The thing is, purchase by Google is a common exit strategy among these companies. Paul Graham has stated his predilection for the build to sell model, so this is even more true for the Y-Combinator startups. A product or service that Google might be interested in purchasing, without it being something Google's already working on, is a teeny tiny target unless you're Sergey's drinking buddy. So saying "they ought to have considered this possibility" isn't really fair. Of course they did. In some ways, their idea was validated: Google certainly IS interested in a good online calendar. They just already had one that didn't suck. The real lesson here, IMHO, is the double-edged sword in hoping for acquisition by a company that's really got it together
In fact, this might make some less nimble (but more evil) companies better potential buyers. :) They're more likely to need to buy to catch up.
Well, I'm speculating here, but I don't know that the project ended up being what either the founders or the investors wanted. If they both think it's a success, than so be it -- I sit corrected.
Generally, when software assets are placed on the open market it is rarely a brilliant strategic move to capitalize on a major success. But, I could be wrong.
I don't know about this post - there is an _aweful_ lot of speculation in how you connect what you're saying to the kids at Kiko.
Perhaps they realized after being at it for a while that they didn't really want to pursue it and it's that simple. Maybe they had to make a decision about whether they'd stick with what they loved: ideas, technology, programming and have to deal with sales and marketing wankers in order to move ahead. Maybe they have a new idea and can't pursue the both simultaneously. Who knows?
It's not that I disagree with the vast generalizations above, I'm just a bit skeptical that lessons can be learned when the connections between those lessons and the experience are pure speculation.
These are fair points. But, I would still argue that regardless of whether they simply changed their mind and decided they wanted to do something different, it doesn't change the fact that they spent a fair amount of their time and a little bit of other people's money pursuing this.
The only real "lesson" in the article (and even that is of questionable merit) is that it might help to actually consider the impact of events like Google entering your market.
I've got a bit of bias here, as I felt that they implemented a slick product -- but it might have survived had they made it available as an OEM offering to larger software vendors that needed calendaring capabilities. It always seemed more of a "feature" than a "company". But, that's just my opinion.
The technology behind Kiko is good, but they simply don't have a working business model.
I suppose Kiko is worth the $50K asked at eBay or even a bit more if you consider the software itself. But if you look at it just as a business and oportunities, it is not worth much.
I find it hard to believe that Kiko had a PR of 9. Only very well known companies have a PR of 9 (microsoft, apple, etc being the few). Are you sure you got the correct number?
Kudos to Paul Graham for initiating Y Combinator in the first place :)
It could be an abomination. Who knows?
Jawad: My apologies. That was a typo. Kiko has a Page Rank of 7 (Seven). Article has been corrected. Thanks for pointing this out.
I don't understand why they didn't try to monetize this with the existing user base. Even AdSense would get them more money in a year than what they'll get with the auction minimum. Unless several people are waiting at the wings to make last minute bids...
I don't get it -- Paul Graham is a lot smarter than I am and it just seems so incredibly obvious that a stand-alone online calendar is practically valueless, no matter how cool. I think Dharmesh himself in a previous post talked about barriers to entry, and if you can look at a site and say, "I can do that in a weekend," you don't have a worthwhile product.
Can anybody with 2 years of web development experience truthfully say that they couldn't put an online calendar app together in a long weekend? Perhaps it wouldn't be quite as slick or ajaxy, but it would likely be functional enough. If having a stand-alone web 2.0 calendar app suddenly became hugely profitable, we'd see 800 more within a month. There simply is no barrier to entry.
What is the horrible pain that Kiko made bareable? Why did they think they were more qualified to compete in this area when an online calendar app is clearly much more valuable as part of a software suite? Was plan A, B, and C selling out to Google?
Doug: Not sure if Paul Graham is smarter than you are (since I don't know you), but I'm sure he's smarter than I am.
I think we may be overthinking the degree of influence over Kikio that PG had. I think his MO is more to find really smart, passionate hacker-types and give them modest funding to build a prototype and see what "sticks". In some cases it does, in some cases, it doesn't.
