Fictive Kin & betaworks

Fictive Kin

We’ve got some big news here in Fictive Land, and rather than do a more traditional press release sort of deal, we’re just going to make the announcement and then take questions.

Fictive Kin, 20th May 2012.

<announcement>Fictive Kin is partnering up with betaworks to try to build some of the best web products around.</announcement>

Any questions? Yes, you in the back.

  • What do you mean by “partnering up”?

    Strong opening question, Rachel. It means we’re now working closely with betaworks on our future projects. Fictive Kin is still an independent entity, but the products we build will ultimately be taken on by betaworks and grown in to full-fledged companies. This allows us to focus ruthlessly on building products (something we do well) while entrusting betaworks with the work of growing those products into great teams and companies (one of the many things they do well).

  • Who or what is a betaworks?

    Both fine questions. The “who” is John (founder) and the rest of the merry crew.

    The “what” is a little harder to define. They do a little bit of everything. They build products like bitly, News.me, Findings, etc. They buy and scale companies like TweetDeck and SocialFlow. And, they invest in companies like Kickstarter, OMGPOP, Tumblr, GroupMe, etc. It’s pretty impressive.

  • Why do a partnership at all?

    Fictive Kin has changed a lot over the years, but it’s had one constant, a focus on good people above all else. We want to love what we do, but more importantly, we want to love who we do it with. A “fictive kin” is someone you think of as family even though you aren’t actually related. We’ve tried to apply this litmus test to the folks who have joined our team. And, with the exception of Evan, we’ve had a lot of success.

    A looming problem with this approach (that we were doing our best to ignore) is that family doesn’t scale very well. As companies grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to have a personal relationship with everyone in the organization. At the same time, scale is necessary to have a big impact on the world. This tension between maintaining a small, close-knit team and doing something meaningful is a strong one, but it gets eliminated with this partnership. Fictive Kin can stay small and product-focused, because we can trust the scaling to a team that is already great at that.

  • Why betaworks?

    The truth is, we wouldn’t do a deal like this with anyone but betaworks. We’ve gotten to know their whole team, and in getting to know them and the work that they’ve done, we’ve found both an inspiration and a kindred spirit.

    We have complete faith in their ability to build and scale businesses, because they’ve done it again and again. They know the Fictive Kin style of product development, because they pioneered it. That also means there is a ton we can learn from them.

    Lastly, and most importantly, we think it’s going to be a whole lot of fun to work with them, and we’re convinced that they are the peanut butter to our jelly, or the peanut butter to our chocolate, or the peanut butter to our anything; the combination far outpaces what either can do on its own.

  • Your hair looks great. Have you been using a new shampoo?

    Yes, it’s a combination shampoo and conditioner. Smells a bit like pine trees.

  • How will this affect the types of products you create?

    In all the right ways. Betaworks has put absolutely no constraints on our creative freedom, so we can work on whichever products and problems we think are meaningful. That said, because they have a hell of a lot more firepower than we do, I think we’ll start taking aim at bigger problems and really go after the whole “dent in the universe” thing.

  • What does this mean for Brooklyn Beta?

    That it will be better. Chris and I have some big ideas for how to make Brooklyn Beta a more inclusive affair. Betaworks are going to play a crucial role in helping that happen.

  • This is kind of a crazy deal. Has anyone done this before?

    Not that we know of. The closest examples we can think of are the various studio deals in Hollywood. We’ve been describing it as a sort of Disney-Pixar deal, except it’s Disney when Walt was there, not Eisner.

  • Anything else we should know?

    Expect a whole lot of new work from us. This partnership encourages us to work fast and build lots of things. We’re going to do our best to surprise and delight you in 2012 and the years to come.

Fictive Kin, 20th May 2012

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