“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting” moves into a new chapter

Posted by direwolff on March 3, 2007

Well, yesterday there was a big N.Y. Times spread (subscription required after 14 days) on Cisco’s acquistion of

Social Networking’s Next Phase


Published: March 3, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO, March 2 — Next week Cisco Systems, a Silicon Valley heavyweight, plans to announce one of its most unusual deals: it is buying the technology assets of, a mostly forgotten social networking site, according to people close to the companies’ discussions.

It was good to see the quotes from the Tribe alum doing interesting things out there. Alex Mouldovan (whose was bastardized in the article), a really bright product manager at Tribe who’s gone on to create his own social networking platform, gets a nice mention:

Several former employees have left to start their own firms offering social network tools. Alex Muldoven, who had been a product manager there, started a company called Crowd Factory to design social networks for large companies. He is now building services for several telecommunications customers and says the new model makes more sense for Internet users.

As does Paul Martino who was one of the co-founders and has more recently co-founded a really cool start-up that I’m very fond of named Aggregate Knowledge:

“I think this will work for certain kinds of brands, and other brands are just barking up the wrong tree,” said Paul Martino, a former chief technology officer who is now the chief executive of Aggregate Knowledge, a service that taps the online behavior of other users to provide shopping advice.

Paul was always the level headed one.

Finally, Mr. Canter is also captured in this article with the ombudsman quote. Few knew, but he had been early in this revolution, helping Tribe from the outset:

Marc Canter, a former consultant who has created his own social networking firm, People Aggregator, was an early supporter of OpenID. “Humans are migratory beasts, and we do not want to re-enter our data every time we join a new site,” he said. “Users own their data and should be able to move it around freely.”

To my mind, PeopleAggregator has become an outlet for Marc to do all of the things he believed should be done from the beginning. Hhis memes are getting propagated into other people’s work as well.

What few people understand about Tribe is that the underlying technology platform is pretty amazing. While the service may have been bogged down by the early communities it attracted (Burning Man and Techno-festishists as some one put it to me once), the technology they deployed below the covers was second to none in the space. Some of those learnings were taken to the next level by Paul and co-founder Chris Law at Aggregate Knowledge. I knew this deal was coming, and it was all I could do not to talk about it.

One nice aspect, that the existing eclectic community site will continue to live, as it has a rich diversity of people and I feel is still a great place to enjoy thoughtful conversation on various topics. I used to be involved in many of the social software discussions and the participants usually shared some excellent insights not found in many other places. The Tribe team that kept this ship afloat is also top notch and it’s good to see that their efforts are being recognized by a company that doesn’t take the term “technical due-diligence” lightly. That alone should make people wonder about what are the engines running Tribe.

Finally, it’s Mark Pincus’ perseverance and belief that there was something here that brought this moment to be. He re-upped when no one else would and reaps the rewards for doing so. While I think many of us still harbor a little frustration for the CEO he had brought in, who was obviously a poor choice for the stage the company was at, we also know that like any great entrepreneur he knew to move through this phase and get back to a place where the property could be monetized. Little known secret, Tribe has been monetizing the service very nicely over the past several months (update: looks like Mark Pincus discusses this openly on Tribe) regardless of this deal and that will not be adversely impacted by this deal. Who knows, by next year, the community may actually yield another liquidity event, and that would be the icing on the cake.

Less impressive in the article was Andreessen’s quote about Cisco:

“The idea that Cisco is going to be a force in social networking is about as plausible as Ning being a force in optical switches,” he said.

Given his track record with Ning to this point, I’d hardly be throwing stones. I’m still scratching my head on his business model there, but it’s good to at least see him trying new things and given that he can apparently afford to flop a few times it’s probably a good thing.

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