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Imzy is shutting down (imzy.com)
178 points by strange_aeons on May 24, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 247 comments

I wish the founders well, but I feel like people nowadays give up too early. And this is one of the most extreme examples of that.

Most community sites take a while to grow and you really never know what will happen. Even Reddit was sort of a failure vs. Digg and they sold it off to conde nast. It was only later AFTER the sale when Digg messed up on their own and Reddit enjoyed success as a side effect.

You really shouldn't be building a community site if you're so impatient to give up so early. I mean the site opened to public in October 26 of 2016, that's exactly 7 months in existence. It's probably because they raised so much money, which is why you should never raise too much money when you're trying to build a community site. I have never seen a successful community site that raised that much money before getting traction.

Honestly, as much as I love them: Imzy in its current form was never going to catch on.

Other sites can get away with some bad choices like login-required because of momentum, but... The culture and userbase they were hoping to attract was more akin to tumblr, and Tumblrites were never going to leave it for Imzy.

Those used to reddit, meanwhile, saw a signup/login screen (or even a "request an invite" screen) and boredly clicked off. Some actively looking for reddit alternatives (like me) waited to get in, but not many.

>Those used to reddit, meanwhile, saw a signup/login screen (or even a "request an invite" screen) and boredly clicked off.

First time I've heard of Imzy I believe, and this was my exact reaction when I went to their front page.


With an initial login/signup screen they definitely should give it at least 5 years, if not 10, to get going.

I was there from early in the beta. The thing that annoyed me, when I suggested that people should take a look at it was the decision that you had to make an account to see content. Most people visited the homepage and then said 'no'.

This is one of the main reasons i detest pinterest. Lately they have changed, so that you can see small amount of the content, before annoying you with the login screen.

Ditto for Quora. I see interesting content, but they annoy me so much with their accounts (even when I'm just reading) that I never spend much time there. Don-t worry, I will create an account when I have something to say, but until then just let me be.

The Gardened Wall model. Interesting gambit.

This did them in. If you run a community-oriented website you can't just promise me the moon and then tell me "Your name's not Dan, you're not coming in."

> I wish the founders well, but I feel like people nowadays give up too early.

It's really difficult to offer perspective like that on something you don't really understand and haven't seen from the inside.

It's pretty clear if you don't have product-market fit as a founder. And if you don't have a really good idea of what you could do to get to product-market fit, it's entirely possible it's wise of the founders to stop and try something new, which is what I hope they plan to do now.

Much love to Dan, Jessica & the Imzy team. I know how hard this can be; best of luck on whatever comes next.

A community isn't a product. It is not at all clear from the inside or the outside whether a community is going to gel and take off within a year.

Communities =/= products. An entirely different kind of thinking and patience is required to grow a community as opposed to build a product.

Peter Reinhardt has a great talk about that. You need to understand the feedback that you receive and sometimes is better kill fast your ideas to move on. If it is a product or a community doesn't matter, if your growth is flat you still didn´t hit the market that you need so you could eventually successful monetize your company.

People that really love what you do will "spread the word" and bring new people.

What would you say Reddit's product is then? It certainly isn't content or the platform...

I'd say their community is their primary _asset_. All products are (ought to be?) built around an advantageous asset, whether it is exclusive data or a novel workflow or special insight.

But you design, engineer, build, and test a product, not a community. Though we do try.

Hmm that's a pretty ephemeral "asset"... and it's an asset that is directly tied to your ability to pull funding. Even if you technically don't directly mold the community, it doesn't do you any favors to try and think of something else as your "product" just because you're uncomfortable with the definition.

I never said anything about what their product is. I said their users aren't a "product", they are an "asset".

Value doesn't come only in the form of software. Only software devs believe that.

I definitely didn't claim that value only came in the form of software... in fact I think I claimed the opposite of that in saying that reddit calling their platform their product was useless and unhelpful. They have one thing that is attractive to users, advertisers, investors, and creators. That thing is their community. Pretending anything else is what they should try and capitalize on is silly.

