Will Cominded ever launch anything?

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I’d just like to ask, is Cominded ever going to launch anything? The last time I asked the Web 2.0 development house late last year, they said things were still… in development. Then I emailed them a few days ago but got no reply. Who are Cominded? They are a startup created by London-based Paul Birch who happens to be the other brother of Michael Birch, head of Bebo. But unlike Bebo, which is now said to be worth over a billion dollars, Cominded have been threatening to launch a Web 2.0 startup since … well… let’s see… all of last year?

To be fair the affable Paul Birch – who has enthusiastically supported the UK startup scene with events like Pizza On Rails and PitchCamp – is not one to normally let deadlines drop. A former accountant-turned-programmer, Birch ‘lived the dream’ as he says at the start of the Internet boom as the co-founder of the Internet based birthday reminder/ecard service BirthdayAlarm.com with his San Francisco-based brother and sister-in-law. The site was sold to Tickle.com in 2003 and re-launched as Ringo.com. In July 2004 Birch co-founded with serial London networker Robert Loch the ‘business networking’ service Soflow.com, which at one point threatened to become the LinkedIn/Facebook of its era and took seed investment from Mel Morris and Martin Clifford who had previously sold Udate.com to AIC for $150 million. However, SoFlow failed to get anywhere and closed in July last year with the assets transfered into Wis.dm, which is run by Clifford. (Wis.dm is a social bookmarking and media-sharing site that won $5 million in funding from North Bridge Venture Partners). [Update: Robert Loch gives a more detailed and fuller account of SoFlow in his comment below].

Meanwhile Paul Birch remains an advisor to Bebo while he:

builds a technology infrastructure here at Cominded using Ruby on Rails to allow us to rapidly develop, launch and manage multiple ‘Web 2.0 style’ websites.”

However, the plan to “launch at the end of September” appears to have been missed. In fact venture blog Alarm Clock Europe was under the impression that something was expecting something to happen in April last year.

What is clear is that the nice big picture of a happy Cominded team (featuring co-conspirators Scott Rutherford and Gary Barlow) has disappeared from Cominded’s home page. But, since Birch is listed as “Co-Owner Bebo.com at Bebo Inc” (now worth a billion or so) I should think the pressure to launch something out of Cominded is now somewhat reduced…

Update: Paul Birch has finally emailed me back saying: “Its fair to say we are aiming for quality over time deadlines. But the news is we will be making an announcement at Pizzaonrails on 24th Jan about our beta service.”

  • http://segala.com/blog Paul Walsh

    Mike, it’s worth mentioning that Paul co-founded Bebo. He’s not just Michale’s brother.

    The birthday alarm technology to a degree, can be found under the Bebo bonnet (hood for Americans). Paul is a personal friend of mine, as is Scott Rutherford, Paul’s main architect. Whilst I don’t want to put words in their mouth, or try to speak on their behalf, I’m pretty confident that they can come up with some stunning ideas. Perhaps he’s the opposite to ‘go ugly early’ and is a little bit of a perfectionist, wanting to perfect what they have.

    I don’t know much more, but I’ll stop here in case I share something I’m not supposed to.

  • http://www.geoffwright.com Geoff

    Regardless of who they are and how their reputations precede them this:

    “Cominded is a Web 2.0 start-up based in London. We are working on a web service based around collaboration and cooperation between like-minded people. It’s in stealth mode so we can’t say what it is but we will launch into a private beta soon.”

    You can’t describe yourself as a “Web 2.0 start-up” or say that “It’s in stealth mode”. These are things that you don’t plan, these are things that just happen.

    Kills me. Its everything I think the British Startup climate doesn’t need, it makes me think that people are trying to mimic startups in the states – Twine was in “stealth” mode. They didn’t advertise themselves in this way, it wasn’t them going “ahh we’ve got a secret”, its was just how they had to work in order to protect their product.

    I’m going to write a proper blog post on what I mean, I don’t want to sound like a wally!

    Note: British could = all of Europe but I don’t know enough to comment on the whole of Europe : )

  • http://segala.com/blog Paul Walsh

    @Geoff – I disagree. Twine did say they were in stealth mode in a video that Scoble did. The American’s are always using these terms, that’s where Europe got it from.

