Sorry we're closed: What happened to Betashop, the blog diary of Fab CEO Jason Goldberg?

By Michael Carney , written on May 22, 2014

From The News Desk

Fab continues to spiral. As Pando and others have reported exhaustively, the New York-based design-minded online retailer has now completed its third round of layoffs in the last 12 months, this time costing some 80 to 90 people their jobs. This follows the departure of several C-level execs last fall and a pivot from flash sales business to that of a branded etailer (which itself followed a pivot from a gay social network).

But amid all the chaos and headline-grabbing announcements of the last 24 hours, something more curious has taken place behind the scenes. Fab CEO Jason Goldberg has meticulously chronicled the journey of building Fab on his personal blog, Betashop. But today, Betashop appears to be no more.

It’s tough to read too much into the situation, as it could still be temporary. But according to sources close to the company, the move is driven by Goldberg's desire to go heads down and avoid the distraction of journaling Fab’s trials and tribulations – a fact that's been true for several weeks, we're told. Still, for an embattled CEO of an clearly troubled company, the optics aren’t great. It’s also unfortunate, because Goldberg’s raw honesty was one of the things outsiders liked most about him as a founder.

Goldberg most recently turned to Betashop in late April to challenge his remaining employees on why they were working at Fab and whether they had the right wartime mentalities for the task ahead. In years past, he outlined his vision for Fab in a post called “The 3rd Wave of E-Commerce Disruption: Emotional Commerce” (broken link). Goldberg even went after the German copycat machine Rocket Internet, ranting, “Knock-Offs Are Bad Design.” But these above posts and the dozens of others that Goldberg dutifully published along the way are no longer visible.

He wrote in January:

I have been blogging about my experiences in startups since 2004. Along the way I’ve had all sorts of ups and downs, successes and mistakes. I’ve learned a ton.

I’ve tried to use this betashop blog (and my socialmedian blog before it) as an outlet to provide budding entrepreneurs with transparent insights into lessons of a startup life.

In 2012 and 2013 I took the betashop blog in a direction that I’m not proud of. I allowed it to veer from its original mandate around startup transparency and lessons learned to more of a promotion tool for Fab...

From now on betashop will only feature a once-per-quarter long form blog post by me on recent lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur. It will be authentic. Four times per year I’ll try to come up with something of value to other entrepreneurs based on my own recent experiences. Apparently, even once quarterly blogging proved more than Goldberg wanted to commit.

The next question, however speculative, is does this move foreshadow changes in Goldberg’s role at Fab? We have no concrete information other than what’s been reported publicly, and sources close to the company tell Pando that no changes are imminent. But as we saw a year ago, Goldberg’s co-founder and the man he called Fab’s “secret sauce,” Chief Creative Officer Bradford Shellhammer, was already deemed replaceable. It’s not out of the question for the board to see the company’s freshly raised $165 million and the company’s $1 billion both evaporating into the ether and decide to make a change. In fact, it’s hard to say what would be more surprising, Goldberg’s departure – be it voluntary or forced – or the investors allowing him to continue running this thing into the ground.

Goldberg has admitted that he and Shellhammer made mistakes along the way, writing recently, “Back in 2012 and 2013 when Fab was a rocket ship we didn’t stop and figure things out. We just focused on growth. Grow now, figure it out later.”

Now it appears as if Fab is facing its moment of reckoning, a moment that appears to have set up shop in its New York office and plans to stay a while. Normally we’d look to Betashop for a glimpse into Goldberg’s thoughts on this most recent troubling situation, but, at least for the moment, that’s not an option.

Shortly after publishing, Fab sent us the following statement:

Jason is more focused than ever on the success of Fab. He is heads-down on a long-term business plan, which we began implementing last Fall and which will continue to unfold in weeks ahead. He is leading a team of Fab veterans, with the full support of the Board of Directors, in pursing the great success we've already seen in our recent private label initiatives and customized furniture launches.

Jason decided a couple of weeks ago to take down betashop as it was distracting from the work at hand.

The Fab board of directors unanimously voted in support for Jason's continued plan for the business at a board meeting this week. [Image via Kmeron, Flickr]