Actually it is the platform.

Reddit investors and advertisers are not spending money on Reddit because of its platform.

That has nothing to do with what a "product" is.

What? So your advice is to knowingly ignore what actually makes your site money and just call some random other feature "the product"? How would Reddit admins/CEOs ever make decisions using that advice?

If you didn't understand what he meant by the distinction between community and product, you should have asked to clarify, instead of just assuming (completely incorrectly) what he meant and arguing based on your own interpretation.

Building up a community and building a product are completely different things. You can have the perfect product yet never get any community. You can get a great community without even a product.

I don't dispute any of those points, but I think it's still silly to talk about anything in terms of "product" that isn't their community. Reddit the software could come and go, it's essentially irrelevant to the workings of the site (barring radical changes). Whatever you call the community of users that's still the thing you have to try and cultivate, the thing you are presenting to investors, the thing that increases your revenue.

What's going on with raising $11M if it's pretty clear you don't have product market fit?

It's people who don't know what they're doing playing with Monopoly money. I mean really; $11M+ for that site, which existed all of 7 months?! The start up scene boggles my mind.

They didn't spend all of the $11m. Only a tiny fraction of it. And they worked on the site for two years.

Then why did they raise so much? How do you know how much the spent? And two years to build that site?

I'm not convinced any of this was well thought out.

> Then why did they raise so much?

To be prepared if there was success? I don't know

> How do you know how much they spent?

Because the CEO talked about it in another comment

> And two years to build that site?

Yup. A lot of iterating and trying to find the right fit. Why is that so hard to believe?

> I'm not convinced any of this was well thought out

That's the thing - you have almost zero information about this, so declaring all of these things to be obviously-avoidable mistakes is just silly. If you think you would do a better job you're welcome to try, but learning about a company for <5 minutes I don't think there's any possible way for you to make that call.

Sometimes product fit takes longer than $VC_ATTENTION_SPAN

Indeed, there are many other ways of building a business on-line than startups.

Makes me think, maybe it's time to create a "bootstrapped" badge, or something like that; something that sites that didn't take VC money could proudly display? At least for me personally, whether something is an investor startup or not is an important data point for deciding whether to invest my time in it.

Lyra's bootstrapped and already sustainable. There's just that little matter of scaling the database... (AWS means no worries about the server)



Hasn't been updated in a while though.

Github is on there, and they've raised $350 million

VC money or not, isn't the issue. It could be a single guy with 100$ who built that, it wouldn't make a darn difference. I mean sure, a single guy running the site would have all of eternity to twiddle with it, but without PMF, the site isn't going anywhere.

I mean, the K-factor is either greater than 1 or it's less than 1. If it's less than 1, you can have 100s of years go by without gaining a meaningful audience. If it's greater than 1, then they would have seen that in their retention/cohort/signup analysis. Even, if only a sub-segment of their users were growing at a >1 K-factor, they would not have shut down. Since their shutting down, that's clearly not the case.

Funding here came (in part) from O'Reilly, who strike me as in it for the longer haul.

Yeah, community sites are often quite slow to take off. Which is perhaps why these Reddit alternatives are not really the best thing to try and raise capital for.

I mean they could theoretically take it off sure. But communities are very rarely going to be 'rocket ship' style instant successes like more traditional service and product businesses. And given how hard they are to make profitable, or how a lot of things VCs will want in order to make them profitable will hurt the community...

Yeah, not sure this is the best kind of thing to try and build as a startup business/get venture capital for. At least not initially, before the momentum is built and the community is proven to be successful.

    I have never seen a successful community site
    that raised that much money before getting traction.
What are some successful community sites?

Ugh...sadly Voat. They recently ran into budget problems (they run at $6k/month) and were able to raise enough to keep running for a few months and get volunteers help move it off Azure's overpriced hosting.

So there's an example of site, without much money, building off their community. It's filled with a lot of hate, racism and extremism.