    If the US sneezed today, we’d catch a cold in two weeks :)

    And, reputations and who they are, makes all the difference. That’s why Mahalo gets as much attention as it does. It has absolutely nothing to do with the search engine. It’s all about Jason making noise based on his past experience.

    Don’t be so down on the UK or Europe.

  • http://www.plentyoffish.com Markus

    “Martin Clifford who had previously sold Udate.com to AIG for $150 million”

    I think you mean AIC, Berry Dillers empire.

  • Robert Loch

    Mike a couple of inaccuracies.

    Firstly Birthday Alarm wasn’t sold to Tickle. They still own Birthday Alarm inc.

    Ringo was sold to emode that became Tickle.

    Soflow Ltd then raised $5 million dollars (changing to Soflow Inc) to work on a new vision when we hadn’t got Soflow.com to work. The assets of Soflow Ltd were transfered to Soflow Inc at the point that funding was raised. Soflow Inc owns Wis.dm. I left a few months after we’d raised the VC funding.

  • Robert Loch

    Oh yeah and Markus is correct (ish) that uDate was sold to IAC (Barry Diller).

  • Paul O'Grady

    How’s the club Robert and Paul another idea you promised and never launched? It seems to be your trend – promise high and deliver low. As you say in your FB status you’re hibernating. I wish you would stay there.

    Can’t wait for the next top c%^t’s event. Another waste of time where you rip people off!

  • Andrew Smith

    Of course co-minded has never launched, how do you compete with a more successful brother?

    Better to say you will launch a cool new service, than launch something everyone thinks is pants.

  • Robert Loch

    Paul O’Grady (whoever you really are) I’m not sure how you can rip people off at a free event, with free food and drink, attended by 40+ top people from the industry.

    In regard to the club a test version was launched 10 months ago.

    In respect to Cominded it is worth remembering that Bebo was their 6 or 7th website. It was build on a stop platform of technology and knowledge after 5 years of hard work and tough challenges.

    Cominded states on it’s about page that their intention is to build multiple services. Cominded is clearly playing for the long term. Is it that strange, given their previous experience, that they are spending time on preparation and creating a solid platform to build from?

  • Mike Butcher

    I have now edited the IAC typo. Robert Loch’s fuller explanation of SoFlow’s history has also been linked to in the post. I’m glad to say Paul Birch is planning to launch something, as the updated post now says (but I might add that it took me blogging this to get a reply). As for Paul O’Grady, I don’t know who you are either but you seem to have a bee in your bonnet judging from from other TechCrunch comments you make. Is the Channel 5 chat show not working out for you then? ;-)

  • http://segala.com/blog Paul Walsh

    Paul O’Grady – huh? You’ve lost me mate. Perhaps you could elaborate a little?

    Andrew, how could Paul Brich have a more successful brother. Read my comment again, they’re *co*-founders.

    Why can’t people with issues come out into the open so we can see who they are? It’s so easy to fling mud from behind a smoke screen. You’re both obviously very unhappy with your employer. May I suggest you change your job.

  • James D Kent

    For too long people (trolls) have been able to enter anonymous or false comments on sites like Techcrunch. I think it is high time TC set the example and made the comments support openid that way the person would have to at least have made the effort to get a valid openid address.

    Of course people could still create a false openid address but as most people do not do so it would

    Check out http://redmonk.net/ and the DiSO project.

  • http://www.trendcatching.com jamescoops

    “For too long people (trolls) have been able to enter anonymous or false comments on sites like Techcrunch. I think it is high time TC set the example and made the comments support openid that way the person would have to at least have made the effort to get a valid openid address.”

    but where would be the fun in that? booooring

  • Mike Butcher

    I’m not bothered about anonymous comments, but unless your job is at stake and you are a genuine whistleblower – not a saddo with an axe to grind – it’s a bit pathetic to hide behind anonymity just to criticise someone. Who needs anonymity anyway? The stiletto sword of irony is better than the blunt sword of insult any day.

  • http://www.crowdstorm.co.uk Philip Wilkinson

    Fair points regarding calling it “stealth” and missing some deadlines – but I actually think it’s a very positive thing to want to deliver a fantastic product experience and wait until it’s ready – if there is no market pressure. Look at Blizzard – they constantly tell the media that their games will launch “when they’re ready” and world of warcraft is doing pretty well is it not?

