This week, I'm thinking about the lifecycle of moonshot companies. In particular, ones we may have forgotten about as they lost popularity.
A moonshot company is one that aims to solve a big problem, but is unlikely to be profitable in the short term. They're often started by a small team, and are often funded by venture capital. The idea is that they'll grow quickly, and eventually become a big company that solves a big problem.
The term comes from the old adage, Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.
Most moonshot companies don't make it to the moon or the stars. Instead, they become a stepping stone for new use cases, competition, and other product ideas. Every once in a while, though, an interesting thing happens -- an app that was once outrageously popular seems to fade into obscurity. I'm not sure why this happens, but it's worth thinking about.
A blast from the past
You may remember FourSquare, the popular app which let you check-in to a location and review it. If you checked-in frequently enough, you could become "mayor" of the spot.
It was a super cool idea that ended up being a direct competitor to Yelp, Google Maps, Trip Advisor and other services like them... and I thought it was gone gone until last week, when a colleague mentioned that he was still using it. Get this: FourSquare has a loyal following! Superusers leave reviews on the app which tend to be more thorough and trustworthy than Yelp.
So, surprisingly enough, I reinstalled the app! It ended up being a great way to find good coffee shops while visiting my team in New York last week.
Remember these apps?
Vine was a social network that let users share 6 second video clips that would repeat when viewed. It was acquired by twitter in 2012 for $30M, and was eventually shut down because Twitter had other plans for video on their platform... and now the world uses TikTok, whose parent company, ByteDance, is worth an estimated $300B.
HQ Trivia was a live trivia game show app that was wildly popular in 2018. It was acquired by the gaming company, Intermedia Labs, for $100M, and then shut down in 2020. Strangely, it appears to have been rebooted, asit is once again available in the app store.
Path was a photo sharing social network app, which was popular in the early 2010s. It was founded by Shawn Fanning (of Napster fame) and was acquired by a South Korean company called Kakao in 2015. It was shut down in 2018, and the app is no longer available in the app store.
Yo is definitely my favorite among this group. It was an app that let you send a message to your contacts -- and the only message was "Yo", accompanied by a sound effect. It was cofounded by Or Arbel, and the company raised $1.5M in funding. It was all over tech news for quite a while, but somehow never found a path to profitability. Even still, I sent my fair share of
Yomessages to friends. I'm still not sure why, but this app has a special place in my heart.
Recommendations: No-code for everyone
🤓 Last week, an article that I worked on for a while finally went live. Devs: It's okay to use no-code tools is a treatise I wrote to devs, imploring them to try no-code tools. It's so much easier to automate work today than it was even just a few years ago. Even if you don't consider yourself technical, you can make something impressive with no-code tools.
🤖 My friend Aron Korenblit has been writing about automation for years on his site Automate All the Things. Did you know you can use an Airtable as the content source for an entire website? Some real magic there.
📸 Shottr for MacOS is one of the best tools I've found for quickly annotating and sharing screenshots. It's optimized for new M1 Macs, too, so it's is super quick, and best of all - it's free!
Please, make sure you're registered to vote!
(This is for my American friends - sorry international readers, but you'll have to bear with me for this one).
For crying out loud, please make sure you're registered to vote. Next month the US holds Midterm elections, and keeping the Congress in Democratic control is critical to the future of our country. You can check your voting registration status and register to vote over at vote.org.