It's LOL over folks – Popjam finally deadpools

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[UK] That’s that for Popjam then. The site has put up definitive evidence that it’s all over, pictured. For those of you none the wiser, here’s the run-down.

After a few months in stealth mode, Popjam launched in February 2009 as a ’social humour’ site with a the Twitteresque ‘friend/follow’ model of social networking. It was a kind of Twitter-meets-Humour site.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite capture the public’s imagination beyond it’s traffic spike from appearing on TechCrunch.com. Plus, it never integrated with Twitter. This was probably a mistake, as we pointed out.

Co-founder and CEO Alex Tew agrees. He tells me: “We made two key mistakes early on: taking too long to launch, and not integrating with Twitter and/or Facebook from day one”. He’s is now planning his next startup.

Popjam was angel-backed but though no numbers emerged we hear it was in the low six-figures, so not a hugely costly mistake.

UPDATE: Tew adds further comment below. He also says they have cash left from the investment which will go into new projects.

  • http://myOnePage.com/Oo OoTheNigerian

    I think he gave up too easy.. Why not relaunch with the integration of FB and Twitter?

    Low 6 figures is A LOT of money in my book. 100k is the lowest of six figures and that is BIG.

    • http://www.ignimedia.com igniman

      That’s the guy with the million dollar homepage. Everything that does not make 1M in a month must seem useless to him. Time to grow up boy.

      • JJ

        WTF?? Million Dollar Homepage was years ago and to be honest, a complete fluke.

        Love the way he’s pissed £100k+ up the wall and is now ‘off to plan his next start-up’ – such a complete joke!

        If it was anyone else they would be heckled as a failure but oh no, the guy had one stupidly lucky success and thus can do what he wishes and move on like nothing happened.

      • http://www.twitter.com/madsorbesen Mads

        JJ – you’re one massive oxyMORON!

  • Simon Perryman

    It’s a real shame that it couldn’t get traction. There were some fun times early on but it really seemed to struggle to grab new users or carve out a particular niche to call it’s own.

    Most web comedy properties tend to be fairly tightly focussed in one way or another. Big shame that someone had to loose “low six figures” to find this out though. I wonder if it couldn’t have been done as a side project with outsourced development for a lot less money?

    Wierdly we considered renting a few desks from them a while back. Somewhat glad we didn’t now.
    Still god luck with the next project Alex.

  • http://www.gbnet.net Steve Kennedy

    Low six figure not bad? The start-up I’m involved with is looking to launch with less than six figures!!!

    It’s sad that Techcrunch thinks it’s ok to crash with with six figures worth of investment.

    • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher

      It does rather depend on the scale of the task at hand. Popjam employed a small core team of people, but had Soho offices, and was going for a large mass audience. If anything it may have been underfunded to really go for that big play. I don’t think everyone needs 6 figures by any stretch, but it does rather depend on what you are trying to achieve.

      • http://www.gbnet.net Steve Kennedy

        Sorry Mike, maybe a bit harsh looking back. Spur of the moment comment … but it’s still possible to launch with a team and less than 6 figures (and revenue helps)

  • Tim.M

    Such a shame. Popjam had potential and I even had my name on the top 50 leaderboard at one point!

    I’m surprised Alex doesn’t put the site up for auction and get a little return on it. Would also be interesting to see if someone could turn the site around as it probably still has a little bit of potential and ‘a cool name’.

    Good luck with your next startup.

  • http://photostre.am Thomas R. Koll

    @Mike, I’ve started my last webservice without a six-figure pile of cash, even a four-number one would have been nice. I wonder how they burned that much in only a year.

  • Trevor

    “Popjam was angel-backed but though no numbers emerged we hear it was in the low six-figures, so not a hugely costly mistake.”

    Do you have any idea how much six figures buys in the right hands?

    Many business owners get three figures and they start successful businesses.

    I think business angels and government officials share one common value: they know how to lose money.

    • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher

      See my comment above.

  • Marco

    Predictable … lame, run of the mill idea and execution, lack of twitter integration the least of this site’s problems.

