to revamp the product • Get it right on one platform before going to others – Ignore the siren song of minor platforms • Be prepared for a dot-release quick on the heels of your big release • Coordinate marketing across all channels @philosophygeek
    26. 26. DON’T BE AFRAID OF MAKING MISTAKES. CLEAN UP QUICKLY AFTER THEM. AND DON’T MAKE THEM AGAIN. @philosophygeek
    27. 27. Hibou, the Owl logo @philosophygeek
    28. 28. TECHNOLOGY CAN DRIVE PRODUCT IMPROVEMENT @philosophygeek
    29. 29. Not just the UX 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.4 8.4 8.4 8.5 8.7 8.7 8.8 8.7 8.7 9.4 8 8.5 9 9.5 MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN DAILY ARTICLE VIEWS PER USER @philosophygeek
    30. 30. BUILD A GREAT CULTURE @philosophygeek
    31. 31. The Culture Club • Why? – Punch above your weight – Teams that play together stay together • How? – Focus on intelligence and capability – Use your CEO as a culture check – Organize a social event to see how a potential employee fits in @philosophygeek
    32. 32. BE PREPARED: SURPRISES ARE AROUND EVERY CORNER @philosophygeek
    33. 33. Sale to Flipboard @philosophygeek
    34. 34. From CNN to Flipboard • Tripled the size of the team • Redesigned Zite from the ground up • Expanded from the iPad to iPhone and Android • Improved the underlying discovery technology • Inked deals with dozens of publishers • Booked our first revenue • Built an integration to CNN @philosophygeek
    35. 35. JUST DO IT @philosophygeek
    36. 36. @philosophygeek
    37. 37. HAVE FUN @philosophygeek
    38. 38. @philosophygeek
    39. 39. QUESTIONS? @philosophygeek on Twitter @philosophygeek

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