December 1 2008

Pownce Is Shutting Down

Isn’t that headline scary?  Yes, Pownce is shutting down… now, for the 99% of you who have no idea what/who Pownce is, I’ll fill you in.

Kevin Rose, the man behind Digg, hinted for a while back in 2007 that he was working on a secret project, and on June 27, 2007, it was revealed to be a new microblogging service named Pownce.  The new competitor to, the then growing in popularity, Twitter started off as an invite-only Beta that people were desperate to get in to and try.  With Rose connected to it, people were sure that this was going to be the next big thing in Web 2.0.

As people got in to Pownce, many people were heard to utter, “Er… it’s just like Twitter”, and they opted to stick with the service they had already invested so much time in.  The clamor for invites didn’t die though as everyone wanted to take a look at it for themselves.  When the service went public on January 22, 2008, you pretty much heard all the chatter about Pownce died down with the exception of one of the other people behind-the-scenes.

Besides Rose, the face of Pownce was a programmer named Leah Culver.  Ms. Culver’s personal life became bigger than the service itself as it was revealed she was dating Daniel Burka, an employee of Digg.  This led to much speculation that this was how Rose had become involved with the service.  Shortly after the service went live, Culver and Burka parted ways.

Ms. Culver’s next love interest was Brad Fitzpatrick of SixApart, the company behind the blogging site LiveJournal.  When that relationship didn’t last, she then moved on to Cal Henderson from Flickr… then MG Siegler from VentureBeat.. and then Nick Douglas, formerly an editor at Valleywag and Gawker.  Essentially Ms. Culver was dating her way through the entire Web 2.0 community.

All of this brings us to today where it was announced that SixApart had purchased Pownce… and promptly killed it.  Effective December 15th the site will be no more, and the creative team, including Ms. Culver, will be absorbed in to the SixApart team.

Initially I had no interest in going in to Ms. Culver’s personal life, but when Valleywag laid it all out, it was fascinating to see how things had come about.  It also shows you just how small the current Internet community is behind all of these companies with non-sensical names really is.

While nothing is known for sure about if the Culver/Burka connection is what brought Rose to the table, you do have to wonder.  If it was that got him to attach his name to it, are people in Silicon Valley now going to have to ask someone before they invest in a company, “who are you currently dating?  Is it serious?”

Pownce really didn’t have much to offer against such an established user base as what Twitter had.  Their claim to fame was the ability to share media, and that isn’t why most people used microblogging services to begin with.

So now we are left with questions if the people who invested money made anything back, and will the dating antics of people behind companies will become under my scrutiny before Internet superstars lend their names to a startup.  The whole ordeal feels sordid and dirty to me, and just not the way to conduct business.  Was Pownce really worthy of starting up in the first place, or was it all based on who was wearing whose Varsity jacket and been asked to the Homecoming dance?

Mind you, these are all just my random thoughts and opinions from the details that are available.  I could be totally off base, or I might be dead on, who knows.  What I do know is when running in the big leagues and playing with millions of dollars of other people’s money, perhaps you should keep your dating life out of the virtual tabloids.

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