TeachCrunch is the new Valleywag

May 24, 2012

David Lawee (who manage my team here at Google) was on Disrupt NYC to share his M&A experience at Google. While this in itself should be a very interesting panel since Google just closed its biggest acquisition (yet) of Motorola Mobility. But instead of focusing on that in this article, the title read, “Google’s David Lawee: One-Third Of Google’s Acquisitions Are Failures (And Slide Is “Definitely” One Of Them)”. When I first saw that, my initial thought was “Wow, David must hate us.” But from my experience, I don’t think that is the case so I was a little confused. I continued reading the article and watched the video.

The Slide discussion is about a minute out of a 19 mins long interview (From 12:35 to 13:45, but I recommend watching the whole thing)

2/3 of our acquisitions are successful, 1/3 are going to be unsuccessful, Slide is definitely in that 1/3. 90… I forget what the exact percentage that was, but I think about 85% of the team went over to YouTube - which is a very social property. And they’re doing quite well there. So, it wasn’t like all the people left, actually most of the people stayed. But sometimes you just miss the line on timing. Like even between that three months when we negotiate, sign and closed the deal, there were huge shifts in our organization, strategy that made it harder for Max to execute on the plan that we had laid out for him.

Maybe I’m bias but I feel like I should say something since I’m from the original Slide team. If you watched the video and understood how Lawee defined “failure” with acquisitions, it’s not as negative as the press makes it out to be. In this case, it’s because the structure, strategy and vision changed from the parent company and caused its original plans to fall apart.

I understand tweaking title of your post to get more pageviews. But taking things out of context for shock value is not the way to do it. This is more like a Valleywag post than anything else. Focus on quality and what’s important is all I ask.

Beside, the deal is like almost 2 years ago guys, get over it.

Short supply of designers

September 21, 2010

quora

Today when I was reading Quora, I stumbled upon a pretty interesting question: Why is there such a stunningly short supply of designers in Silicon Valley right now? After typing out my answer half way through, I thought I might as well use it as a blog post.

First, to become a real professional designer is not easy. You will be flooded with resumes on Craigslist trying to hire one but you won’t find one that is actually “professional”. I think criteria for designers in the Valley is very different than how designers are taught in school. Art schools today teach their students to be great graphic designers and web designers, but not front-end developers, product designers, or UX designers like those that are in demand. Students from art schools don’t learn about designing wireframes, user flows, or product. These skills come from those who are interested or have experience from doing an internship. Some will have the raw talent to excel but those are even harder to find.

Saying designers don’t think with their left brain is ignorant. I would argue that great designers are extremely logical since we deal with user-facing problems. Photoshop mocks are easy to create, but the time thinking about those mocks takes much longer. Basically, there seems to be a shortage of designers because companies here are looking for smart, tech-savy, product eccentric designers with skills that could not be taught from the traditional eductation system. Have no doubt for that to be hard to come by.

Good design

September 09, 2010

rams

We finally finished moving into Google Shanghai, the whole process has been wild and great at the same time. Now that we’re getting settled, I can’t help but notice there aren’t any designers here beside us. I’m not surprised by this observation though because I knew Google is an well known to be engineering centric. The lack of designers actually gets me more excited than anything. Why? Because I believe design is important. I have been really inspired by interior and industrial design as of late, maybe because I’ve been looking for a new apartment. But it made me notice how design of an apartment has a huge impact to how much it’s worth and how fast it falls off the shelves. One of my favorite industrial designer of all time, Dieter Rams listed 10 principles for good design and explained how it can affect a product:

Good design is innovative
The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.

Good design makes a product useful
A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasises the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

Good design is aesthetic
The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

Good design makes a product understandable
It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory

Good design is unobtrusive
Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.

Good design is honest
It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

Good design is long-lasting
It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.

Good design is thorough, down to the last detail
Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.

Good design is environmentally-friendly
Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

Good design is as little design as possible
Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity. I mean, I know I’m not going to be the Jonathan Ive of Google, but I really look forward to contributing the unknown.

Slide into Google

August 05, 2010

google

The news you have read is true, Google have acquired us and I’ll become a Google employee. Before I get into what I think about the whole thing, I want to say that I’m very happy and grateful to be part of Slide the past 4 years of my life. Great work everyone, great work Max.

Now for those who cares about what I think about the whole thing, read on.

Max has been quoted many times saying something along the line of if Slide cashed out for $1.5 billion or less, he would regard it as abject failure. It’s definitely a very ballsy thing to say, but it’s really as if Kobe said it’s a failure if they don’t get a championship next year. It’s a no brainer, Max along with the other execs at Slide are a competitive bunch, just meeting the PayPal dream wouldn’t have been satisfying.

So was this a success or failure?

Before I answer that, I want to bring up one of Johnnie’s last blog post on how “It’s hard to predict the future”. Because it’s basically the story of Slide; unpredictable. Let’s go down the list: Bebo acquisition which killed one of the biggest platform we were developing on at the time. The collapse of advertising market forced us to reshape our revenue model. The crack down of the Facebook police put us under the microscope. The slow death of MySpace, another big platform gone. Last but not least, the constant hostility from Facebook with application developers slowing killing every viral channel. Sure, shit happens, nothing is easy, and start-ups are suppose to high risk. But man, this journey was rough, and we’re all pretty beaten up.

Okay, let’s answer that question by taking a trip down memory lane.

Slide started as a desktop application which later turned into a social widget with millions of embeds and billions of views. Success. During the early Facebook app development era, a bunch of us spent endless nights in the office cranking stuff out and you know what, we topped the chart. Success. Not long after, we had a all-hands where we were going over a bunch of company goals and one of which was revenue. This was the first time we really talked about our revenue goals and you know what, we met it. We made big deals with advertisers like Paramount and AT&T making really high priced, high volume deals. Success. After the market collapse, we changed our business model from advertising to selling virtual goods straight to users. We were selling out $50 pixel paintings a la carte in SuperPoke! Pets. Success. So Slide sold to Google? I don’t care what you say, mother fucking success.

But Kho, what about these guys?

fail

Okay fine. So we can’t succeed everything in life. Some occasional fail moments are inevitable. What’s important is that we made some great memories and had fun. Good luck to all you ex-Sliders, stay awesome. =]

Original image edited from Ji Lee

Beyond the platform

June 06, 2010

maxlevchin

The Social Gaming event we had yesterday was a great turn out. Around 60-70 people came to the event to hear Max speak. Max talked about the vision of Slide and what we’re doing is actually different from our competitors. I think at this point, it’s no secret that developing on Facebook is no longer a free lunch. New comers will find it very difficult to catch virality. So for both the older and newer developers, the only way to build a sustainable social gaming business is to build products driven by communities.