Some startups are nothing more than fads. They get a lot of buzz when they launch — either by raising huge rounds, having famous founders, or being posed as the next Facebook killer — then they go MIA.
Some fail, some quietly grow, and others pivot into new ideas.
We racked our brains for 10 startups that generated national buzz then fell of the face of the earth.
We also learned what they’ve been up to since their 15 minutes of fame ended.
Founded: May 2010
Founders: Daniel Grippi, Maxwell Salzberg, Raphael Sofaer, and Ilya Zhitomirskiy.
What it was hyped up to be: A 'Facebook killer' that even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg invested in.
Last summer, Facebook received a lot of slack for privacy violations. Diaspora was the brainchild of four college students who wanted to create a more private version of the social network. It raised $200,000 on KickStarter but no one has heard much from the founders since.
What it's become: Last month, ReadWriteWeb tracked down the founders via their blog.
'Unless you have been following us on GitHub, you are probably wondering where we are going,' they wrote. 'Diaspora is a long-term endeavour, and is about an idea bigger than a single feature set or trend. We are working on an outline of what we have learnt so far, and where we see Diaspora going in the next year.'
They told ReadWriteWeb to 'stay tuned.' Meanwhile, a slew of competitors like Kohort, Path, Fridge, and Altly have launched; we fear Diaspora may never resurface.
Founded: July 2009
Founders: Ex-Googlers Anna Patterson and Russell Power, Tom Costello
What it was hyped up to be: A Google killer. Cuil raised $33 million from Greylock and other investors; it claimed to have access to a larger index -- 120 billion pages -- than any other search engine. Cuil also claimed to index pages faster and more cheaply than Google.
What it's become: Problems arose when Louis Monier, VP Product, bailed due to differences with Costello in 2008. Traffic continued to tank and the startup never recovered.
After a failed attempt to get acquired, Cuil shut down its servers for good in September of 2010.
Founders: Josh Williams and Scott Raymond
What it was hyped up to be: Foursquare before there was a Foursquare.
It even won SXSW's award for best mobile service in 2010.
What it's become: Despite its two year head start, Gowalla has become nothing more than a pipsqueak. While Foursquare is busy celebrating its 10 millionth user, Gowalla celebrated its 1 millionth user last February.
Gowalla's slow rollout across multiple mobile platforms is partially to blame; the Android app just came out last summer.
Investors seem to be favouring Foursquare too, which has $20 million in the bank and is rumoured to be raising another massive round at a possible billion-dollar valuation.
While Foursquare is busy dominating users, investors, and the press, Gowalla is forgotten, undownloaded, and unused.
Chatroulette was receiving million-dollar investment offers; now it's forced to monetise 50,000 naked men.
Founded: November 2009
Founder: Andrey Ternovskiy
What it was hyped up to be: A video chat with other random users on the site.
What it's become: Fast Company interviewed Ternovskiy in January and found that he regrets turning down all of the investment opportunities.
But he and two cofounders are living in California, profiting off the site's 50,000 naked users, and trying to bring Chatroulette back to life.
Founded: March 2011
Founder: Bill Nguyen
What it was hyped up to be: Pre-launch, the mobile app raised a whopping $41 million round. The iPhone and Android app, which was released in March, allowed users to share photos based on geo-location data.
What it's become: No one has heard much, probably because no one is really using the app. colour is already pivoting its entire business.
The Times writes about the company's new plan, 'Nguyen outlined an ambitious plan to compete with Apple, Google and Facebook by tying together group messaging, recommendations and local search, all while making money through advertising. He plans to build applications that will use data from Facebook to create temporary social networks, say at a conference or sporting event, to help users meet people who grew up in the same town or like the same band.'
It sounds like colour is scrambling for ideas that are tried and true. But picking Apple, Google and Facebook as competitors can't be a good idea.
Quora was once the hottest private beta ticket in town. Now it's only written about when its servers are down.
Founded: Summer 2009
Founder: Adam D'Angelo and Charlie Cheever
What it was hyped up to be: The tech world was buzzing when Facebook's CTO and Mark Zuckerberg's high school best friend Adam D'Angelo started a company. That company was Quora, and it raised an $11 million round valuing the company at roughly $90 million.
Tech elite raved about the question and answer site, calling it 'the hottest private beta ticket in town.'
What it's become: Some of its investors claim Quora should be a billion-dollar company, but the site has been quiet for nearly six months. It's caused bloggers to write things like, 'Remember Quora? Now it only gets traffic when the site is down and people report on it.'
Even Quora users list the site as one of the most hyped-up startups in Silicon Valley.
Traffic has been steadily rising though, with just a small dip the past few months. Quora may just be quietly growing into something newsworthy.
Founded: November 2010
Founder: Dave Morin
What it was hyped up to be: Path was supposed to be another Facebook killer. It was started by ex-Facebooker Dave Morin and was posed to be a smaller, personal network to 'save you from Facebook.'
What it's become: In February, Morin turned down a $100 million buyout offer from Google, giving people another reason to scream 'tech bubble!'
Since its rejection of Google, the company seems to be slowing down. Or maybe it is quietly plugging away.
In either case, it has been out of the spot light for a few months now and a number of other competitors, like Mark Peter Davis' Kohort, have come into play.
Launched: June 2007
Founders: Kevin Rose, Leah Culver and Daniel Burka
What it was hyped up to be: Pownce was like Twitter but with rich media components.
It was called the 'hottest startup in Silicon Valley' by The New York Times and its launch was so hyped up that invites were sold on eBay.
What it's become: Pownce was no match for Twitter. In December 2008 the company was acquired then shut down by Six Apart.
Launched: January 2008
Founders: Alvin Wood
What it was hyped up to be: Plurk was first positioned as a Twitter killer by TechCrunch. It allowed users to create 140 character posts in timeline form.
What it's become: Not much. Plurk's traffic reached an all-time high around April 2008 before quickly plummeting.
Plurk has struggled for a few years now but still staggers on as a micro-blogging platform that's decently popular in Asia.
Launched: November 2004
Founder: Kevin Rose, Owen Byrne, Ron Gorodetzky, and Jay Adelson.
What it was hyped up to be: A story submission and voting platform. Digg peaked between 2006 when Kevin Rose graced the cover of BusinessWeek and 2008. It even turned down a $100-200 million buyout offer.
What it's become: Digg is slowly dying; even Kevin Rose has left the company. 'RIP Digg,' TechCrunch wrote in March. Sarah Lacy writes that the vision is played out.
'We no longer rely on media gatekeepers for news. No one tells us what the front page should be-- we create our own with the help of our friends,' she says.
'The company isn't dead, but it's been fading away for a while, and its soul is all but gone.'
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