I’m finally getting over my post-Disrupt Europe jet lag, and I guess that means the conference is old news. But before we leave it completely in the rearview, I wanted to highlight a couple of backstage interviews that you might have missed if you weren’t watching the live stream — specifically, my conversations with Fab’s Jason Goldberg and Mind Candy’s Michael Acton Smith, two founders whose companies have had some pretty visible stumbles.
TechCrunch’s Jordan Crook interviewed Goldberg onstage, and he talked about the layoffs at Fab, as well as the launch of home furnishing business Hem, which will be the company’s focus moving forward (although the Fab marketplace will still be around).
Backstage, Goldberg told me that he’d held off on attending events like Disrupt for 18 months: “I just didn’t feel it would be appropriate for me to be out there doing public speaking and events like this when we were going through layoffs and restructuring. And you know, it was a tough time for the company, and we’ve now finally come through the other side of it.”
I also asked about one of the more eye-opening numbers that Goldberg shared earlier. At its peak, Fab was spending $14 million a month (he said it’s down to $1 million a month now); to an outsider, that sounds a little excessive.
“Look, e-commerce is very competitive, low margins, very capital intensive,” he said. “If you want to run a successful, large-scale e-commerce business, there’s really only two choices. One is to be very broad based and very large margins, that’s the Amazon-Zalando model. Or it’s to be very laser-focused within a vertical and make everything yourselves — and that’s what we’re doing now with Hem.”
Gaming company Mind Candy also went through layoffs recently. While onstage, Acton Smith discussed the company’s challenges in moving its Moshi Monsters franchise onto mobile, but he told me afterwards that he still hopes to turn Mind Candy into “one of the greatest entertainment companies in the world.”
“To do that, you can’t have all your eggs in one basket; you can’t be one [intellectual property],” he said. “So our thinking is, we have multiple IPs, we have multiple entertainment products that we launch, and we also try and own the distribution as well, which is PopJam. And the greatest entertainment companies, from Disney and others, own both those pieces, IP and distribution. That’s what we’re trying to crack.”
By the way, the discussion of Mind Candy doesn’t start until about 50 seconds into the video, because what I really wanted to talk about was Calm, the startup behind a meditation app that I use religiously. At Calm, Acton Smith said he’s the “silent co-founder.”