I still like browsing it, just to see the opinions, try to understand where others are coming from and expose myself to viewpoints I disagree with.

There is some good content and some viewpoints I agree with, but I wish more reasonable people on there weren't so drown out. I think moderate people do try, but after barrages of downvotes, they give up (new accounts can't downvote either; you have to build 100 comment points -- which keeps that group think going).

> without much money, building off their community. It's filled with a lot of hate, racism and extremism

Probably not helped when they get kicked off payment processors or fundraiser sites for openly hosting underage nudity, sorry, "jailbait"...

They banned all their jailbait subverses a while back. I think most services kick them off just due to the hate-speak.

Their front page right at this moment has several unpleasant articles, including three Islamophobic items, one anti-Semitic item, and one joke accusing liberals of equating conservative economic policy and racism. So that's probably not helpful to their prospects.

> new accounts can't downvote either; you have to build 100 comment points -- which keeps that group think going

At least they're more generous than HN's downvote restrictions. But I suspect it's the upvote limitations on voat that turn newcomers off more than anything, since every other site encourages you to handout 'likes'/upvotes like candy, making it quite the culture shock when you run up against that wall.

That being said, it's hard to tell whether any of these voting mechanisms are actually any better at producing fruitful discussion than a plain old-school forum. Seems to me like having any kind of voting inevitably leads to amplifying the effects of group think.

Yeah. I wonder how it'd effect usage if down votes from user with under X points simply don't count or have minimal impact. But the user would never really know?

Voat was better in the beginning but the no-rules atmosphere and underdog nature of the site attracted a lot of a$$holes too.

SSC wrote an interesting thing about this: http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/07/22/freedom-on-the-centrali...

Tl;dr, If you build a service that offers freedom, the first users are going to be the people that don't have freedom elsewhere. Which is mostly unsavory people. So voat attracts radical right wingers that are banned everywhere else. Torrents are mainly used for infringing copyright. Tor is full of illegal and disturbing content. And bitcoin is mainly used for shady stuff like ransomware.

On the other hand, life is short.

As an entrepreneur, if you spend 10 years on something, you can get 4, potentially 5 done over your life time. If you fail early, you can try 20-30. I suspect the chances of actually succeeding are much higher in the latter case.

Instagram was already a hit at 7 months, and even whatsapp was clearly going to be big. I totally understand closing shop without enough traction.

I've been involved with quite a few startups and initiatives, and for every "we shouldn't have closed so early", there are about twenty "we should have closed it much much earlier"

I feel that way too, but I think that's because many founders are opting for funding too early and build their entire operation on money they don't have.

When they're funded it's great, but when investors who are expecting some multiple quickly pull out it's game over.

I'm not sure if that's the case here, this is just a general thought about early shutdowns.

Hi, I'm the founder of Imzy. It's a hard day but I want to make myself available, especially to entrepreneurs who may have questions. This last 2 years has been fun, and hard and I've learned a lot. You can reply here or email me at dan@imzy.com

I also have an amazing staff of developers, community minded folks, product people, executives, who are looking for work. Many of them mare open to moving (we are in Salt Lake City) and all are open to remote work. They are all very talented. Please drop me a line if you're interested.

"Hi, I'm the founder of Imzy. It's a hard day but I want to make myself available, especially to entrepreneurs who may have questions. This last 2 years has been fun, and hard and I've learned a lot. You can reply here or email me at dan@imzy.com"

Have you considered contacting Internet Archive - or specifically, "Archive Team" - and coordinating with them to package up and deliver an archive of the public data that was produced on your platform ?

No I hadn't considered this, thanks for the suggestion.

Thanks for doing this. Saves Archive Team time having to grab the site before it goes dark.

Will you open source your code after you shut down?

Hey Dan, I was a member in the early beta, am really sad to see Imzy go but really appreciate you guys branching off and making the efforts toward a new site (which I agree definitely still needs to exist).