    Saddest aspect is that the angels who fell for the hype of Alex Tew, wunderkind “entrepreneur”, won’t be dipping their toes in the startup sector again anytime soon. Where exactly did the six figures go? Most people reading TC could knock up an identical site and still have change from £5k.

    • Daniel Braithwaite

      I couldn’t agree more

      • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher

        Ok, then do it.

      • Daniel Braithwaite

        That’s kind of what I’m doing. But a fair point :)

  • http://blog.comparechecker.com CompareChecker

    6 figures… guys appreciate that yes he is Alex Tew Million dollar dude but that was 4-5 years ago and a lot of that success was slick PR.

    The site could probably be knocked out pretty quickly by some coders but think about the fact we all knew enough about it to actually comment on it even though it entered a crowded space.

    The exposure he got for this idea can’t have been cheap especially with all the “funny/fail blogs” etc out there already.

  • http://javelincrm.com Duncan

    perhaps they would have been hungrier and quicker without the 6 figure backing.

  • mike

    This guy Tew got VERY lucky (fair play to him) with MillionDollarHomepage, which was a gimic with no sustainability or even short term business model. The businesses that paid for pixels on there couldn’t of seen a return. Does anyone even go there now? Traffic figures for MDH are non- existant. He got tons of air time (TV,radio,press) to raise his personal stock and awareness and then decided to start up another business with no sustainability or short term business model…..and this time his been found out.
    Entrepreneur, yes. But not a smart one.

  • adamb

    On the one hand, you have to credit Alex Tew’s determination and entrepreneurial spirit for having the balls and appetite to realise his ideas and turn them into ventures. On the other more serious side, its story’s like this, where founders squander great opportunities and cash with bad strategy, business models and even worse execution, that prohibit investors from taking risks with seed/early stage ventures.
    I hope he sits down and ensures his next venture has a robust business and revenue model and as someone above suggested, a sustainable one.

  • http://paulfwalsh.com Paul Walsh

    Even if you say Alex was luck with his first venture, what about this http://tinyurl.com/yke2hx4

    “Alex Tew thought up Sock And Awe a week ago and within days 45 million shoes had been thrown by 4.5 million unique users.”

    As Mike says, the amount of money you spend is determined mostly by what you’re trying to achieve. That’s not to say you can overspend – but it’s unfair to assume – especially when a company has gone under.

    Alex will be back with another startup I’m sure.

    • Simon Perryman

      Paul, Sock and Awe was hardly an example of a great success. It sold for £5k and didn’t manage to bring huge numbers of users to popjam despite getting 4.5m uniques. It was another idea that had a very short lifespan and had to be leveraged very quickly for short term returns.

      I agree that the amount of money you need is dependant on what you want to achieve but I didn’t really see any huge plays from popjam. Maybe they were underfunded and that’s why I didn’t see them. I’m just not convinced that what I saw was worth the kind of money being hinted at.

      Ohhh well Alex will be back with something new I’m sure.

      • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher

        Point of order – SockandAwe came out prior to the launch of Popjam and was not really used to market Popjam. It was just a funny flash game Tew and friends knocked-up to take the piss out of Bush. Mind you, it got a lot of airplay as it was so well timed.

      • Simon Perryman

        Fair play Mike. I thought they were both launched at about the same time. In fact I’m sure that there were popjam logos on the page? Still you would know better than I.

        Still think it was a timely, amusing flash game. Not the best example of a successful entrepreneur.

  • Kieran O'Neill

    It’s sad, but not all projects work out. Such is life. Real entrepreneurs get back out there and work on the next idea, not sit around whining about things in TechCrunch comments.

    Alex is a great entrepreneur and those who know him personally will attest to that. Those who don’t know him, or anything about Popjam, should leave their ill-informed opinion at the door.

    My $0.02.

  • Jof

    Why do British people diss others’ failures as if it’s a personal affront to them? What’s with that? Nice way to make yourself a valuable part of the startup community – by telling your potential friends and future business partners they are crap for trying something that didn’t work out.

    Best of luck with the next project Alex!

    Fail Fast!

    • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher


    • http://www.ignimedia.com igniman

      Do you think entrepreneurs really care about such bitter comments? i think by definition they need a really thick skin to be able to stay focused on the idea they believe in.

      • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher

        This is fair comment, yes. Its a shame the situation arises in the first place, however. Life I guess.

  • http://www.prefio.com Tim Latham

    Good luck to Alex, I expect he’ll be back soon with something interesting.

    However, I tend to agree with those who suggest that “low 6 figures” was a LOT of money to get to this stage with this concept. Surely the site itself could have been built for “low 4 figures” and then they could have adopted the approach of prove there is a market willing to part with their money before ramping up and spending 6 figure sums.

    • Simon Perryman

      Does anyone know what the revenue plan was?
      I’m guessing it was going to be banner advertising / sponsorship, but I never saw any attempts at revenue generation in my time using the site.

  • http://www.cornfieldconsulting.com Chris Turner

    Look, it is simply human nature to re-use a pattern/ technique which has served you incredibly well in the past. The difficult part is understanding what’s still relevant when the world has moved on. The key for Alex will be what he has learned from the experience. In tough times like these, business models and cash-generation matter in a way they did not a year or two back.

    Really cannot blame a guy for trying and I hope he come up with something more robust next time. That’s where real kudos lies.

  • Tom Cavill

    This is such incestuous piffle – it was a small, irrelevant and uninventive idea that regurgitated other site’s content with the incredibly innovative and value-adding addition of a ‘LOL’ button.

    The only reason stories like this make TechCrunch is because Mike Butcher is an associate of the likes of Acton-Smith and Tew.

    “Co-founder and CEO Alex Tew” – this is so laughable – how you could call yourself a CEO of such a creation and keep a straight face I’m not quite sure. A better description would be “The kid who made the site – Alex Tew”.

    This article serves only to highlight the woeful state of the UK / London startup scene in comparison with our boundary-pushing Silicon Valley equivalents.

    Welcome to the small time.

    • spence91

      It was a bit more than the one-man band that you suggest. But with the Django CMS they were using you could knock out something similar these days by yourself no problem.

      I personally think i failed because there’s already other sites that do this better already, 4chan/b3ta/SA etc…
      all of these grew by word of mouth and a seriously active community.

      Twitter and facebook integration wasn’t the problem, it’s just the (substantial) media strings and publicity that this guy can pull arn’t going to attract the kind of audience/community that a site of this nature needs.

    • JTimmy

      Most accurate comment I have EVER read on TechCruch. Ever. So on point it hurts!

      The UK tech scene is a joke.

    • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher

      Wow, well done. If the UK startup scene is going to improve it’s not going to be through pointless bile and invective of this nature which has nothing constructive to say. Alex Tew is as much an ‘associate’ of mine as the next startup entrepreneur to turn up, frankly. I’ve met him a few times but he’s neither a friend, as such, nor an enemy. He’s just another guy who tried something. It patently didn’t work so we’re reporting on it. Hell, he’s even explained why he thinks it didn’t work in his comments here. Were the UK scene as normally as open as this, we’d all be better off. You don;t get any learning by being closed and when people get attacked for being open you can hardly complain about a scene that ‘lacks Silicon Valley’s openness’.

      Silicon Valley succeeds because the open community picks over the ‘failures’ and learns from them. It doesn’t attack the people who tried (unless they are crooks, obviously, but that’s a different issue – it doesn’t personally attack entrepreneurs).

      I think you could easily say “small, irrelevant and uninventive idea that regurgitated other site’s content with the incredibly innovative and value-adding addition of a Retweet button” about a certain site called Twitter.

      Good luck when you try to do your own startup.

      • Tom Cavill

        If Britain’s tech scene is going to improve it has to be aware of it’s flaws. Healthy debates are constructive.

        I think the majority of this blog’s readership are wise enough to see that the coverage Popjam received in its short lifetime had very little to do with the strength of the product. If you gave every “guy who tried something that didn’t work” as many column inches as Tew this blog would be a mockery of failed back-bedroom apps created on a whim, as opposed to news about technically innovative ventures.

