i-Together closes BlogFriends, mothballs Buzzspotr

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UK startup i-Together last night said it was closing its Facebook application BlogFriends, an RSS feed sharing app which had attracted upwards of 27,000 users and was growing. i-Together failed to attract a second-round of seed funding for the project which was designed to give greater exposure to non-A-List, “long-tail’ bloggers – funding which was required to improve the offering. However, they seemed to struggle to wrap a definable business model around the idea, notionally advertising-based, and fell short of the 100,000 users they’d aimed for.

In a statement iTogether said:

“Blog Friends is actually an unusually complex and resource-intensive application to maintain and grow. It also is pretty original in the way it combines your extended, fuzzy social network and your interests as filters for your blog recommendation River. Because Blog Friends was so original and quite ambitious, we had no way of projecting accurately just how many users we could welcome before our solution began to creak.”

A “sister” service to Blog Friends, Buzzspotr, which creates a “buzz” around locations like cafes, and hooks into Twitter’s API, has also not attracted backing, although it has yet to leave closed alpha stage, and has received an enthusiastic welcome form UK geek observers.

The team that built both projects – Luke Razzell, Benjie Gillam and Jof Arnold – plan now to re-focus on consultancy work at Brainbakery and Weaverluke, a move which will effectively mothball the company they created, i-Together. They hope to launch Buzzspotr to the public at some point in the future.

My analysis is this: Blogfriends was a nice idea, and had it reached 100,000 users could well have been a Facebook application with a future, perhaps inserting keyword advertising into blog feeds inside Facebook. But the project did not gain traction amongst Facebook’s rather non-blogger crowd, and felt for a long time like a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must have’ application. People who read blog RSS feeds tend to use full-blown RSS readers, and there are very few examples of attempts to ‘mainstream’ RSS which have worked outside well-funded giants like Google.

Buzzspotr (reviewed here), however, has a lot more potential and it’s a great shame that the simple lack of a small amount of funding has halted its development for now. The team that built both these projects is widely known in London as being amongst the best in their field – and the Buzzpotr idea of creating a social network around real-world location is essentially sound, and has lots of possibilities, not least hyper-targeted advertising at a local level. Afterall, Plazes – which requires you to download a full application to your laptop so that it can tell your friends where you are, raised €2.7m last year from Doughty Hanson Technology Ventures. The last I heard, Buzzspotr now allowed Twitterers to talk to each-other in cafes across the US. Plus, it is platform independent of Twitter and could potentially hook into a number of messaging apps. Angel or seed-fund specialists reading this would do well to get in touch with the team and see if it cannot be revived in some way.

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