> We still feel that the internet deserves better and hope that we see more teams take on this challenge in the future

As someone with a headful of ideas hoping to potentially take on this challenge (:P) - any writeups or info on scaling/architecture would be much appreciated. There are some HighScalability articles on the bigger sites but every bit of info on comparison of architectures helps us newbies, heh.

Also, as others asked about - if you guys do manage to open source, that could be a starting point for those who liked Imzy's layout/model (personally as one of the ones who likes aspects of "oldschool" and novel design concepts, I'd go in a diff direction; but the engine could still help me figure out components needed and possibly other scaling/metrics/etc logic)

Thanks for giving it a shot, take care man.

> any writeups or info on scaling/architecture would be much appreciated. There are some HighScalability articles on the bigger sites but every bit of info on comparison of architectures helps us newbies, heh.

I don't think Imzy's scalabilities issue is what did them in. I signed up to see what it was about, and saw a JS bug and reported it, and they not only fixed it super-quick, but also sent me a thank-you sticker. So their team, while imperfect as all teams are, was at least responsive and dedicated.

If I had to guess - and I do - their problems stemmed from their community size not growing as rapidly as it could have, and monetization.

That's the interesting thing - how do you build a community? How do you build a bunch of communities? How do you advertise, how do you tackle moderation successfully, how do you keep people invested, etc.

There's a billion write-ups on writing code, but nowhere near enough on running a meta-community.

Building "a community" is one thing. You don't need a product to build one community. You really just need passion, credibility, and perseverance -- and some combination of a blog, email list, and facebook/slack group as the tool.

Building a bunch of communities (aka facilitating community) is a different beast entirely, and seldom takes off very quickly at all. The best example of facilitating community is Meetup.com.

I've been working on a facilitation of community model called Horizon (http://www.horizonapp.co) which is best thought of as airbnb/couchsurfing with friends, friends of friends, and communities. So, privately, rather than publicly with strangers.

You can either facilitate existing community, or build a community. Trying to do both is a recipe for disaster imho.

I'll give you one piece of advice: beware premature scaling. If you have a headful of ideas, I'd focus on building something people want, not thinking about scale or other technical optimizations.

If you're an engineer like me, we'll often overweight tech choices, rather than the product and user acquisition decisions that matter in a social network.

Do you plan on open sourcing any part of the site?

I really hope they do. It may not be up to them and more up to their investors, but having a platform like this that people in the open source community can hack on may provide new great things further down the line.

Sorry to hear you're shutting down. I know it's a terrible experience, but thank you for being open.

Can you explain a bit about how you tried to monetize the site? What did you try? What worked and what didn't?

TBH we never got to the point of monetization.

Uh... you mean never got to the point of monetization, right?

Whoops, I accidentally a word. Thanks!

all those free t-shirts did you in :(

I was really worried when you guys started giving out free pizza to members. Can I ask the story behind it?

Could you share a brief of Imzy monthly traffic, bandwidth, and aws cost?

It looks like their traffic has been fairly flat. I'd guess just over 1,000 unique users a day based on their Alexa rating, and a number of sites I run for comparison numbers. At the peak of their popularity, it would have been closer to 2,000 unique users a day.

It's incredibly small for the amount of media attention they received. I think shutting down is the right, and responsible move here.

Sorry to hear that but glad you guys made the effort that you did! As another founder in a similar space, I'd love to read a post-mortem from you. And if you are in the headspace right now to maybe just share a TLDR?

What are you working on?

What did happen with $11M in funding Imzy received?


Why did you shut it down?

We were unable to find growth in any cohort.

Do you consider letting people actually see the site without login - it was a massive barrier to interest imho

Sorry to hear about your experience. I had the pain of shutting down my business a few years ago. It completely sucks, but it is also a relief.

Did you focus on any cohort or did you just experiment with lots of cohorts hoping one would take off? If you did focus, what if anything did you learn?

To clarify, growth of users.

Why did you need to find this? Was this a pressure from investors, or did you determine internally that growth wouldn't eventually take off, ever?

