(Founder Stories) How Mike McCue Came Up With Flipboard: "What If We Accidentally Deleted The Web"

How did Mike McCue come up with the idea for Flipboard, the iPad reader that’s seeing more than 10 million flips a day? In these final two video clips from his Founder Stories interview with Chris Dixon, McCue says that he had no intention of starting another company after selling TellMe to Microsoft (which he talks about in Part I and Part II of this interview). He was tired after ten years at TellMe. He just wanted to take some time off.

But that was easier said than done. “The way I relax, if I am on a beach, the first thing I do is get a notebook and start sketching out ideas,” he tells Dixon. “I am kind of addicted to it.”

McCue did a thought experiment. “What if we accidentally deleted the web and then you had to redo it from scratch?” McCue thought magazines were beautiful, but look at the same article on the web and it is “a shadow of itself.” And the ads are just as bad. Nobody clicks on them because they are ugly.

His very first startup had been Paper Software, during the first wave of pen computing startups in the early 1990s, so when the iPad came along, he knew what he had to do. rethink the reading experience on the Web to look more like a digital magazine. Strip out all the extraneous junk, and you can even make the ads look good. McCue thinks the opportunity for advertising on the Web is “10X” what it is today, and a lot of that is going to be on tablets and HTML5 websites (which is why he recently raised $50 million for Flipboard).

The the video below, McCue and Dixon continue their conversation. They dig into some of the strategies that traditional print publishers are taking on tablets, iPad subscriptions, and the promises (and dangers) of content atomization. “Once things are atomized,” warns Dixon, news publishers lose the cross-subsidization that supports things like “foreign policy journalism.”

McCue thinks the key is to try to recreate the economics of print on tablets and the Web. One of the advantages to Flipboard is the speed with which it delivers new information from a variety of sources in a much more pleasing format. “It’s almost like an accelerated version of the web,” says McCue. “We strip out the stuff people don’t like about the web”—the blinking ads, the navigation toolbars—and replaces it with better typography and bigger photographs. There are many steps to go, but McCue is betting his company on that future.


(Founder Stories) FlipBoard’s Mike McCue: The Builder

(Founder Stories) Mike McCue On Surviving A Downturn: The TellMe Years