On background

Some folks have asked for more details on the sequence of events to our funding. Here’s a bit more of the story as to how 43 Things came into the world.

If the beginning is when you sit down with friends and decide to start a company, Amazon wasn’t there at the beginning. We started the company in Daniel’s basement with a list of crazy ideas we’d been kicking around for months. We started building the prototype using instiki – not even writing code – and then enlisted the help of DHH to start thinking about developing the site using Ruby on Rails. We roped in our friends at 37 Signals to help. And we started recruiting more of our friends to work at the co-op. Along the way, friends at Amazon heard me out on some of my ideas, but all was very casual at this point.

As we congealed around what we were building and how it might come together, I started conversations with various people in a position to help. I spoke with folks at Amazon (I worked there from 1996-2001, and Microsoft from 2002-2004) as well as several other angel investors and VC firms. We decided to self fund until we worked out a deal with Amazon.com. That came together in the Fall of 2004. We were working toward a public announcement on the investment next month, but the story came out ahead of the announcement.

We are committed to what we call The age of the amateur and if that means we are going to make missteps as we build the company, so be it.

We don’t see Amazon’s investment as defining what we are doing. It just helps us do it. We are focused on building 43 Things, and other products that create networks of shared experiences to borrow John Udell’s phrase. Some would like more detail on terms, and others want to craft conspiracy theories about how this came together. We don’t really have a shared interest in either topic.

So thanks for the congratulations and support. I hope you’ll try out 43 Things and send us some feedback on the product. We’re listening to your suggestions and evolving the site to make it more fun and useful.

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20 responses to “On background

  1. FWIW, I wholeheartedly agree that not only is the Salon piece a huge distortion but also that reporters in general love to jump to sexy conclusions (that sell content) and then skew the facts as they see fit. I’ve seen it happen far too many times to count. And just a personal note to stand tall. Going the way of the amateur means your going to be recipient a lot of slings and arrows. As long as you realize what you want to accomplish, you win… regardless of fame or fortune.

  2. So you’ve got to be going the CLLCS route…<br />
    <br />
    See my site to learn what it will take to be a pure-play disruptor…<br />
    <br />
    In particular, see the comic premise…<br />
    <br />
    Don’t know if Amazon will go for it, but, then again, Amazon probably does sell a lot of copies of Jenna Jameson’s bio…

  3. Keep up the great work guys. You’re making to come alive!

  4. um, that was supposed to read: you’re making it come alive!

  5. “If the beginning is when you sit down with friends and decide to start a company, Amazon wasn’t there at the beginning”<br />
    <br />
    That’s disingenuous. The founders are ex-Amazon employees so they were using money they made at Amazon from the very start.<br />
    <br />
    “Along the way, friends at Amazon heard me out on some of my ideas, but all was very casual at this point”<br />
    <br />
    Casual? What does that mean? They were wearing jeans instead of a suit?<br />
    <br />
    Going forward Amazon may not define what you are doing but they will certainly own a part of it, won’t they?

  6. Benny – I used money I made at Amazon.com to buy the car I drove to go to work at Microsoft. Does that turn Microsoft into an Amazon front? Nope. It means people have jobs, and sometimes they change companies or start new projects. <br />
    <br />
    I was working at Microsoft just prior to starting 43 Things, so using your logic, the claim ought to be that I used Microsoft money to start 43 Things. <br />
    <br />
    You can’t win an argument with conspiracy theorists, because the “truth” is all part of the conspiracy! We’re trying to share some details here that weren’t covered for you in the press accounts you might have read. If you are convinced by what you read in the media and aren’t interested in our account of how this came together – so be it.

  7. Benny, just wanted you to know that I used Kinkos money to pay for college, guess that means that my degree is a front for kinkos?<br />
    <br />
    Please give me a break…Robot Co-op, your work speaks for itself. You’ve inspired myself to do the same, build a product and a company based on what you love to do. Kudos to you guys.

  8. Benny – <br />
    I sheetrocked and wired my basement as the first office for The Robot Co-op. I wrote the checks for materials and borrowed my neighbor’s plumbing skills to get things rolling. I won’t expand any further on this funding bravado or I’ll end up telling stories like, “when I was a kid we were so poor that we funded startups by selling our own fillings”.<br />
    <br />
    Seriously, I’ve had many jobs in the past and spent the two years prior to starting The Robot Co-op touring as the keyboardist for Maktub and opening a nightclub. Probably like you, I’ve been making a living by working for the past 20 years.<br />
    <br />
    Amazon has invested in The Robot Co-op and we think this is a great thing. But we’re still doing what we did in my basement: making it up and making it happen … all on our own.

