The Entrepreneurial
Rollercoaster: Zite
Mark Johnson
@philosophygeek
Who am I?
• Former CEO of Zite
– Sold Zite to CNN in 2011
– Sold Zite again from CNN to Flipboard in 2014
• Worked as a PM...
Goals
What you’ll get
• Give you a flavor of what it is like to build a
successful startup from someone who’s been
there
W...
DON’T GIVE UP
Worio: before there was Zite
• Research project from the University of British
Columbia, founded in 2006
• First product w...
“A PIVOT IS A NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE. . .
YOU ARE DOWN AT THE HEDGE ROW
LEVEL, AND THE BRANCHES ARE GOING
THROUGH THE FUSEL...
TECHNOLOGY IS EASIER TO PIVOT
THAN PRODUCT
The Pivot: Zite.com
Hail Mary!
Zite 1.0
The launch of Zite
• March 9, 2011
• Over 50 original articles, including in print in
USA Today and The Wall Street Journa...
Why was Zite successful?
• Solved a serious problem of information
overload
• We launched on iPad instead of the Web
• Pow...
Some awesome usage stats
• Even after 3 years, Zite maintained 25%
retention
• Average time on the iPad was 22 minutes / o...
YOU ARE GOING TO PISS PEOPLE
OFF IF YOU ARE DISRUPTING*
*ESPECIALLY IN THE MEDIA
BE HONEST DURING
AN ACQUISITION*
*ACQUISITIONS AREN’T
DOOMED TO FAILURE
Why being part of CNN didn’t suck
• Frank discussions during negotiation
– Shared goals and objectives
– Agreed-upon miles...
BUILD A GREAT CULTURE
The Culture Club
• Why?
– Punch above your weight
– Teams that play together stay together
• How?
– Focus on intelligence ...
MAKE BIG PRODUCT BETS
Zite 2.0
Lessons from Zite 2.0
• Know when to revamp the product
• Get it right on one platform before going to
others
– Ignore the...
TECHNOLOGY CAN DRIVE PRODUCT
IMPROVEMENT
Not just the UX
8.1
8.2
8.3
8.4 8.4
8.4 8.4
8.5
8.7 8.7
8.8
8.7 8.7
9.4
8
8.5
9
9.5
MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC JAN FE...
DON’T BE AFRAID OF MAKING
MISTAKES. CLEAN UP QUICKLY AFTER
THEM. AND DON’T MAKE THEM AGAIN
Hibou, the Owl logo
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Sale to Flipboard
BE YOURSELF
HAVE FUN
QUESTIONS?
@philosophygeek on Twitter
Entrepreneurial Rollercoaster, Mark Johnson, founder of ZITE, USA
Entrepreneurial Rollercoaster, Mark Johnson, founder of ZITE, USA
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Entrepreneurial Rollercoaster, Mark Johnson, founder of ZITE, USA

Entrepreneurial Rollercoaster, Mark Johnson, founder of ZITE, USA
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Published in: Small Business & Entrepreneurship      
Source: www.slideshare.net


Transcripts - Entrepreneurial Rollercoaster, Mark Johnson, founder of ZITE, USA

  • 1. The Entrepreneurial Rollercoaster: Zite Mark Johnson @philosophygeek
  • 2. Who am I? • Former CEO of Zite – Sold Zite to CNN in 2011 – Sold Zite again from CNN to Flipboard in 2014 • Worked as a PM at startups – Powerset (natural language search acquired by $MSFT) – Kosmix (categorized search acquired by $WMT) – Sidestep (travel search acquired by $KYAK) • Studied philosophy at Stanford
  • 3. Goals What you’ll get • Give you a flavor of what it is like to build a successful startup from someone who’s been there What you won’t get • Platitudes about success or an easy formula
  • 4. DON’T GIVE UP
  • 5. Worio: before there was Zite • Research project from the University of British Columbia, founded in 2006 • First product was Worio, variations on a personalized search engine founded in ’05 – Never more than 10,000 users • Funding from angel investors and the Canadian gov’t
  • 6. “A PIVOT IS A NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE. . . YOU ARE DOWN AT THE HEDGE ROW LEVEL, AND THE BRANCHES ARE GOING THROUGH THE FUSELAGE.” Mike Moritz, Sequoia Capital
  • 7. TECHNOLOGY IS EASIER TO PIVOT THAN PRODUCT
  • 8. The Pivot: Zite.com
  • 9. Hail Mary!
  • 10. Zite 1.0
  • 11. The launch of Zite • March 9, 2011 • Over 50 original articles, including in print in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal • Top of the iPad app store • 125,000 downloads in a week
  • 12. Why was Zite successful? • Solved a serious problem of information overload • We launched on iPad instead of the Web • Powerful underlying technology; but with a simple interface
  • 13. Some awesome usage stats • Even after 3 years, Zite maintained 25% retention • Average time on the iPad was 22 minutes / on the phone it was about 18 minutes • A user reads about 9 articles per day
  • 14. YOU ARE GOING TO PISS PEOPLE OFF IF YOU ARE DISRUPTING* *ESPECIALLY IN THE MEDIA
  • 15. BE HONEST DURING AN ACQUISITION* *ACQUISITIONS AREN’T DOOMED TO FAILURE
  • 16. Why being part of CNN didn’t suck • Frank discussions during negotiation – Shared goals and objectives – Agreed-upon milestones (pros/cons) – My experience in a bad acquisition • Retained (relative) independence • Guaranteed funding • Hyper-focus on the first hundred days – Hire new employees – Release iPhone Fact: most acquisitions are failures
  • 17. BUILD A GREAT CULTURE
  • 18. The Culture Club • Why? – Punch above your weight – Teams that play together stay together • How? – Focus on intelligence and capability – Use your CEO as a culture check – Organize a social event to see how a potential employee fits in
  • 19. MAKE BIG PRODUCT BETS
  • 20. Zite 2.0
  • 21. Lessons from Zite 2.0 • Know when to revamp the product • Get it right on one platform before going to others – Ignore the siren song of minor platforms • Be prepared for a dot-release quick on the heels of your big release • Coordinate marketing across all channels
  • 22. TECHNOLOGY CAN DRIVE PRODUCT IMPROVEMENT
  • 23. Not just the UX 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.4 8.4 8.4 8.5 8.7 8.7 8.8 8.7 8.7 9.4 8 8.5 9 9.5 MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN DAILY ARTICLE VIEWS PER USER
  • 24. DON’T BE AFRAID OF MAKING MISTAKES. CLEAN UP QUICKLY AFTER THEM. AND DON’T MAKE THEM AGAIN
  • 25. Hibou, the Owl logo
  • 26. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
  • 27. Sale to Flipboard
  • 28. BE YOURSELF
  • 29. HAVE FUN
  • 30. QUESTIONS? @philosophygeek on Twitter

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