One of the things people like about YCombinator is that they are nowhere near as intrusive as VCs. They basically bet on the right people and let them do their thing.
Don't tihnk what happened to Kiko is really a reflection on PG's intelligence. Simply how they've chosen to play the game.
There are at least two reasons PG could have invested in Kiko: 1) he was betting that it would be bought out by Google, Yahoo, or perhaps another big company, 2) He was investing in some talented people with hopes of collaborating with them in the future.
At the time he invested, the former probably had good odds, while the latter still has good odds. The founders of Kiko are still young, smart, ambitious entrepreneurs who have a good chance of making it big. if they do, it's likely that PG will get his share as an early investor.
When the bubbles rise to the sky
And my heart goes out to leap for it
Thanks for telling me
Keep your feet on the ground
You are making the same assumption that many companies make when faced with Gorilla competition. You focus on the competition instead of your market. Just because Google and Microsoft are so big doesn't mean that they automatically win. Focus on giving people what they want and they won't care about Google. Besides, Googles efforts in areas outside of search have hardly been spectacularly successful.
Hmm. I should sell my Google Calendar account! :)
Well I had a very long and well written :) post attempting to answer all your questions, BUT it appears the blog gods ate it when I hit post. (I got some error messages about missing fields and everything was blank).
So now you get the very short version (perhaps that's for the best):
1) You could always just ask any of us that were on the Kiko team, then you wouldn't have to make so many assumptions :)
2) We knew Google Calendar was coming. It had been in internal beta for over a year and not all the Googlers at the 'plex are good at keeping secrets
3) We failed to capitalize on our first mover advantage. We made some *poor* decisions in January that pushed our re-release launch from edit of January to the middle of March. Two things happened in the time: 30boxes launched and became the new calendar darling and gCal screenshots were leaked. Both meant we got very little airplay with our re-release (which is where I came in, I did the UI for that release).
4) Still after the gCal release we were in good shape according to conventional web wisdom (whatever that is worth). You could argue that with Google having a fancy AJAX'y calendar that other major players would want one as well. And with the #2 online calendar, 30boxes, not looking to be bought out then being #3 didn't look so bad.
5) As someone conjectured, this is more about developer/team fatigue with the concept moreso than there not being any economic future for the product. To have a successful online calendar you need to free all the people from Outlook calendar bondage. That requires a lot of work and a sales/marketing team.
6) If you want to build a successful online calendar just figure out a sane way to get those Outlook users out of their walled garden. Not easy, but I guess that's why not even gCal has done this :)
More comments craziness, it asks for my website but then doesn't display it. Go figure.
I'm Richard White, UI designer for Kiko.com. My blog (with my own Kiko eulogy) is height1percent.com.
i knew this would be a bubble right from the beggining
You seem to put a lot of the blame for failure on Google Calendar. I don't think there is ANY evidence that Google Calendar had anything to do with Kiko's failure. I know maybe one person that's using Google Calendar, so it's not like the market is fully saturated. The entire failure is that there is no business model and their costs must exceed their profits.
Great post! You are right there are a lot of these Web 2.0 bust stories but most of them are never told...they simply fade away without notice.
I don't know the specifics of Kiko, but I do know that the calendar space is hard to crack. It is not about the technology...that is relatively simple. It is about existing calendars being entrenched in Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, and to some degree Blackberry.
Calendars are a feature, not a company. Not only are calendars just a feature, but they are only successful when integrated with your email/communication system. I don't know of a single calendar product that is successful on a stand alone basis. Even mighty Google with all its brand, money, and engineering prowess is failing miserably in terms of market share with its calendar product. Kiko didn't stand a chance.
There are a few companies doing interesting things with calendar functionality. TimeBridge is focused on setting up meeting times for people in different companies and maybe on different calendaring systems. You know the problem of setting up a mutually agreeable meeting time and getting it scheduled? That is what TimeBridge does. The problem is that you can't see the free/busy time of people not in your own domain, or if they use a different calendar product.