(One of the things that worries me a lot about taking venture capital is the pressure to grow quickly over growing well / sustainably, so I'm pretty curious about this....)

Practically any monetization effort is a function of the number of users - a percent of users paying is still a percent.

If they're not seeing the demand it's smarter to cut losses than to continue on without a plan to make the site sustainable.

Growth as in $$$ or visitors of the site

Can you talk on the challenges and strategies of creating a community of people like Imzy? Not necessarily just online, but also in real life, how do you bring people together?

Sorry to hear about this although it's the first I've heard of Imzy.

Bit curious if there was any weighting algorithm in the voting?

No, there wasn't. We never had enough volume to worry about that.

What would you have done differently?

TL;DR - we over built. We were too close to the problem from our experiences at reddit and built WAY too much stuff that only really matters if you are operating at scale.

If we had done better with this, we could have gone to market quicker and probably done a better job finding product/market fit.

There's of course more, but this is the biggest thing.

I admire your openness about this. I never used Imzy, but I definitely saw the appeal. Its unfortunate things didn't work out. I'm curious; Knowing what you know now, do you think you could have made it work? Basically, how much of a difference would getting to market quicker have made?

>built WAY too much stuff that only really matters if you are operating at scale.

Why do people do this?? Please don't build for mega huge scales before you've gone to market...it's a huge waste of time and money. I guess developers have too much pride to not make the _best_ platform

TL;DR: They do it because they haven't yet learned the skills needed not to.

People doing startups are natural optimists, bold risk-takers. And to get the money, you have to sell people on a dream of giant scale, on a big vision of what is to come. If you can't create and sell that vision, nobody gives you the money.

To then turn around and say, "Ok, what's the minimum necessary?" is really hard. You have to throw out 99% of your vision. You have to turn into a risk-averse pessimist. After talking about making the best thing, you have to go and make nearly the worst thing. Then you user-test it, discover why it sucks for your core audience, and make it suck less, in hopes that this time you've got the minimum viable product.

Making that turn is definitely a skill, something you have to learn and practice. It's not something we learn at all just building things to spec, which is the normal experience. It's the kind of product management that in theory everybody should do, but that in practice you only really are forced to do if you don't have much money.

> Then you user-test it, discover why it sucks for your core audience, and make it suck less, in hopes that this time you've got the minimum viable product.

Seems related to: "MVP" --> "the rewrite / second system"

I can see why they would if they had previous been involved in Reddit. The only site that had more notorious problems scaling in its early-middle days that I can think of is Twitter with its fail whale.

Making a site scalable is an easy, defined problem. Building a site people want to visit, and getting them there, is much more difficult and undefined.

I'm looking forward to your post mortem.

Wait, what? They raised a $8M Series A less than a year ago! https://techcrunch.com/2016/10/26/imzy-raises-8-million-seri...

That was also the time it was opened to the public. This shutdown appears to be a strong counterpoint against Reddit alternatives becoming an inherently successful business prospect.

>a strong counterpoint against Reddit alternatives becoming an inherently successful business prospect

It looks like Voat is not in good financial shape too:



Voat never raised millions in venture capital, though. (and can't given their content/userbase)

They will probably have a hard time raising from institutional investors, but my guess is their userbase is primarily single men who spend large amounts of time on the computer, a decent subset of whom have spending cash.

The "goats" are also people who feel like they've been politically badgered into a corner, so I suspect they will spend to maintain their last refuge. Your will to fight goes up as the space you are confined to gets smaller.

I think there's definitely a market for a "social network of last resort" in this age of community guidelines.

Which... I think is a great thing. It's good that Twitter, Reddit, etc, are being aggressive about harassment. That promotes the freer flow of certain ideas (feminism, social justice, etc). But then that necessitates an alternate space for the free flow of opposing viewpoints (harassment filters out the weak, feminism is cancer, this woman should be raped for her opinions, etc).

Which... I think is a great thing.

