It’s tough to be a startup today. It’s even more difficult to be a youngster looking to run with the giants. I admire young startups like Quipster, who is dodging the giants right now.
Looking at Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and Google we think they are indestructible. It’s understandable. It’s easy to be armchair critics, Monday morning quarterbacks or Negative Nancy’s when it comes to seeing a new startup attempting to play on their turf. But the reality is a King’s reign does not last forever, and it’s usually replaced by the one we never expected.
Quipster recently launched to mild criticism, especially from one of the media Giants in the startup industry, TechCrunch. I respect TC and their reporting, but not exactly their take on Chiding the Child.
“Do we really need another mobile check-in app? Newly launched startup Quipster seems to think so.” They go on the provide a brief overview of how Quipster is really no different than all other checkin apps.
Is TechCrunch too big for Quipster? My guess is yes, so big they didn’t even care to give the startup a fair shake.
The three paragraph post – which probably took 1o minutes to complete – does little justice in finding the pearl within the oyster that is Quipster. If they would have looked a little closer they would have discovered Quipster came from three Thai engineers in Palo Alto led by CEO Krating Poonpol, who has always dreamed of being an entrepreneur and fought for seven months to gain an H1B visa just for the opportunity to build a company here in the US. Krating – a former engineer at Google who became a bestselling author in Thailand for penning a book on his experiences at Google – also won two medals in international mathematics competitions, taking home the gold for Thailand in physics.
Needless to say, these aren’t 3 frat dudes sitting around looking to get rich by riding the bubble of copycats. Even ReadWriteWeb does a better job reporting both the positives and the negatives of Quipster as well as questioning the tactics of TechCrunch.
By taking more time, TechCrunch would have also been able to share how Krating started Quipster to simplify and unify social check-ins, an category fragmented and ripe for simplification and a problem worth solving. His goal: to be the driving force behind the next wave of geolocation.
According to Krating “Geolocation is not really about the check-in, it’s about sharing a context of what you’re doing as well as where you are with a single click and no typing. He continues …we are creating a fun and fast way to share what your doing and what you like about certain places.”
The ” too many checkin apps ” reaction misses the point about Quipster. Although check-ins apps are abundant, most lack any context. Receiving a Foursquare update that reads “John Smith just checked in at Joe’s Bar” really doesn’t tell me anything, and leaves a lot to be desired. Others are taking notice of the problem.
Krating, like any good innovator, is seeing an area where improvement is needed. “we are seeing at least 5 or 6 responses resulting from each quip, giving a basis of interaction between users which goes farther than just a “here I am”. This lowers the barrier of interaction among friends and strangers within a city and also gives users a chance to see what is hot in the city.”
I see apps like Quipster emerging with visions going way past the basic checkin feature and on towards making our everyday life easier and more enjoyable. And for a possible business model, Krating did not to go into details, but he did say “Like Google – building out the interest graph, adding location and targeting meaningful marketing” seems like a good place to be.”
Am I saying Foursquare or Twitter won’t continue to reign in this space? Not exactly, they are powerful horses for sure. Do I think Quipster is the new Foursqare at this point? No, I think they have a few obstacles to overcome. But I am impressed with early startups looking to move the needle forward.
An Unfriendly Startup Trend
While I was doing my research to cover Quipster, I started to take notice of a new trend in tech media. Coverage of young and emerging startups is falling behind at a frightening pace. I am not the only one to notice. Recent research found Ten companies now account for 30% of TechCrunch coverage. The image below illustrates the heavily weighted coverage of late seed or large companies, increasing each year. It is understandable why major outlets cover Apple, Facebok and Google more often, indeed they drive many more pageviews. But it begs the question: Is this raw startup journalism or have Techcrunch (and the like) really become the “New” Old Media? Has it become all about more page views?
I am a long time Business Insider and TechCrunch reader, but these trends are cause for worry if you are an early stage founder. Below are a few observations, straight from Guest contributor Mark Goldenson:
1. Companies funded by a prominent investors get covered twice as much
2. TechCrunch writers do play favorites
3. TechCrunch’s long tail is now 14 times longer but the fat head is 24 times bigger
Guide The Child
My view of the purpose of media is to be a guiding light in helping emerging technologies and companies acheive top of mind with the general public. Covering young startups with facetious mocking does not do those numbers any justice or help pull startups forward. Media outlets such as TechCrunch (as well as this one, Business Insider) influence the general public more than they know, and covering a new company with a 3 paragraph Chide probably does more harm than good for an early stage startup.
TechCrunch, Business Insider and the entire startup community – pay attention to small startups like Quipster and remember Twttr was once is the same position.