    You could argue that you could push the perfectionist side of it too far and that having a product out there in some format gets you in the game and helps you evolve from customer feedback – but I give full kudos to Paul and Scott for wanting to wait and deliver something of really quality instead of some usual product dross.

  • Mike Butcher

    I have no issue with a startup saying they are in stealth or re-announcing new deadlines. I become interested, however, when they say they are launching in September and then nothing happens, and more especially when no further information is given and no-one replies to emails.

  • http://segala.com/blog Paul Walsh

    @Mike – it’s a Web site, that’s it.

    Paul doesn’t go around telling people about the company, or its plans. People like you continue to prod because you know he has a past. If this was a person with no past, you wouldn’t waste any real estate on TechCrunch to talk about a company that hasn’t launched yet.

  • http://www.twitter.co.uk/gezd Gez Daring

    @paul walsh. Yeah that’s jounos for you, always trying to get information they think people will want to read about. Don’t you just hate that? ;-)

    I kind of agree that skipping deadlines is Cominded’s business only. But I also am interested in any possible new launch so thanks Mike for forcing the hand a little and getting an announcement date.

  • Martin Sjogren

    Wis.dm is a collaborative community where users interact by asking/answering questions (not a social bookmarking and media-sharing site).

  • Mike Butcher

    @Paul Walsh.

    “it’s a Web site, that’s it.”

    What a fucking joke. Apparently everything online is “just a web site”. Oh, Ok Paul, then I’ll give up now. It’s just the Web after-all

    “Paul doesn’t go around telling people about the company, or its plans.”

    No, he just announces in April (2007) on the Internet (which isn’t very public really is it?) that Cominded will be coming out with product, and then announces on his site that September is the launch date. Then goes silent for 5 months. Then when someone finally calls him on it, he says product will be coming out within the month. Surprise surprise.

    “People like you continue to prod because you know he has a past.”

    No Paul, I was prodding because he’d announced a product which is now 5 months late, apparently. You may want to personalise this, but I’m not about to take the bait. It’s not about him, it’s about what he announced. And I should think he has been damn lucky it took this long for anyone to notice that nothing actually happened. Plus, I think he’s big enough to fight his own corner, being co-owner of Bebo and all, don’t you?

    “you wouldn’t waste any real estate on TechCrunch to talk about a company that hasn’t launched yet.”

    Correct, I wouldn’t – unless they’d said they were GOING TO LAUNCH AND THEN DIDN’T. GOT IT?

    Are we all clear now people? Here endeth Journalism lesson 101. Paul Walsh, please stay behind for extra tuition.

  • http://segala.com/blog Paul Walsh

    @Mike, calm down before you give yourself a heart attack. You were obviously quite emotional when you wrote your last comment. I never questioned your skills in journalism (somebody else did) – you know only too well, that, if I thought what you wrote was stupid, I’d just come out and say it. But I didn’t, so I don’t.

    All I did was raise some questions. As a commentator, can’t I do that without being attacked by you? I don’t need lessons journalism because I never claimed to be a journalist. Nor do I want to be one.

  • Mike Butcher

    Paul Walsh:

    “People like you continue to prod because you know he has a past.”

    I don’t call that raising a question I call that insinuating that this story is a personal attack on Birch, when it is simply a story about where Cominded is with its project, after they went totally silent despite claims on their site that they were launching in September.

    You have now successfully baited me, so congratulations! :-)

    I look forward to sharing a beer over this – and your own plans – when we have lunch on Jan 16th.

  • http://segala.com/blog Paul Walsh

    @Mike – why is it so bloody easy to pull the trigger. That’s something I’ve been great at since surfing the Web a few years ago.

    Mind you, I guess it demonstrates how honest we are, so when we compliment, it’s not just another back-clapping exercise as we tend to see in this sphere all too often. Look forward to lunch. :-)

  • http://www.geoffwright.com Geoff


    “And, reputations and who they are, makes all the difference. That’s why Mahalo gets as much attention as it does. It has absolutely nothing to do with the search engine. It’s all about Jason making noise based on his past experience.”

    When I said that I wasn’t discounting their experience, nor was I denying the importance – I was just trying to slide it to one side, thus clear the way for my point : )

  • http://thayer18.livejournal.com Thayer Driver

    Good point and good article Mike. I had wondered what was going on there too.

    Let’s hope we see something exciting soon :)

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