An Inside Look At Betaworks, The Startup Studio To Rule Them All

betaworks has been around for almost ten years now, standing as a leading example of how a startup studio should run.

Years ago, I asked betaworks founder John Borthwick how he would define betaworks. He had trouble coming up terminology he was comfortable with — after all, betaworks is part seed-fund, part umbrella corporation, and though he would hate for me to say so, part incubator (offering space and a learning environment for the startups it fosters).

Today, however, the startup studio model is being followed by a number of organizations, including Expa, Science, and now Human Ventures. And while some traditional investors might say that the startup studio model spreads funds too thinly, huge success from startups like Giphy, Dots,, Chartbeat, and betaworks acquisitions such as Digg and Instapaper beg to differ.

Part of betaworks’ success comes from the way that Borthwick himself views the studio, weighing each startups growth (or lack thereof) on a quarterly and yearly basis, communicating ideas to the teams, and being a part of the selection process for hackers in residence.

The studio also invests in products that will help them measure their own success against the broader competitive landscape. For example, Homescreen went from an internal project to a real-life app on the App Store, letting users share their homescreens on the app, which uses image-recognition technology to see which apps are most prominent on users’ homescreens.

Beyond that, Borthwick takes a few months each winter to look at trends that fascinate him.

This past year, Borthwick penned two essays that were featured in the betaworks book, BetaBook, which you can find in app form here. One focused on media hacking (if you haven’t yet noticed, media is an integral vertical for betaworks) as well as the future of AI, hinting that we may yet see more focus there for the startup studio.

We sat down with folks from all corners of the betaworks organization to learn more about how the cornerstone of the startup studio model has grown over the past decade.

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