Tuesday Toast: October 2, 2012

by | Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Welcome to RE:INVENTION’s weekly Tuesday Toast. Each Tuesday, we toast successful innovators and roast the “toasted” (troubled companies that forgot business basics or failed to commercialize disruptive ideas). Today’s subtheme: video startups.


Congratulations to NYC-based video discovery startup Shelby.tv on the launch of its new Shelby Genius iOS app today. Shelby.tv, billed as “a simple new way to enjoy video,” has been busy retooling its video discovery engine but decided to release the app today in advance of their web relaunch. The new app (30 glowing iTunes customer reviews to date — all 5 stars!) allows you to search videos from YouTube, Vimeo, and Dailymotion. Like Pandora, Shelby.tv’s app lets you pick a subject to start then uses an algorithm to deliver a continuous stream of related content. According to Ryan Lawler at TechCrunch, “one of the cool things about the Genius app and the API is that the results evolve over time.”

Launching a new app is tough. Beyond product utility and a talented team, you need attention from enthusiastic customers and sufficient capital. You need a powerful brand. You need to proactively build buzz. Public relations and positive product reviews boost revenues and user engagement.


Over at Business Insider, Deputy Editor Nicholas Carlson suggests that Airtime is “flopping and execs are fleeing.” Airtime, a startup founded by the infamous Sean Parker/Shawn Fanning and funded by Kleiner Perkins, offers a product that connects random Facebook users via video chat. Sadly, Airtime has been unable to build substantial brand traction or engage users, with just 10,000 monthly actives to date.

“Airtime really is a house of cards standing on a handful of matchsticks…Airtime suffers the same malaise as Color, another liberally-funded startup: they don’t really solve a problem that is acute or hasn’t been solved before.” – Om Malik

Was/is Airtime a $33 million dollar idea (the amount of VC capital the company raised from Kleiner Perkins)? Given the company’s weak value proposition and inability to attract users, we suspect no — although it is possible for a company to pivot given the right measures of the 5 C’s (capital, commitment, connections, customers, and creativity). And that’s a proven fact, despite Om Malik’s declaration that there are “no second chances on the Internet.” In the case of Airtime though — sniff! sniff! — we smell burnt toast.

So, do you think Airtime is toast? Weigh in with your opinions in comments.

Know an innovative company that deserves recognition? Email us with deets: innovators-AT-reinventioninc.com. We may feature them in a future Tuesday Toast. Got a suggestion for future RE:INVENTION blog programming? Post a comment below!

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