Posterous has been acquired by Twitter!!!!!

This is one of the greatest days of my entire life.

It all started in 2007 when the iPhone was released.

The iPhone changed the world, and in an indirect way, it changed my life. The iPhone is what drove me to start Posterous, because I wanted an easier way to post my photos. And email was the perfect way to do it.

I still remember sitting on my couch in New York City, writing the first version of the product. It was simple, but so powerful that I decided to leave my dream job at Apple.

The past 4 years have been an incredible journey. Posterous took me from New York, to Boston, and then back to San Francisco.

During that time I learned how to create and ship products. I built and managed an incredible team of 21 people. I learned about all aspects of running a company including fundraising, legal, finance, HR, marketing, business development, office management, and more.

Why Twitter?

There is no better fit for Posterous than Twitter.

The opportunities in front of Twitter are exciting, and we couldn’t be happier about bringing our team’s expertise to a product that reaches hundreds of millions of users around the globe.

Plus, the people at Twitter are genuinely nice folks who share our vision for making sharing simpler. Everyone is passionate, excited, and truly believes in the product and the leadership.

Apple and Twitter have a lot in common: a great sense of product and design, amazing leadership, phenomenal growth, and a great culture. Of all the places I could imagine working, Twitter ranks the highest. (Think about how much I would hate working at Google!)

It’s fitting to be going to the only company Apple chooses to integrate deeply with. Apple has definitely picked a side in social networking, and it’s Twitter.

I’m happy to be at a company based in San Francisco. And in fact, the new Twitter offices are just *2 blocks* from my house. It couldn’t get any better than that.

And I’ll get to work with my good friends from BackType, who were acquired by Twitter last year.

Over the past four years I’ve worn many hats. And I’ve enjoyed them all. But I have found that product is where my passion is.

I’m incredibly thrilled to be joining Twitter as a Product Manager. I’ll be working for @satyap and indirectly with @jack to make Twitter an even more awesome product. And I’ll be able to focus on product, without also worrying about running the company.

For me, working at Apple wasn’t just a job. It meant being part of a company and brand I believe in passionately. I see Twitter the same way. Twitter is something I use and love every day, and depend on. The product is a part of my life, and now the company is too.

Let the journey begin. Again.

You can follow me on Twitter.

-@agarwal

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Startup Impossible

On the Food Network television show “Restaurant Impossible”, celebrity chef Robert Irvine takes a failing business and turns it out around in two days on a $10,000 budget.

Unlike other Food Network shows, this one isn’t just a food competition. Restaurant Impossible touches on all the aspects of running a business, including hiring, management, service, revenue, and more.

The similarities between restaurants and a startup are incredible.

Starting a restaurant and starting a tech startup seem super glamorous. Everyone dreams of being the boss at their own restaurant, sitting back with a Manhattan while the place runs itself and customers pour in.

And if you read TechCrunch every day, you will get the impression that starting a company is easy. Everyone is raising tons of money and gaining traction.

But that’s wrong. It’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. It doesn’t matter how many employees you have. You have to give it 110%.

The most common scenario on “Restaurant Impossible” is when a restaurant that was once thriving has lost its way. The reasons are almost identical to why a startup might fail:

  1. The business stops innovating. You can’t let this happen. You have to keep changing and evolving. Your comptition will.
  2. Employee quality goes down. You might make a mediocre hire, then another, then another. All of a sudden the quality of your team is way down. You need to cut them loose.
  3. Your design gets stale. You must always be refreshing and giving customers something new and exciting.
  4. The business is not metrics driven. There is no way to scale a company if you aren’t looking at metrics. Even restaurants need to understand their “users”.
  5. Service quality goes down. It’s hard to scale this, but it’s important to keep overall sentiment and word of mouth positive.
  6. The business owner loses motivation. You can’t give up. It’s up to you to keep pushing forward and keep your team excited.
  7. Pricing doesn’t sustain the business. Often restaurants don’t raise their prices for years, even though costs have gone up. Similarly, startups sometimes never even find a business model.

A business owner or startup founder/CEO is trying to keep an existing business running, while still looking ahead to where the business needs to be in 3 or 5 years.

If you stop moving forward, you’ll slowly see that you’re actually moving backwards, as users leave and go elsewhere.

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Cutting features is hard

One of the interesting conversations coming out of my last post about Product Guys is the need to cut features.

It seems like everyone in Silicon Valley likes to blog about how “a good product should cut features” when they have zero track record of actually doing so.

It’s an easy thing to say. But it’s really hard in practice, much harder than adding new features.

To cut a feature, you need to understand your user base deeply. You need to have metrics to back up your decision. You need to understand the impact.

You will lose some users. Some of your earliest and most loyal users may love that feature you just cut. And they will complain, loudly. They will tell the world that your company has lost its way, jumped the shark. It will hurt.

But that’s why you have a good product guy. That person should understand the impact of cutting the feature. And they should have a clear reason why cutting this feature will be good for the product in the long run.

They should be able to tell the board that cutting that feature lost 1% of the user base, but tripled growth. They will have confidence in the decision.

The worst thing that can happen is to be surprised by the response of cutting that feature, and reverting the change. You will second guess yourself forever.

Adding features takes creativity. Cutting features takes balls.

You should follow me on Twitter here.

To beat Amazon, brick and mortar retailers need to raise prices

Brick and mortar retailers need to figure out a way to compete with Amazon and other e-commerce giants that doesn’t eat into margins. Deals and coupons simply aren’t enought. And as former Apple retail chief Ron Johnson has said, retail isn’t broken, stores are. So how are retail stores going to survive? While mobile may be the technology e-commerce companies are using to jab physical stores, it is also the technology that may save these stores. Personalization and data are the two key factors that could save retail stores; and the vehicle by which these technologies can be utilized is via the mobile phone.