You think it's a great thing that there is less dialogue between people with differing opinions and more places that function as echo-chambers?

Yes I think it is a good think there is less dialogue between hate groups. I want them to all feel they are the only ones in the world with those beliefs so they died off with them.

Why would echo chambers, where people are surrounded by those who think like them, convince anyone that they are alone in their beliefs?

Honestly my response is the result of reading the thread wrong shortly after waking up.

> primarily single men

I was at this event with a close friend of mine and noticed the distinctive Voat logo on her phone.

"Are you .. are browsing Voat?"

I'd classify her as libertarian-esque.

I know it's just one datapoint, but I don't think the voat userbase is as 1-dimensional is you think.

Oh man, I know this is not always the most popular viewpoint, but I would be happy to live in a world in which "this woman should be raped for her opinions" had no place to be expressed, ever.

I don't. I would like to live in a world where no one ever thinks it.

I think the only way you get there is by keeping dialog open with the people who do think it. If you refuse to listen to them, you strengthen their belief that they're seeing something other people are unwilling to look at.

And I think trying to "no platform" those people only strengthens their rhetorical position, making it easier for them to extract sympathy from moderates, which normalizes rape culture and quite possibly leads to more rapes. Which is really tragic.

But all of this is just a smaller part of a general failure of feminist policy to do anything with perpetrators besides punish them. Restorative justice is starting to catch on in feminist circles, at least in terms of lip service. But it's a tough sell, because it's completely at odds with the basic feminist methodology of "Step 1: Separate the situation into Oppressor and Oppressed. Step 2: Direct all available resources towards the Oppressed. Step 3: Fuck the oppressor up, if you can. Though you probably won't be able to. #lesigh #patriarchyamirite"

Of course, that is totally understandable. When you live in a society that systematically fails to punish perpetrators, and willfully ignores your calls to punish them, where else does that lead besides a laser-focus on self care and becoming psychotically obsessed with trying to punishing perpetrators?

And Men's Rights has a totally impoverished accounting of the situation, being able to say little more than "Not all men!" and "Women are perpetrators too!" which doesn't advance the dialog at all either. Those are orthogonal situations, and don't address the underlying issue which is that the victim/perpetrator dialectic obscures the root of violence, so it can never be pulled out.

We should all listen more carefully to the black civil rights community, who is leaps and bounds beyond the rest of us in drawing a nuanced picture of violence and ways to see through it to community healing.

Quite a astute connection to compare the black civil rights community handling of crime and violence with and Men's Rights handling of the issue of rape. The "Not all men!", or "Judge me not for the color of my skin" both address the problem of conflating a demographic with a crime. This results naturally in a very defense attitude for those that are born into the accused group without addressing any underlying issues.

Now the question I wonder is if the change in the discussion regarding crime and race was caused by the black civil rights community, or if it was caused by society in large realizing that there is better social theories to explain the statistics.

Man. Great reply.

opposite of feminism/social justice is not 'women should be raped', opposite is 'weak should not be helped and left to die'.

Voat were approached by VCs at one point though:


Not sure how it turned out, but investors were apparently interested in investing in them. And may have raised a decent amount of cash through the process as well.

Can't help but to feel a tiny bit of schadenfreude since they locked themselves into proprietary platforms and now are desperately trying to claw themselves out of it into the warmth of open source.

Their problem isn't paying for proprietary software, their problem is that they are unable to make any money.

Not proprietary software, but really overpriced cloud platforms.

There are so many viable businesses that burn themselves to the ground because they think they need to run everything on EC2/Azure and pay 10x what they need to.

Cloud hosting allows a startup to scale quickly. This is very important to seize opportunities as they arise without having to wait for physical servers to be shipped into the data center. OTOH, last time I looked at their source code, it didn't seem like they were making a serious effort towards efficient data access patterns. This can get very expensive on a cloud DB service.

