Content discovery site StumbleUpon is ready for a change, according to the site’s cofounder Garrett Camp.
In a Medium post, Camp said that he’s becoming the majority shareholder of StumbleUpon and will take over in an advising role.
“It’s time for a change, and we’re ready to listen,” Camp said.
The company had reportedly started laying off staff since the beginning of August. A person with knowledge of the situation told Business Insider that some employees were having their last day today.
A spokesperson from StumbleUpon did not have an official comment on the layoffs or StumbleUpon’s changes. We will update if we hear back.
It’s been a long and unusual path for the startup, which made its name and profits from people sharing articles that they liked and “stumbled upon” on the internet. StumbleUpon would then learn what a user liked and would show them more articles or sites that matched their interests.
Camp, Geoff Smith, and Justin LaFrance started the content website in 2001 as they were finishing up their postgraduate studies in Canada.
Camp would later go on to cofound Uber, but for a few years, the trio would split their time between building out the recommendation service for articles and finishing up their schooling.
As its user base of “Stumblers” grew, the startup raised $US1.5 million in a seed round in 2005 some big name investors from Silicon Valley, including Mitch Kapor, Ram Shriram, and Ron Conway.
Business started growing for StumbleUpon as it was heralded the number one social media company by Business 2.0 magazine. Its bragging rights, according to the magazine, was that it was cashflow positive.
With 2.3 million users, StumbleUpon sold to eBay in 2007 in a flashy $US75 million deal, a quick exit after raising its seed round just two years earlier.
Not content with an exit
That wasn’t the end of StumbleUpon’s story.
Camp and Smith reportedly felt stifled with the company’s integration into eBay, and the two bought the company back in 2009 for a reported $US29 million.
Out of eBay’s clutches, the site returned to its nimble background and started boasting big numbers with Camp as CEO. It was adding 700,000 new users each month in 2010, and was up to 12 million users.
Camp preached grandiose visions of the company to match its metrics. He wanted StumbleUpon to become the “I don’t know what I want” button on your TV or phone. Advertisers were buying into it as they clamored to crack into local markets, and StumbleUpon was positioned to know what people liked.
With momentum and headlines on its side, the company raised $US17 million in a series B round in 2011. It hasn’t announced another round since.
Layoffs in pursuit of profit
By 2012, StumbleUpon started facing new competition as competitors like Pinterest were taking off.
A moment of triumph came when the site hit the 25 million user mark in April 2012, but then Camp stepped down as CEO a month later.
Mark Bartels, who took over as CEO, later acknowledged to TechCrunch that its user growth had “softened” in the first half of 2012. A redesign didn’t help and plunged traffic to the site after users complained it looked too much like Pinterest.
The company tried to reroute itself to profitability in 2013. Bartels laid off 30 per cent of the staff, although he said at the time that it was still in a “healthy financial state” and attracting lots of advertisers.
StumbleUpon, though, has failed to secure any more funding while Pinterest has gone on to become a “unicorn” tech startup, valued at more than $US11 billion.
After failing to bring in more funding last month, the layoffs reportedly continued as the company reduced its staff down to 30 people.
Camp’s notice says that he’s becoming majority shareholder and working on “exploring potential synergies between SU and Expa” (his incubator). Perhaps the company is ready for one last fight.
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