Retailers are convinced that to beat Amazon, they need to match or beat them on prices. This is wrong. There is much more to Amazon than just low prices: it’s about the overall experience.

Amazon has more reviews than any other, fast and friendly customer service, quick shipping, no hassle returns, and something you can’t measure in dollars: a brand I trust. Other retailers aren’t able to match this.

But it gets even worse for them: it’s impossible for them to compete on price. Amazon doesn’t have the overhead of physical stores. And Amazon’s core competency is operations: they take a data driven approach to shave pennies off everything they sell.

Through operational efficiencies and sheer volume, Amazon can sell items for less than anyone else.

To compete with this, I believe other retailers need to take a completely different approach. They should raise prices and differentiate their offering. They need to change the game so consumers can’t compare apples to apples against Amazon.

Retailers need to add value over the Amazon experience, in ways that a purely online store can’t: instant gratification, easy returns, knowledgable in store staff. Make in store shopping awesome again.

One great success story of charging more and winning is crutchfield.com. Almost everything they sell can be purchased on Amazon for 10-30% less. But Crutchfield offers service that people are willing to pay for.

Sears was once a brand people trusted. Now they have one of the worst shopping experiences in the world. They are shutting down stores because of a slow holiday period.

I’m ok living in a world where I buy everything I need from Amazon. But if other retailers want to stand a chance, they need to change the game.

Why you need a “product guy”

[There’s] a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to do product. It is not code for a person who doesn’t really know how to do anything but thinks he can boss engineers around. It doesn’t refer to marketing guys who had an idea. Understanding what it means to drive a product means understanding the full scope of the vision of your company. It means understanding your engineering team, their capabilities, and their priorities. It means understanding what your next move is, and what your 6th move is from every angle.

I used to think product managers were worthless. Engineering run companies are the way to go! And why not? I was an engineer with an idea, and it turned into Posterous. When someone would approach me to be a “product guy”, I laughed. Especially if they had no engineering background or track record. What do you know about shipping a product?

Now I know better. A product manager’s job is not about coming up with all the ideas and telling engineers what to do. It’s about running a process to make sure the best ideas wins.

And a designer is not necessarily a product guy. They are different roles.

A good product guy knows your product and your market inside and out. They live and breathe metrics and industry trends. They look for market and revenue opporunities.

A good product guy takes ideas from the entire team. They talk to users and partners. They put it all together to come up with a great plan.

When starting a new company, you can build the most random thing ever and see if it sticks. You have no users, there is little risk.

But once you have users and investors, you need to take educated risks. That’s not a bad thing. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

A good product guy will work his ass off to figure out the next 6 steps for the company, and beyond. And when you do take the big risks, he’ll have a better idea of what to expect.

A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.

Wayne Gretzsky

Sincerely

I love digital photography. Whether it’s with my DSLR or my iPhone, I take a lot of photos. And sharing these photos online is why I started Posterous.

But I miss prints. I miss photos on the refrigerator. I miss photo books. And most of all I miss sending prints to friends and family.

And that’s why I love Sincerely. They are bringing back the physical aspect of photography. Right from your iPhone, you can send physical prints to yourself and others.

It makes PERFECT sense. My iPhone is my camera, it’s my address book, and it’s a way to pay for things. It has all the elements you need to send prints in seconds.

Sincerely launched a new app today called Dotti. Dotti mimics a disposable camera. You take 12 photos, and then “develop” the roll for $5. Sincerely is doing a great job of adding beautiful interfaces on top of their apps.

Check them out!

Feature request: I’m still looking for a Sincerely app that sends 100% standard postcards: full bleed 4×6 on one side, and typical postcard layout on the back. Does this exist?

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Do you have time to manage the privacy of your Facebook Timeline?

From http://craigormiston.com:

I just finished playing with Facebook’s new Timeline after unlocking it through this method. While it was an aesthetically pleasing experience, I closed my laptop and wondered, “What the hell did I really do in the last two hours of my life?” Reorganize personal updates for the sake of vanity and privacy? After seeing old college party photos mixed in with work updates, I felt the need to clean things up a bit. It took two hours of my time. And I’m sure there’s plenty more I should do to clean up six years of personal updates.

Who has time for that? What value do I get as a user from that time investment? And who really benefits from the new layout? At first, I believed in the biographical nobility of Timeline. But that wore off in 15 minutes. I think there’s a place for this sort of biography in the public search space, but not on Facebook’s community full of people who are supposed to be my friends. Access to the past is key, and I commend Facebook for making that easier for me. But I’m not sure its worth the time to manage it.

I agree 100%. Great post!

I like the basic idea of Facebook Timeline. It takes all my photos and posts from the past 10 years and presents them in a beautiful way. The problem is that Facebook took content that I feel is private and opened it up to the world.

I want Timeline for myself, a private view. Like a private photo album I can pick up to relive the past. I don’t want this available to everyone.

And I’d argue that the world doesn’t want it either. Who wants go back to view my old photos and posts? Only stalkers. Or managers when I’m job hunting.

Today I only share publicly on Facebook. But in the past I shared things with the assumption that Facebook was private. My “friend” list was smaller, perhaps more accurate. Today it’s a mess.

Facebook might be digging itself a deeper grave every time more of my content is distributed wider. Eventually, you won’t feel safe sharing anything. It’s already happening. We found that 61% of people would share more if they had more control.

Facebook keeps adding/changing their privacy controls, but what they haven’t done is give you a quick and easy way to change the past. How can I manage my friend list and unfriend people? How can I change the privacy of things I shared in the past?

I wonder if Facebook has ever considered a “fresh start” button that unfriends everyone. I’d click it.