I'm happy to announce that this past week I joined the JibJab team as a Product Manager. JibJab was founded in 1999 and really became widely known in 2004 for the This Land video which satirized the 2004 presidential election. While JibJab still produces these videos, the core business is high production quality eCards. The 40+ person company, which has raised $17.9m in funding to date, is profitable thanks to its very popular $12/year eCard subscription business.
What drew me to the JibJab opportunity is its unique position in the tech space. It's still very much in startup mode in spite of being around since 1999. Its various products touch hundreds of millions of people a year. It's a highly talented technical team (almost half of the 40 person team is in tech or product). It's a profitable business but still has a ton of room to grow. And finally, there are a bunch of new products that will be launched this coming year that I'll be a key part in building.
The path to get to JibJab was quite an interesting one. The past two years I spent working for Jason Calacanis at Mahalo.com. The past year, I was leading and managing product on new property within Mahalo called AskForADeal. I made the extremely tough decision back in early November of leaving my promising opportunity at AskForADeal in order to try to raise money for a side project I'd been working on called SmackTweets.
The basic idea of SmackTweets was to provide provide a better real time consumption experience of Twitter around defined verticals - starting with the NFL. The plan was to then cover all major sports followed up by politics and entertainment. The site would aggregate the "insiders" within these verticals, provide a contextualization of who these accounts were over a live tweet stream and then curate the best conversations and media within the vertical.
Needless to say, after three months of making the rounds with LA's accelerators (Launchpad,Amplify, Mucker Lab, Start Engine and Science) and local LA angel investors my cofounderTravis Fischer and I came up empty. It was quite a surprise to both of us given that we both had a solid background, had the support of our former boss Jason Calacanis, and had a solid MVP live. In the end, the business model (which was based on paid apps per vertical) and also the fact that we were based on another platform (Twitter) were the primary concerns for our business. While it was very disappointing, I learned a lot from the experience of presenting to accelerators and angels. I also still believe in the product and think that someone else (or perhaps Twitter itself) will eventually provide the features and functionality we built or were in the process of building.
Either way, things tend to work themselves out and I'm very excited to continue to build my skills and experience on the product side at JibJab. As I mentioned above, JibJab provides a great opportunity to work on some really cool projects and also be a part of a super talented team. In addition, the HQ is a 2 minute walk from my place in Venice beach which doesn't hurt either :).