My last post on Sampa

August 14, 2009

 

    On Monday night, August 17, 2009 I’ll be shutting down Sampa’s servers forever.

 

    So I felt I should do just one last post on this platform that served me and my family well since May 19, 2006 (public beta launch). I did the first blog post back then, and might be the one doing the last blog post.

 

    I’m very sorry to all I disappointed.

 

 

Sign off from Sampa,

-Marcelo

 

 

PS: The blog.calbucci.com address will live in some other house, so I’ll continue to blog. I just don’t know where yet.

Cheap furniture, office supplies, dividers, white boards, etc.

August 11, 2009

    Here is your only chance at getting Sampa office furniture, supplies, softwares, printers, etc., for cheap.

    This Thursday (August 13), between 11am and 4pm, we’ll be selling everything at our old office. What we don’t sell will be donated later.

    You can buy everything we have for $1,000 bucks (bring a big truck and two friends to load it), or you can buy the individual pieces for 10% of their retail value. All payment must done in cash and all items must be removed by 4pm on Thursday. Everything is sold “as-is”, no returns, guarantees, etc.

    If you have questions you can contact Paul: paul@sampa.com.

    Here is a summary of what we have:

Software
Tables
Conference table
Cabinets
Office supplies
White boards
Shredder
Cabling
Dividers
Power strips
Color Printer
Half height fridge
Sm Microwave
Warehouse shelving

Dispersing Two Myths About Sampa History

August 11, 2009

    One thing that I learned over the years is that you can’t pretend an angry mob of anonymous commenter and blog posts don’t exist, because when someone searches for you or your company years later they will find that information and have no other data on the web to disprove it, unless, you take the time to make that online record.
    So I want to disperse two particular misrepresentations that you’ll find on the web about Sampa, and, both are about investors and investments.

Myth 1: “How a team of 2 people burns $1.4M in 12 months?”
    There are 3 things wrong with this statement. Seriously. The saddest part is that I read it (or parts of it) on professional journalists reporting of Sampa closure, which shows the quality (decline?) of online reporting – I guess you can’t trust everything you read on the web.
    Let me start by saying that we raised $400K in 2007 and $1M in January/Feb of 2008. In other words, at best we would have burned $1M over 18 months. But the reality is that we didn’t spend all that money.
    Finally, as we closed Sampa there were just 2 people. But in 2008 we had a team of 9 employees and contractors working with us.

Myth 2: “Sampa investors told us to do X”
    I’m amazed by the basic lack of understanding of the relationship between an investor and a startup. You read about how investors pushed the product into direction Y, or how they were mad at the founders because they didn’t do X, etc. As far as I know, this is all baloney and people talking like that never had an investor beyond friends and family.
    Like most people on this planet, investors are busy people. They didn’t invest on you because they thought they could decide the destiny of the operations. They invested in you because they thought *you* would make good decisions.
    To go direct to the point, our investors never asked us to take the product on any direction. All the decisions, smart and stupid ones, were done by us. Investors were not “mad” at us because we shutdown Sampa. None of them gave us a hard time. They were certainly very upset their investment didn’t return what they wished for, but that’s part of being an investor and accepting risk. Not only that, but they are wise investors. They have invested on many startups to diversify this specific investment class and they certainly invest on many different asset classes as well.

Interested on buying Sampa’s assets? (code, users, domains, patents, etc.)

August 7, 2009

 

    If you are interested in buying any of Sampa’s service assets, send an email to me at marcelo@sampa.com and I’ll send you a PDF with more information. I’ll not send you the doc if you are “just curious” or if it doesn’t seem you’d be a qualified buyer.

 

    We will be running a small auction for the pieces available, including the entire system. This auction doesn’t include furniture, desktops, and office furniture/supplies.

 

    Here is what’s for sale:

  1. Domains: sampa.com, sampasite.com, BrainUse.com, InTheSphere.com, etc.
  2. Source code (exclusive and non-exclusive)
  3. Users table
  4. Patents (2-pending patents: security and 404-prevention)
  5. Entire Running System

    We are *not* interested on trading anything. And pretty much everything is on the tens of thousands of dollars range.

The StartupDay Conference and an all-star speaker list

August 4, 2009

 

    Mark on your calendar: Saturday, September 26, 2009 between 10am and 5pm == StartupDay 2009, a conference for pre-entrepreneurs and those who want to learn about startups.

 

    I’m one of the organizers of the conference and we are very excited to have startup rockstars like Rich Barton (Zillow/Expedia), Alex Algard (WhitePages/CarDomain), Jonathan Sposato (Picnik), Josh Petersen (43 Things), Kelly Smith (Inkd/ImageKind) Matt Hulett (RealGames) and many more. Check out the speakers and register for the event.

My email address

July 31, 2009

I think I published my email address a dozen times. This time I’ll publish as an image to avoid email-scrappers from finding it and sending me tons of emails, but here it is…

 

Anything and Everything About Sampa, from business to personal.

July 31, 2009

 

    The week we were announcing Sampa closing I wrote and published a blog post telling the story from a personal point of view, meaning, how it affected my life. One thing to keep in mind when reading my blog posts, is that I write to keep it to myself. It’s very powerful to go back 3-4 years ago into your blog and read what were you thinking back then.

 

    Three days after we announced, I spent 4 hours sitting in front of the computer writing 8 blog posts on the business aspect of Sampa. The title is misleading because I could never include everything there is to know, but I wrote things I think people would most interested in.