There are other companies doing online calendars but the problem is always which calendar will be the primary consolidator of all entries, work, personal, or shared? each calendar comapny wants to be the controlling or consolidating point. For most users they will not agree to give up their Outlook or Notes calendar, so it is a non starter.
Not an easy space at all.
They were taking a gamble, and it actually seems like a not-bad one. Google (or someone else) who needed an
Ajax calendar might have bought it up (or still might). But let's be clear about one thing:
Designing calendars is not cool.
Designing games is cool. Designing application servers is cool. Designing programming languages is cool.
Calendars? Not cool.
I mean. Go back in time twenty five years and stick this on an Apple II... Still not cool. Not even state of the art cool, twenty fjve years ago.
I guess the question that has to be begged is that is any application that is 90% pure API have any intrinsic value? Which then begs the next question. With much of the software development being API driven and Internet facing one would be extremely exposed to a Google snarfup, why would a VC invest?
I have to wonder about 50% of the current crop of Internet SmashUps that are going on as a business plan. I have a view of them very similar to financial derivative instruments. The app development is dependent on core feeds from 2 or more base level suppliers for data. Technically nothing wrong with that but from a business model perspective that is death.
1) If one of the suppliers becomes a competitor they could put you out of business by changing the API. Think AOL with their AIM platform.
2) What does one do when the supplier dies or eliminates that core data feed your app requires? Can you find a substitute?
3) Is the data you are providing acquirable by your market base by other means? You provide the latest market analysis tool from Google and Yahoo. But why would anybody with a Bloomberg terminal care who might just be your target audience?
It becomes readily apparent that Internet based startups whose model is inherently reproducible is a very fragile thing.
wonder if if it had something to do with the fact that the logo looks like: kike
what a naming blunder!
Is it really important to have Web 2.0 these days? I still see no benefits.
The article didn't bring up the main point of failure - the failure being that they had to close shop because they didn't make any money. A calendar? Sheesh.
All of these Web 2.0 companies act like they were on another planet during the bubble.
I wonder how many Web 2.0 startups should consider clicking on the "Sell one like this" link on the action page...
An army of ants can kill a gorilla... Or at least get it irritated enough to move on.
Their first order of business, once they had come up with their cool technology , should been to intergrate with other complementary services.
Their first rule should have been "solve a problem". Yahoo and Google and probably 10 others have already solved this problem.
Just a note to the commenter above who thinks Kiko could make more through AdSense alone in a year than $50k.
That's incredibly unlikely. With their traffic numbers, they'd be lucky to pull in a cool $1k per month from adsense.
I've knocked out websites over a few long weekends that get more traffic then that. Though it was a valiant effort on their part =)
As a member of the Kiko.com team, here's my rebuttal:
I guess this is what happens when you have some ASP based blog software. the link again:
Your post seems too focussed on Google as being the primary reason for the demise of Kiko. It would be interesting to see that thesis supported by statistics pointing to the fact that Kiko users were switching to Google Calendar by the dozen. Further, isnt it more a question of going after lead users while forgetting that you build services for mainstream. Google video has been out there for a while but YouTube is still giving them a run for the money.
IMHO, the problem with Kiko is that they went after the geeky/nerdy lead user (which of course Google dominates) instead of focusing their resources on getting the mainstream users.
I had low hopes for Kiko the moment I looked into it.
My first consideration when evaluating a new service? "Does this solve a problem for me that I can't already solve at least as well somewhere else". No. Kiko offered less functionality of relevance than Yahoo Calendar, let alone the yet-unintroduced Google Calendar.
My second consideration, assuming the service has passed the first criterion? "Will the pain of transitioning to this new service be less than the aggregate benefits of using it?" No. Switching to Kiko would have meant giving up the ability to sync my central calendar with other data sources and with offline devices. The Palm Pilot that I paid quite a bit of good money for (and which Yahoo Calendar can sync with and Kiko could not) would become substantially less useful to me, and indeed I'd have to substantially change not just my workflow but my life in order for a web-ONLY calendar to be of any benefit at all. Updating my calendar on the web is a cool ability (which is why I use Yahoo Calendar), but even if there weren't _anybody_ who offered both, it wouldn't be worth giving up my Palm for.
