Dan Porter left Zynga in April 2013, almost exactly one year after it acquired his startup, OMGPOP, for ~$US200 million.
OMGPOP was the maker of Draw Something, one of the first mobile games to go viral. It racked up 1.2 million downloads within its first week and a half. Three months later, Zynga dropped tons of money on it. After the acquisition, users promptly lost interest in the game. Zynga later shut down its entire New York operation, and Porter agreed to leave.
That year for Porter was exhausting.
“That was a tough experience at Zynga,” Porter tells us. “Obviously making an app and having it be so successful is amazing. It’s really fun and I wish it on everyone. It was just like, I wanted to make something else.”
As a free agent, Porter and his wife spent the summer travelling. When they returned to New York, Porter took a cushy corporate job at Ari Emanuel’s talent agency, WME. Emanuel and Porter had been introduced by an OMGPOP investor, Marc Andreessen. The role, head of digital, would allow Porter to continue innovating at startup speed.
“I basically took [Emanuel] at his word that I could join WME and we could figure out cool stuff to make, and they’d support me,” Porter says. “And that ended up being true.” Over the past year, he’s stayed out of the spotlight, quietly making digital investments for the company in startups such as ClassPass and Into the Gloss.
Now, Porter is ready to be a startup CEO again.
He and a group of former OMGPOP-ers have launched a new mobile startup, Tally, that’s backed by WME. Porter will remain head of digital at the parent company while trying to get Tally off the ground. It launches on iOS today.
Tally is like a mobile-first Twitter that’s more niche. It organizes content around hashtags (#technology, #mindblown, etc) rather than people, so you don’t have to read off-topic posts from influencers if you don’t want to. Posts are voted up or down by the community, adding a Reddit element to the Twitter-like feed.
“I made a list of all the things I don’t like in the world — or at least the tiny, insulated tech world,” Porter says. “One is, I’m a failed curator of my Twitter feed. I can take people [I’m following] away, and I can still never create the best experience.”
Porter, who’s both a tech and sports nut, has a hard time finding people with precisely the same interests. Tally is the solution his team ultimately stumbled upon after a year of trial and error.
Tally most closely resembles Facebook’s new app Rooms, which allows people to join chat rooms with friends around very specific topics. Tweetdeck also allows Twitter users to follow only specific hashtags if they want to drill down on relevant content.
Porter is hoping Tally will be a less-noisy solution that allows posters to be more creative. Like Draw Something, Tally allows people to draw on photo posts with their fingers, creating instant memes. They can also share relevant gifs and videos, making every feed look more like a mini Tumblr blog than a tweet.
“It’s very hard to create a feed that everyone likes,” Porter explains. “If you’re following someone who posts a cute animal photo, half the people will be like, ‘I love this feed!’ and half will be like, ‘I hate you now’…On Tally, I can post a cat or I can be me and post my own stuff. It’s mobile, dynamic, visual and fast.”
Here’s a video that further demonstrates how Tally works.