        Silicon Valley succeeds because it has better people and better ideas. Britain’s best tech minds end up in the US because of this, and I for one can’t see the cycle changing as things stand. We need wholesale changes in government and education, but that’s another topic.

        I’m hesitant to respond to your Twitter comparison as I feel it must have been made in haste or in jest. The difference is that Twitter is creating data with huge value, whereas Popjam wasn’t even creating data and never would’ve been.

        I don’t doubt that Tew is a talented, intelligent entrepreneur who will succeed again, and I sincerely hope he does. I merely object to the cliquey nature of some Techcrunch EU posts, and await news of real innovation from the UK to restore some faith in the scene.

      • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher

        Indeed. And I await the startup from Tom Cavill. No, seriously.

    • http://david-noel.com/ David

      So, what have you got?

      • JTimmy

        What about start-up from you Butcher? No, seriously.

    • Stephen

      This is a really interesting thread and it’s fascinating how it has divided people into somewhat polarised opinions.

      Just to add my 2 cents – I think the reason people are a bit ‘bitter’ with Alex is that – forgetting for a moment he is a nice guy – he’s bypassed the typical frustrations and challenges most businesses have had in getting VC funding and supported, simply because of what some might argue was an astonishing stroke of luck with MDH.

      Of course, that’s not to say it was a good idea. But, let’s be honest – it could have tanked. Instead, it reached a tipping point and word caught on…it became talked about…companies like LM.com starting sponsoring pixels and he made a fortune. BUT: it could have tanked.

      The issue for many here is not that it succeeded, but that the line between success or tanking was essential quite arbitrary. Luck was a major part. Alex was in the right place at the right time (had MDH not taken place, ask yourself whether launching it now would have the same effect? The answer: possibly, but its success isn’t as a result of the ability of the founder?)

      I don’t think anyone is bitter about Alex making megabucks from MDH – good on him! He was a lucky guy and everyone’s pleased for him.

      The issue really is that having struck it rich, doors are opening for him (would it have appeared on the techcrunch radar so readily had it been ‘Joe Bloggs’ rather than ‘the guy who created the MDH’?) that are otherwise closed for people with much better ideas. And that’s what people on here are taking issue with, I think. And you know what? I kind of agree, to an extent.

      So, we’re not criticising Alex. I wish him the best. He’s a good guy. But VCs hover around success hoping further success will come – all whilst potentially successful ideas fall by the wayside because their founders don’t have the track record to open that door in the first place.

      I think that’s what people take issue with.

  • http://www.popjam.com Alex Tew

    Guys thanks for the all comments, and I appreciate the support from those who gave it.

    In reality we didn’t spend all the investment and we still have cash to launch new ideas in the future. We learnt a tonne of lessons and we’ll be back soon.

    On the broader issue of success and failure, the brits do have a bad habit of character assasination if people have a “failure”, especially if preceded by an earlier “success”.

    This is sad, but the upside is you develop a thick-skin.

    I’m personally aligned with the view that there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. And you only get feedback by trying.

    So the key is to keep trying, keep learning and keep hungry.

    Have a great 2010 everyone :)

    • http://quixoticquisling.com Carl Morris

      So you got funding but it wasn’t tied to this specific project? Smart move. Is this typical for Angel funding?

      All the best for future projects!

    • http://www.internetplus.com/thefunkstop Funkstop

      It is sad that there is so much negativity towards those who fail. Possibly it is a symptom of the entrepreneurial atmosphere in the UK being so much more nascient than that in US?
      People seem to incorrectly take their frustrations out by being haters on those who actually had the balls to make a go of it.
      Way to go Alex – and kudos on taking the time to comment on here. Definitely a class act.

  • http://mindcandy.com/ Michael Acton Smith

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

    • http://minomonsters.com/ Josh Buckley

      this quote couldn’t be any more relevant.

    • http://raffle.it Pascal Wheeler


      It’s hard to let something go, I don’t know Alex personally but am surprised at the negativity here. We’ve got to support each other, it’s tough and getting it right all the time is never going to happen.

      Fair play to Alex for knowing when to call it quits and to keep on trying. Sounds like he has the continued support of his investors, that says a lot about the man.