 

    Here is the list of the blog posts:

 

 

    And just to be extra clear, there are two important points: First, everything you are reading is from a guy that failed to build a business. Second, even if I had done everything that I thought was wrong right I still could not guarantee either a successful business (profit) or a successful exit for Sampa.

 

    I’ll probably do a few more posts about Sampa on this blog, then move on. There is just so much dissecting you can do.

Part 8: Would I Do Sampa Again?

July 31, 2009

First of all, the original Sampa was meant to be a website builder solution primarily for small business. I even considered being a white-label solution for hosting companies. I think the small business solution for website is still somewhat broken. When people say they will build their website on top of WordPress it gives me chills. Not because WordPress isn’t a descent/simple solution to build websites, but because WordPress is being considered a simple and effective way to build websites. Seriously, can’t we do better than that?

 

On the Family/Baby space, I also think there is lots of room to create a new and appealing solution. I don’t think anyone “owns” that space in terms of brand. If I tell you to give the first brand name that comes to mind when I say “baby website” or “family website”, you’ll probably won’t know, unless you are working on this space.

 

The problem with Family/Baby websites is not so much of a technology problem as it is of a marketing and customer acquisition problem.

 

There are 4 million new babies being born in the US every year, yet, there are just a few hundred thousand queries on Google to “create baby website” (and variants). That means people don’t even know they can have a baby website. Unless someone finds an effective way to reach those customers, you won’t have a winner. There are only three large companies, above them all, that have a finger on the pulse of the baby market, including names, emails and addresses. If someone figures out how to partner with them, this startup will likely emerge as the winner. What are those 3 companies? Toys-R-Us, Target and Wal-Mart. Together they probably reach half of all the new moms in the US through their baby registry, and if you own the “baby site” market, it’s just a matter of a year or two for you to own the “family site” space.

 

Some people will say that you should start at the Wedding site space, but I disagree. The wedding site builder industry is very crowded. There is no “central distribution point” you can reach many customers at once, and between a Wedding and a baby might be years.

 

As to answer the title of this post, I don’t know. Given the right pieces of the puzzle being in place I might do something like this again. I still think this is a good idea and the solutions out there are not good enough. It’s just a tough market to crack.

 

Part 7: The Little Secret of Web Startups

July 30, 2009

The part 7 of my series of 8 posts about Sampa just got published on TechCrunch. Check it out.

Part 6: Things I Won’t Miss At Sampa

July 28, 2009

There are lots of good things I’ll miss at Sampa. Even my own family website which we used intensively for 3+ years (Site id 15, where the first 12 sites didn’t exist, 13 was Sampa’s blog, 14 was my personal blog). But running a startup is very stressful at many fronts and I can’t be happy to think I won’t have to deal with some things:

 

The Code

 

When I started Sampa AJAX wasn’t a known technology, there was no Cloud Computing, no JQuery, Firefox 1 Beta was just coming out. I had to build a lot of stuff from scratch. Over time, the code grew bigger and more complex. If we count today, Sampa probably has 500,000 lines of code, but over the last 4 years I probably wrote more than 1,000,000 lines. As you add, remove, change, fix, improve code it becomes complex and the architecture you designed 4 years ago it’s not ideal for the new needs of the system. I won’t miss adding features to the Sampa platform.

 

Systems Operations

 

I’ve been managing live services for about 7 years now. It sucks. Server goes down on a Saturday night and you have to figure out what the hell is happening, otherwise tens of thousands of users cannot read or update their websites. It’s very stressful. We never grew to a size I could justify hiring an Ops Manager/Systems Engineer. I just hate babysitting servers. It’s not like we had many issues, but once a week or once every two weeks. But is the stress of being on alert all the time. Only if you done that you know what I am saying.

 

Entitled Customers

 

Most customers are nice. Most customers thank you for the free service. Some customers are just spoiled brats. But, by far, the worst customers were those that didn’t take the time to read anything and send an email to support for the easiest questions ever. It’s right there! In front of you! Can’t you read?

 

Bugs

 

There is a pile of bugs I’ll never have to fix. Yay!

 

Spam

 

My Sampa email has an enormous amount of incoming spam. Mostly because I monitor default addresses like webmaster@, sampa@, postmaster@, etc.

 

Opportunity Lost

 

This is a tough one to explain, but the fact is that when you build a very complex startup and you have a large user base to maintain, you can’t pursue new opportunities. I remember when Twitter spun off from Odeo, and how I felt at the time about taking my lessons from Sampa and running a more focused-service. At Sampa we had the concept of single-purpose vs. multi-purpose products. Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Blogger were single-purpose products. They did one thing (mostly). Sampa, Facebook, Office were multi-purpose products. They did many things. Multi-purpose products complexity is not the sum of its parts, but also the sum of each connection between each of the parts. In other words, if building a blogging platform costs 1 and building a photo-sharing costs 1, building a blogging and photo-sharing service costs 3. Yes, multi-purpose products are more complex, hence harder to replicate in terms of technology, but while at Sampa I look at all the things I built and how I could have put that energy at creating a dozen single-purpose products, like: Blogging, Photo Sharing, Document Sharing, Page Builder, Web Layout Editor, Family Tree, Event Invitation, Baby Milestone Tracker, etc. And there were dozens of ideas that never made into the product because it wasn’t a fit for a “family site builder”.

 


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