FriendFeed Cofounder Paul Buchheit Discusses Facebook Acquisition (video)

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Robert Scoble and I ran into freshly-acquired FriendFeed cofounder Paul Buchheit at a brunch on Sunday. I pulled out my trusty Android myTouch and with his permission asked him a few questions about the sale to Facebook a week ago.

Apologies for the audio quality – Powerset’s Barney Pell, BillShrink’s Peter Pham and others were chatting loudly nearby (which led to a side discussion with Pell on the exact price Microsoft paid for Powerset in 2008). A full transcript of the interview is below.

A few interesting details came out of the interview with Buchheit. First, the deal was actually signed on Sunday evening (August 9), and these pictures were in fact taken that evening, he says.

Buchheit also says that the WSJ got the price wrong, but won’t give more details.

Paul Buchheit: “The more people say about the deal, the more wrong they are. There’s a lot of inaccurate things being reported…There have been a lot of details and for some reason, the more details there are the further they get from the truth.”

On whether FriendFeed will live on as an independent product:

Michael Arrington: Back to FriendFeed, everyone’s kind of reporting to different groups. This tells me that FriendFeed’s disappearing in a year. Is it going to stay on as its own brand, its own product, can users stay secure that FriendFeed’s going to be around?

Paul Buchheit: We’re not going to switch it off or anything like that. The exact form it will take two years from now, I can’t really say, but I couldn’t really say that before (inaudible) products do evolve (inaudible) We all like the product, we all use it, and none of us want to see it disappear. We’re going to make sure it’s taken care of.

Michael Arrington: You’re not going to answer that question at all.

Robert Scoble: He promised me it would be up for at least a month. (laughs)

Paul Buchheit: It will evolve over time.

On nonexistent rumors that FriendFeed had threatened to sue Facebook over copying of features:

Michael Arrington: What about the rumors that you had threatened or had actually sued facebook, and that’s what lead to this acquisition over them stealing all of your ideas.

Paul Buchheit: No, I’ve never even heard that rumor.

Michael Arrington: I just made that up right now

Buchheit also talked about FriendFeed’s habit of inventing features before anyone else, and dealing with the copying from Twitter and Facebook. He also says that the day the deal was announced was FriendFeed’s “biggest growth day ever.”

The full transcript:

Michael Arrington This is Mike Arrington, I’m here with Paul Buchheit, Co-founder and CEO of Friend Feed, and as always Robert Scoble.

Robert Scoble: Number one user of FriendFeed.

(inaudible)

MA: How many follower people do you have on FriendFeed?

RS: 47,000

MA: 47,000. Wow, I have 0.

RS: I know, you deleted your account.

MA: Well, temporarily, but now they won’t turn it back on. So Paul, it’s been a week since the announcement, and you actually signed it about a week ago, the FriendFeed acquisition.

Paul Buchheit: Yeah, Sunday night.

MA: Now you guys haven’t commented on the purchase price but the Wall St. Journal came out and said 50. Without commenting specifically on the numbers, was that incorrect? I’ve got an indication there was something wrong with that.

PB: Yeah, I obviously can’t really comment on the details. The more people say about the deal, the more wrong they are. There’s a lot of inaccurate things being reported.

MA: Is it materially inaccurate? The number was significantly different?

PB: I don’t want to comment on that. There have been a lot of details and for some reason, the more details there are the further they get from the truth.

MA: This is something I asked you guys about the other night, you guys are all reporting into products or into engineering Mike, what’s the deal…

MA: (turns to Barney Pell) How much did Powerset really sell for?

Barney Pell: God, I mean it sold for…I didn’t buy a car, put it that way.

MA: It was 100 million, 85 million?

BP: I don’t remember (laughter)

RS: That’s called entrepreneur PR 101, “I don’t remember”

MA: Back to FriendFeed, everyone’s kind of reporting to different groups. This tells me that FriendFeed’s disappearing in a year. Is it going to stay on as its own brand, its own product, can users stay secure that FriendFeed’s going to be around?

PB: (inaudible)…We’re not going to switch it off or anything like that. The exact form it will take two years from now, I can’t really say, but I couldn’t really say that before (inaudible) products do evolve (inaudible) We all like the product, we all use it, and none of us want to see it disappear. We’re going to make sure it’s taken care of.

MA: You’re not going to answer that question at all.

RS: He promised me it would be up for at least a month. (laughs)

PB: It will evolve over time.

MA: What about the rumors that you had threatened or had actually sued facebook, and that’s what lead to this acquisition over them stealing all of your ideas.

PB: No, I’ve never even heard that rumor.

MA: I just made that up right now.

RS: The new journalism, make shit up as you ask the founder about it.

PB: I actually like when people copy my ideas because I just like to see things out there. I mean, to me…

MA: Well you say that now after you got bought, but you weren’t saying that in January, were you?

PB: Yeah I like to see my ideas. That’s part of what makes this whole thing fun is that we’ve been able to have some impact. And obviously I want wherever I’m working on to be successful, and I also like that the things we do have a broader effect…(inaudible) One of the things I thought was great about email was not only did we make this really great email product for the many millions of people who were using it, but we also impacted the community through everyone else in the world who uses email (inaudible) crazy expectations Yahoo had encountered by rewriting their whole thing, and giving people much more storage.

RS: Were you always bugged when I came in the office and said, “you’re the facebook R&D department?”

PB: Yeah, we just make things first, it’s just a fact.

RS: So are you now the official R&D department?

PB: We’re part of it (inaudible) I don’t think there’s an official department, it’s all of engineering.

MA: What was usage growth last week when the announcement came?

PB: It was pretty good.

MA: Your best day ever right?

PB: The biggest growth day ever.

RS: How come Demi Moore joined, right after

PB: I don’t know, I’ll ask her next time.

(inaudible)

MA: So were there other potential acquirers, were you talking to others or was this really Facebook …

PB: We had interest from pretty much everyone for quite a while.

MA: Even Twitter?

PB: I don’t want to be specific about anything, all the companies involved have confidentiality…

RS: Is there something you wish you had done differently (inaudible)

PB: That’s a really interesting question…nothing comes to mind but with reflection, I’m sure I can think of something.

MA: How long before you leave and start your next thing?

PB: Hopefully not for a long time.

MA: Till you vest? (laughter)

PB: No but seriously, part of what makes it really exciting is because facebook is at this really interesting point in history. It’s at this point where it’s almost inevitably (inaudible) successful…(inaudible) that’s pretty exciting.

MA: So you won the top most promising startup of 2008 at the Crunchies earlier this year. Do you think that was the main driver of the acquisition?

PB: (laughs) I have to assume it was…the gorilla was in the term sheet in fact.

MA: Oh really?

PB: No (laughs)

MA: Alright, I’ll let you go back to the party, thanks very much.

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