Lauren Leto
banters

Banters Hits The Deadpool, Co-Founders Leto & Moberg Are Betaworks Bound

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Today, the Banters social experiment has officially come to a close, as the startup’s co-founder Lauren Leto said via blog post today that the team will be no longer actively working on the site beginning June 1st. However, in spite of its tumultuous road and final splash into the deadpool, the news came with a silver lining. Both Leto and her co-founder, Patrick Moberg, will be taking up residence at Betaworks, the New York accelerator that has incubated or funded startups like bitly, Chartbeat, SocialFlow, News.me, Kickstarter, TweetDeck, and many more.

As for some background, it was a little under two years ago that Texts From Last Night co-founder Lauren Leto and partner-in-crime Patrick Moberg launched Bnter, a simple way for people to share text, IM, and chat messages with their friends on the web — for all to see.

The startup was backed by a cast of well-known angel investors, including Founder Collective (Chris Dixon), SV Angel (David Lee), High Line Venture Partners (Shana Fisher), and more. It later was the subject of some founder-VC drama along with Spark Capital and Tumblr, but came out alive and continued to iterate.

While it initially focused on SMS, it later broadened its scope to let users share any sort of conversation, including Gchat, in-person chat, email and more, and launched both iPhone and Android apps, a bookmarklet, in-depth Twitter integration, and supported Facebook Chat, Foursquare comments, GroupMe, etc.

In spite of its full roster of available integrations and cross-platform functionality, Banters suffered from a clunky user experience, as its original model required users to launch the app or visit its home page, open a new post, attribute another user to bring them into the conversation, filling out various message boxes, adding tags — and then, at long last, posting. It had become too much like a CMS and had lost the lightweight feel of an SMS tool.

Recognizing this process was arduous for users, Banters launched a new version of its iPhone app in January, which leveraged Siri’s technology to input conversations and quotes. The idea was to make adding a conversation to the app as easy as snapping a mobile photo. Along with its new iPhone app, the startup added more functionality, including a “like” button, activity stream and an ‘Explore’ tab to help surface the best conversations.

And because its original name “Bnter” was tough for some to pronounce, Leto and Moberg changed the startup’s name to “Banters.”

Unfortunately, try as they might, Banters ran its course. Leto said in a blog post today that, although its user base has been passionate, the platform simply hadn’t gained the traction, or user base, the co-founders had hoped it would find.

As a result, beginning June 1st, the team will no longer be actively working on Banters. “We’re not outright closing the site down any time in the foreseeable future,” Leto says in her post, “but, for the sake of prudence, we’re encouraging our users to export their data here.”

Although Banters is hitting the deadpool, its co-founders are moving on to new projects. Leto says that she had long been a fan of “Findings,” Betaworks’ tool that offers “a straightforward, intuitive way to share and discuss quotes from books and the web.” Seeing that Findings and Banters share similar goals, Leto and Moberg will be joining Betaworks this summer.

Leto will become the General Manager at Findings, while Moberg will become Betaworks’ “Hacker-in-Residence.”

Of the new move, Leto says:

It’s never easy to stop working on an idea after having invested so much into it, but I’m thankful that we’ll have the opportunity to keep working on a product that closely aligns with the mission we set out with at Banters: to harness the timeless power of quotes and words, and share them in ways that have only recently been made possible by technology.

It’s unclear to what extent the kerfuffle with Spark Capital handicapped the team’s ability to raise another round of capital, but as Sarah points out in the post, by the time of the botched funding, Leto had “reportedly cut her salary to zero to help the make the company’s ends meet.”

Regardless, the experience didn’t end positively for either side, and it seems that Banters never found that new round of capital it needed to keep its fires lit. It’s tough, too, considering the fact that Banters seemed like it was onto a potentially big idea. Nevertheless, it’s great to see that the two co-founders have landed in a great spot and will, in some capacity, get to continue working on the idea.

For more, see Leto’s blog post on the shuttering of Banters here.