I don't use Outlook, but I imagine its users feel the same way about it that I feel about my Palm.
If you want to get people out of the walled garden, you don't do it by shouting over the wall about how wonderful life is on the outside of it...you do it by building a door. You do it by giving them an opportunity to experience some of the value of the outside without having to commit almost-irrevocably to never returning.
Buzz will never be an acceptable substitute for utility, just like attitude will never be a substitute for cash.
And for the record, I'm about as "geeky lead user" as they come. I _was_ part of Kiko's target audience. I came really close to being in the same business as them. If they couldn't even make ME happy, I don't think they ever had much of a shot with Aunt Tillie or the typical Outlook-worshipping corporate droid.
They seem like cool people, and having an idea fail to gain traction is not something to be ashamed of, in and of itself. They certainly built more working code for their calendar server than I ever did for mine. It says nothing against them that their business failed...it's simply a learning experience for the community.
Online calendar is a mass appeal product. Yes those corporate androids tied to Oulook are part of that mass market! General mass appeal product races haven't always been won by the earliest or the best. Major success stories like Google search and iPod come from focus both on product and execution from a follower position not as a leader way out front. Followers learn from the pioneer’s missteps and focus more on execution and less on innovation.
The questions I pose are:
- How could a small startup like Kiko, without core capability to execute with scale and focus, ever expect to win with a universal-appeal product?
- Did Kiko in fact almost do the impossible in coming as far as they did?
- If the growth-shape for current startups must resemble a controlled explosion then shouldn't investment on execution-focus go hand-in-hand with investment on product-focus and begin much sooner in the lifecycle?
- Would investment in execution have revealed gaps in the strategy sooner with time to chart a different course?
Kudos to the Kiko team for sharing their experiences!!
Someone here tried to attract some buzz for his site, Litepost.
Here's a great example of how to attract users. Provide a Web site
that says "Litepost is a revolutionary new webmail system focusing on
ease of use and an efficient user interface. We are currently
accepting beta testers." Offer no information whatsoever as to what
the system does, how it looks, etc.
I mean, it's only email, right? Not like anyone depends on it, nor
like anyone minds having *yet another* inbox to process.
Another neat trick on their page is to not check the content of the
box that's been submitted. If you submit a blank email address, it
doesn't notice it: it just says, "Sorry, your email doesn't work. Try
again?" Inspires great confidence.
And if all that fails to attract users, surely this will. At the
bottom is the sole link on the page, to litepostinteractive.com. The
sum total of content on *that* page is (a) "Logged in as , logout" and
"Fatal error: Call to undefined function: displaylogin() in
I really, really hope that it's a spoof site and post, and it's just
too early in the morning for my irony detector to switch on.
Just in case there are any Russian-speaking readers, here is my take on the subject:
'Creating something of value' is more than whether or not a web service, in this particular instance, continues to live on forever in its current form by its current ownership.
Not to mention, there is value in both good and bad ideas and implementations that are now no longer in the present. As a telling for instance, look at the new IE7. It's brilliant. Why is it brilliant? Because Mircosoft were forced by the Firefox people to create a product that wasn't total crap. This is just one incredibly minor example of a possibly-soon-to-be-gone-in-its-current-incarnation idea/implementation (Firefox) that has helped make using the internets much easier for people. Did it, too, fail to create something of value?
Decent post, but the 'value' statement is more than a little boneheaded. It's especially shocking given that this is a startup-related blog.
Name Is Required
Email Is Required
Comment Is Required
And Akismet didn’t flag your post because I currently have it disabled. I’ll be reenabling it tonight to give it a second go.
After all, Google claims to organize all the world’s information, in all its diverse flavors. Not suprising they bullied this startup. More at http://www.solutionpoint.in/india/google-yahoo/