  9. Alright… so Amazon is investing in your company. To me, it’s seems obvious they’re doing it for the information(what else would they do it for?)<br />
    <br />
    Yeah, they do it because they are a company who makes money and such information will help them make more of it. It’s a win – win situation for both of you.<br />
    <br />
    You guys are amateurs, that’s fine. But is Amazon.com?<br />
    <br />
    When Amazon or you don’t release information which heightens the mystery, do you think the people who are drawing conclusions are wrong for making them?<br />
    <br />
    Your idea/work is great but when people think you’ve taken advantage of their trust you’re going to get backlash.<br />
    <br />
    I guess, to summarize my thoughts, I wish you had publicized something as huge as “we have an investor” and not planned to <em>put it off for a month</em> either from being busy or anything else.<br />
    <br />
    By the way, thanks for letting us post this type of stuff out in the open in a very honest fashion, kudos.

  10. Here’s your chance to be really clear. HOW MUCH has Amazon invested? Are they minority investors? Do they own 100%? Who really owns 43things?

  11. I must be a lot smarter than the folks at Amazon, because just by poking around the web site I have access to all this data about what people want to do.<br />
    <br />
    And I didn’t pay a dime for it.

  12. “HOW MUCH has Amazon invested? Are they minority investors? Do they own 100%? Who really owns 43things?”<br />
    <br />
    Yeah! And how much does your wife weigh? And what did your stepfather say to you to make you insecure about your looks? THE WEB DESERVES TO KNOW.<br />
    <br />
    Interesting that Amazon’s owned Alexa, which indexes the entire web, for years, but these folks haven’t called them out for it.

  13. if having Amazon as an investor is nothing to be ashamed of then why are you being defensive and evasive about it?

  14. <strong>Benny Styles</strong><br />
    <br />
    Because the business dealings of a company are none of your business; unless you’re an investor or a paying customer. Use your common sense, Sherlock. Once the deal is tip-top I’m sure they will release a nice press release to spell everything out for you.

  15. Goodness, there’s an awful lot of Kool-aid going around.<br />
    <br />
    Sorry, but from the outside, seeing investment from Amazon means Amazon Wants Something. While it’s fun to couch it all as “We’re All Buddies” and I wish you all the joyous best in whatever it is you’re doing, it’s still corporate investment in a product.<br />
    <br />
    Since Robot Co-Op is not a publically traded firm, of course they have no particular incentive or compelling law to be transparent in business dealings or otherwise unless it suits them; certainly the story of Apple being funded by a sold Volkswagen Van and Calculator was easier to hear about AFTER the success of the Apple II than before.<br />
    <br />
    Regardless, people know, you’ve answered, and folks can decide one way or another how they feel about it. But please, don’t paint it like it’s a minor fact, nothing to think about. It’s out and there you go. How you approach this unexpected revelation of internal information is up to you.<br />
    <br />
    Onward, into the void.

  16. uh oh, are those ‘door desks’ in that photo!?

  17. Moooo…<br />
    <br />
    (p.s. I was bored at work, I don’t think you guys are all evil. Good luck)

  18. I don’t think there is anything wrong with investment. Good project btw.

  19. Uh… I just wanted to pipe in and say, what difference does it make if Amazon has invested in this company? 43 Things is harmless. Users CHOOSE to put this information on the web for the WORLD to see. If Amazon didn’t invest, their workers could LOOK THIS STUFF UP if they wanted too. <br />
    Is Amazon EVIL? no..they sell books and stuff…I like Amazon, I have an account with them…they’re cool. If you all want to dream up crazy theories of how Amazon and 43 Things plan to take over the world…fine. If you don’t like the way they planned to annouce things once it was all said and done then close your 43 Things account and move on with your life and get over it.

  20. Weeks ago I suggested that 43things should allow us to associate our amazon wishlist with our account, just like we can do now with flickr. The email reply I got about this “Yes, great idea. We’ll make it happen”<br />
    <br />
    So the update comes and no wishlist function.<br />
    <br />
    My fear (and conspiracy theory) is that you won’t enact the idea I gave to you guys because it will look like you’re pandering to Amazon. <br />
    <br />
    Please prove this theory wrong!

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