Anyways, if monthly costs of a little bit more than $6000 are enough to sink the ship, then the whole thing isn't financially viable. Sooner or later you have to pay people to maintain the whole thing, and that is going to be a lot more expensive.

either*, and I wouldn't use voat as a yardstick - it's had its own slew of fairly poor decisions and has likely not evolved out of the "run as a side project" mentality it was founded with (though idk, haven't been keeping tabs.)

Yeah, ~10 employees in SF + office rent + other various costs (lawyers, accountants, the odd office party, etc.) will easily burn through $4M a year.

Edit: oh wait, that's $8M in October 2016, not 2015 - ie 8 months ago. Burning $1M a month does seem quite high. Maybe they're shutting down early to give some money back to investors?

We're in SLC and still have the majority of that money left.

Are you working on another startup? Will you use that money to finance the new startup?

Good on you!

To many startups these days just try to throw good money after bad.

I know it's probably out of your hands but if you could AGPL the codebase, pitch decks, etc. It would be wonderful to help ppl learn, if nothing else.


Salt Lake City

I'll bet either they're returning some of that to investors, or the money was tranched to begin with and contingent on a certain amount of growth.

Reddit itself is not a successful business project.

It is if your goal is to control (or at least influence) the Internet zeitgeist without appearing to...

That's a propaganda success, not a business success. Reddit has always lost money, and continues to lose money quarter after quarter.

My theory - Reddit is kept alive by YC and YC-affiliates to keep the "hype" engine around their investments alive. In other words "remember, this is from the smart people that invested in the Frontpage of the Internet™!"

Keep in mind that Reddit was pretty much PG's idea, not the founders'.

Since when is being associated with Reddit a huge signal of success, esp. compared to other sucessful startups?

Since it's been on the homepage of the YC website: http://www.ycombinator.com/ and regularly gets talked about as being association with YC's success: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y_Combinator_(company)

Serena Williams might have an opinion on that.

Now, it has grown in stature.

It is not successful for the owners. It has been a very successful project for native advertisers of all stripes, and people that are insane politically (of all stripes).

How did they spend $8M in one year?

The pic in your linked article shows 12 people. If they didn't have traction, they shouldn't have exorbitant server costs either.

So where's it all go?

They didn't spend them all: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14411586

I run an online community. Building a safe space is extremely difficult and full of grey area, online or offline.

There's a fine line between the freedom to express yourself and offending someone else. As a community moderator, choosing what is and isn't offensive is by definition subjective. It's an impossible task for a global, multi-cultural community. You end up with a vanilla message board where most interesting thought/debate is stifled. Reminds me of the campus "safe space" debate.

You really don't want to cater to the easily offendable, imo.

I remember writing an ebook on affiliate marketing when it was a new thing (free for email subscribers), which had the word Bullshit stamped on an image. Two people said maybe I should tone down the language heh.

Fuck right off, buddy :D

This. The easily offended are a tiny minority, and those who attempt to cater for them too much have usually had their product or business fail.

Don't worry about people in a community who get easily offended. If they like the community they'll stay, if not then there's not really anything lost.


Please don't post ideological rants to HN. It degrades discussion regardless of how correct your underlying point is.

I feel that you're making a lot of assumptions about a stranger. Also, the groups of 'oppressed' and 'easily offended' people don't perfectly overlap. Overall I find your comment confusing because I'm not as 'caught up' with this movement but I'd love to hear more of your thoughts if you feel like elaborating. Maybe try using small words like Trump does.

The advantage of being someone who doesn't cater to the offended is you can respond to something like this by saying:

"Lol! You nailed it. Fortunately for me, I don't care. You mad bro?"

It seems perverse that I only learn about a lot of products when news of their shutdown hits HN. I'm not exactly sure I'm sure what Imzy is for, but it seems in some ways similar to a concept I had for online communities built around discussion of content. Might have been right up my alley.