    • http://www.sheilasguide.com Sheila Scarborough

      Credit the quote. It’s from a US President, Theodore Roosevelt.

    • Sean

      “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then give up. There’s no sense being a damn fool about it.” W C Fields

  • http://www.rocksoapopera.com Iain Haywood

    It seemed like the site really stalled in the latter period of its life. Whilst it’s difficult to do, especially when there’s seemingly a fair amount of money behind it, the best and only thing imho is to kill a lame site. If it’s dwindling a bit with no real hope of recovery, just let it go asap and move on. Teh internet moves too quickly to keep things on life support…

    My 0.02

    • http://www.rocksoapopera.com Iain Haywood

      That might have sounded a bit patronising. Not intended. Good luck with the next.

  • http://farhanrehman.co.uk Farhan Rehman

    well put Mike..
    Alex.. Well done on discovering what didn’t work.. It’ll bring you one step closer to finding your own formula for success.
    forget about the criticisms that are just empty and noise… If you haven’t failed a few times then you can hardly learn and grow..
    Besides.. Only you as the entrepreneur behind a startup can know what ur instincts and gut tells you.. And I’m sure this experience will help you understand better what works, what doesn’t, and what early signs to look out for… It’s not about ‘arriving’ at success, but knowing how to course correct the hundreds of times before you get there, and sometimes things like recessions will come along and help you figure out quicker what doesn’t work…

    Just make sure to celebrate your learnings and grow from them! Good luck with the next one!

  • http://unitedagents.co.uk/ Adam Martin {@adammmartin}

    Whinging Poms as my Mother-in-Law (who is afraid of snow) would say, let’s show a little respect. Alex is rightly a wunderkid, with the sort of entrepreneurial drive we are derided for lacking in this country.

    Frankly it’s not a fail but a lesson that leads to other things. That’s sounds a bit crypto religious, but you get my drift.

    I wish him well in his next venture.

    Some people have way too much bile, try taking those stomach cleansing yoghurts Martine McCutcheon is flogging on TV, you might just unwind a bit.

    • spence91

      top marks for whinging in the same post telling people that they whinge.
      Bonus points for: “That’s sounds a bit crypto religious”

  • http://maxniederhofer.com Max Niederhofer

    Hmmm. Maybe billiondollarhomepage.com could solve this problem.

    • Sean

      LOL !!! Hlarious! Zing !!

    • http://maxniederhofer.com Max Niederhofer

      Fwiw, the above wasn’t at all meant to dis Alex. He’s a cool guy and milliondollarhomepage.com was brilliant. Just trying to do my thing for teh lulz in the spirit of Popjam. May it rest in peace.

  • http://glasscubes.com Wayne

    So many critics here.

    I wonder how many of these people have actually tried to create a successfull startup. Very few a imagin.
    Hope Alex does better on his next venture. Good luck to him.

  • http://blog.girlaboutweb.com Zuzanna Pasierbinska-Wilson

    I couldn’t agree more with @adammartin. Don’t bitch, show some support. I thought the MillionDollarHomepage was a frickin masterstroke – both viral and PR. Who cares if it was written in 5 minutes? You guys obsess about technology so much that you forget about ideas, commercialization and marketing. Good luck, Alex! I’m positive your next venture will be an amazing success.

    • http://www.skimlinks.com Alicia Navarro

      I completely agree with Zuzanna. I am in shock so many of you can do nothing but knock someone when they at least tried. The mark of a true entrepreneur isn’t someone that bitches and moans, and isn’t someone that always succeeds. Its someone that gets up off their ass, takes a risk, puts themselves on the line, follows their convictions and *tries*… and generally tries often.

      Alex is a fabulous entrepreneur because he is creative, resourceful, knows how to network and PR his endeavours (and that is as much a part of what makes a successful company than just good tech), and most importantly, keeps on trying.

      I suspect not a single one of those negative comments came from a true entrepreneur.

      Alex, its a shame, but I’m proud you worked as hard as you did, and you are now just primed to embark upon your next initiative. I know you’ll do really well.

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