A couple years ago, startup money-man Seth Goldstein and coder Billy Chasen joined to create a startup called Stickybits.You could put a sticker on a wall and leave a digital message for the next Stickybits user.
Except there never were very many Stickybits users.
So then, last year came a big pivot: the company became Turntable.fm.
It was a hit, and last summer, it looked like it might become the next big thing.
But then it wasn’t, as users slowly melted away.
Hoping to bring them back, Turntable.fm put on a big show at SXSW this year.
The big take-way is this: Chasen and Goldstein don’t seem to like each other much.
Chasen is an idealistic coder who ignores emails from investors and thinks marketing is a gimmick and believes himself to be an artist. Goldstein thinks Turntable.fm will be successful once it has enough celebrity backers.
Throughout the story, the pair bicker a lot. Check out this scene from a green room at SXSW:
In the green room before Turntable’s first SXSW panel, it’s easy to see how months of this personality friction has worn on these two. When Goldstein arrives, he asks to see Chasen’s 10-minute presentation, the one he wanted to make alone before the panel discussion and Q&A.
Chasen barely looks up from his laptop: “You can watch it onstage. I have work to do.”
Goldstein chats with the others for a while, but then he can’t help himself. You should start off by addressing the traffic drop-off, he tells Chasen. Maybe sort of explain that we’re growing again.
Chasen shoots daggers at him: “That’s a defensive position. That’s such a different story from what users are feeling right now.”
“You just need to be ready for the question.”
“That’s fine. But telling me to come out with that? And I already have my response to that question.”
A perky stagehand interrupts: “Turntable…are you guys ready to go?”
Is a divorce on the way?
It sounds like yes to us, but at the end of Helm’s story, Goldstein offers some hope – sort of.
“One of the great lines in couples therapy is, ‘Stay connected through conflict,'” says Goldstein, who has been married 13 years. “That’s what Billy and I continue to try to do. Neither of us is a great communicator.”
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