Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Yobongo, Which Launched at Last Year’s SXSW, to Be Acquired and Shut Down

Yobongo, a mobile social discovery app, will be acquired by the fast-growing photo-book creation service Mixbook, the two companies announced today.

Yobongo had only tens of thousands of monthly active users, and had recently reoriented itself around private groups, rather than its original purpose of enabling people to meet each other and chat.

The cash-and-stock deal will have Yobongo’s six employees form Mixbook’s new mobile team, while the Yobongo product is shut down. It’s a bit of a reunion, as three of Yobongo’s team previously worked at Scrapblog, which was also acquired by Mixbook.

Though the acquisition was not a loss for investors, according to Yobongo CEO Caleb Elston, it’s a bit of a cautionary tale. Yobongo launched exactly a year ago at the SXSW conference, with the promise of connecting people through a mobile app when they are near each other. That’s pretty much exactly what Highlight, Glancee, Kismet, Sonar, Intro and many more are trying to do this year.

Elston said he’s become skeptical about the idea of social discovery — or helping people serendipitously find platonic friends.

“Nobody wants to need friends,” Elston said. “It’s hard to be the first one to start a conversation, because you seem like you’re needy.” Platforms like Twitter or Flickr, where conversations about news and photos often lead to people meeting each other, seem to be a more natural environment for making connections, Elston said.

Yobongo had raised $1.35 million from True Ventures, Freestyle Capital, Mitch Kapor and others.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald