And the storytelling trend rolls on. The latest startup to tackle the way we share stories online is a new Web app called Stublisher. Launched out of Portland Incubator Experiment, a program run by Portland ad agency Wieden + Kennedy, Stublisher pulls content from our fragmented ecosystem of social networks together, building it into a cohesive story, like this cool-looking one from the Superbowl. The result is a full picture of events like concerts, or ski trips, or festivals. Stublisher officially launches today.
The benefits of an accelerator housed inside ad agency is that founders like Kyle Banuelos of Stublisher learn early on what it’s like to work with big brands. They move slowly, and they have very specific needs and protocols. Learning this early on is important for startups that eventually hope to monetize on an ad-based model.
Imagine if Facebook, or Twitter, or any of the maturing class of Web 2.0 startups that are now struggling to lure in ad dollars, had started out that way. The ecosystem of “Series A crunched” consumer Web startups may look very different. In one case, a founder told me a VC told him outright that he didn’t want to look stupid for investing in a consumer Web startup while they’re so out of vogue.
As the realities of the Series A crunch begin trickling down to young consumer-facing startups, a number of startups choosing to take their products in that direction. Wendr, the “Foursquare of the future” app, did that earlier this year. Wendr is now just one product of development agency hybrid [L]earned Media, and has already been white labeled for RIM across Latin America.
That’s one option, and it’s a double-edged sword. Learning to work with brands early on is not necessarily a good thing — focusing too much on what advertisers want can also kill the beauty of a product before it even takes off.
Banuelos of Stublisher had a choice when he emerged from the Wieden + Kennedy program. On one hand, he could start taking money from brands and operate as a sort of white label agency. The other option would be to just go for it, brand money be damned. If Stublisher’s founders wanted to make it into a robust, consumer-facing product, they’d have to focus exclusively on user experience in the beginning before diverting any attention to the needs of brands.
Banuelos says he asked a VC if he should take the brand money or go for the long term consumer play. The VC asked where him and his co-founders’ hearts were. The answer was obvious — the consumer play — so that’s what Stublisher is doing. The long term goal is to build a community around the events featured on Stublisher and extend it to sponsorships. The event pages will be better in the long term if Stublisher focuses on user experience first.
The company has worked out a sort of middle ground, where it now partners with recording artists like the Kings of Leon, giving them access to the Stublisher tools for free. Likewise, it has partnered with Samsung and X-Games, allowing them to create their own rich, branded user-generated stories for marketing events. So it’s already figured out how to take in money without losing focus from its vision. The company has raised a small amount of seed money, with investors including Pinky Gonzales, a past partner of Echomusic, and Mick Boogie. Matt Munson, CEO of Instacanvas, is advising. The company will raise a more formal round of investment as it gains traction with users.