Rohit Mishra

Thoughts which don’t fit in 140 characters.

Why Shutting Down Oink Is Not a Good Move

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oinkshotOink is a service, which lets you “rate everything”.  Built by Kevin Rose’s (of Digg fame) Milk Labs, Oink was launched in November, 2011. Rose’s popularity drove the app to 150k downloads by December.

Today, Milk Labs announced that it is closing down Oink and that users can download the data.

We started Milk Inc. (the company behind Oink) to rapidly build and test out new ideas. Oink was our first test and, in preparing to move onto the next project, we’ve decided to shut it down to help focus our efforts.

There are a couple of problems:

a) What can you do with the downloaded data? Can you put it in Foursquare, Foodspotting etc? Shouldn’t Oink at least write some documentation for developers on how to use this data?

b) Aren’t we burning up users by asking them to rate things and then leaving them stranded after a few months? Rose’s popularity will generate enough media that users will sign up for his next “experiment”, but how difficult does this make getting new users for a startup with non-celebrity founders.

I am currently reading Eric Ries’ [The Lean Startup](The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses ) and I agree with his beliefs about going as fast as possible through the build-measure-learn cycle. But, Ries tells us to pivot if we learn that our idea is not working. I am not sure what Milk Labs is doing here.

There is nothing unique about Milk Labs. Every startup wants to rapidly build and test new ideas. But, you also persevere with your startup. Work with your early adopters to improve the app. If you are so specific about just ‘testing’ an idea, then I think they should have mentioned in bold letters, that this is an app for testing purposes only. Right now, Oink seems as if it was built for collecting data.

I will start work on Allotrop, which will lets user list the things that they love using, seeing, eating etc. I know many startups and established companies are doing similar things, but this is still an unsolved problem. So, I will do my best to solve this problem. Like every other startup, I will also pivot if what I build doesn’t work. But, I will do my best to support my users because every second that they would have spent on Allotrop is precious. It means something.

More than good examples, I look for bad examples. I decide that no matter what happens, I will never do something like this. For me, Oink’s legacy will be of a bad example.

Update: In the Hacker News thread of the original announcement, many people have commended Rose for sticking to what he said and closing down Oink when it didn’t get traction. They argue that investors invested their money in Milk Inc., the parent company and not Oink. That is sad about our time. We care more about investors’ return than users. You don’t build a startup for investors’ returns. You build it for solving your users’ problems and giving them a great experience. I strongly recommend reading this post by ex-Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith on why he left the investment firm.

Tip: Hacker News