> I'm not exactly sure I'm sure what Imzy is for

If I recall, it got started right around the time there was a lot of shenanigans going on at Reddit around corporate drama, censorship, and the nastier subreddits. Imzy and Voat popped up to try to offer an alternative. (My impression is that Imzy was aiming for less awfulness and Voat aims for less censorship.)

It was basically aiming to be a nice, polite version of Reddit.

So, what would Imzy do when a user started acting "not nice"?

Because if they're forced to act nice, most people will just quit. Nobody's nice all the time (everybody has problems), and online communities are great for when you want to vent once in a while.

Plus, all the nicety invites narcissistic assholes who think they are better than everyone else.

I've never heard of Imzy either, and I think I keep up with all the potentially interesting stuff online. Launched in 2016 and not a single time I've even read the name.

They'd probably ban them.

Unfortunately, having your site based around the idea of throwing up barriers to entry, and kicking people out, isn't good for user growth.

> seems in some ways similar to a concept I had for online communities built around discussion of content.

Like Reddit?

A little, but organized more so on individuals and groups than verticals.

Reddit's new profile, Digg v4 both tried this.

Both were not popular with the userbase.

Like Google Plus Circles? :P

> online communities built around discussion of content

this is an hard thing to enter into. specifically, it scores just 3 on the 5 startup needs, specifically:

- requires content to attract user

- requires users to attract users

yes this is something that exists mostly in my mind, but works most of the time.

October 2016: https://techcrunch.com/2016/10/26/imzy

"We now have a number of years to take our time and get the community thing right."

Less then a year later they give up. Why? Some minutes ago, there was a post of the founder here saying they still have most of that $8m: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14411586

I worked on https://microco.sm with mattrco and it was forum/community software too. It looks like https://www.lfgss.com/

The #1 problem with a community startup: Every community is itself a startup.

The revenue math and compounded growth all makes sense, but you need to assume that few of your communities survive, and that they each take as long as a startup to get traction and grow.

If it takes you 1 year to get an MVP of sufficient quality to start attracting communities, it's still going to take the community at least a year to have sufficient attractiveness to bring in members. And it's unlikely that either will take as short as a year, and if it did that isn't going to be enough to bring in another round of funds to keep going.

Community startups are hard.

"Community startups are hard."

Ain't that the truth. I've got scars to prove it.

microcosm looks very sleek, congrats

I spent 5 minutes on the site, and I still have no clue what it is... I would like to know, since it's interesting to understand what people have tried and gave up on.

It was like reddit with a shinier but harder to use UI, and less racists.

> shinier but harder to use

give it time. reddit's not done shittying up their UI - hell, they're just getting started :)

Yeah, did you see this?



They need to get rid of the sidebar. How often are you thinking I wish I could read the subreddit rules and moderator list constantly while I am browsing content? Obviously the sidebar content has value to be placed somewhere, but the sidebar along with 95% of custom CSS make the site even uglier than it needs to be.

> less racists

isn't that mostly a function of the userbase? any social network is bounded to attract radicals from all sides, especially one that allows anonymous users, and those are the ones that produces the highest content/user

Fewer racists. Or did you actually mean people who on average were less racist?

"Less" is correct, and your interpretation is ungrammatical.

Here is what the experts (linguists) have to say:

> less has been used of countables in English for just about as long as there has been a written English language

-- http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/myl/languagelog/archives/003775.ht...

I'm amazed how large this (still small) subset of people is that suddenly can't understand the meaning of the word "less" when used for countable nouns. Strangely I've never encountered one in person, only on reddit and hackernews, and in fiction.

It seems such a strange place to suddenly misunderstand what seems to be a relatively straightforward and simple use of the word.

It means "a smaller quanitity of", just the same as it does when used for uncountable nouns, and as far as I can think of, it was very clear in that context with no conflict or ambiguity.

Imzy was a nice place to be.

Some of the problems I had:

1) The interface was confusing. Making posts was confusing.

2) Users were allowed to create communities, and they did. There were a gajillion of very tiny communities. This fragments the userbase and makes each tiny community seem dead.

3) Not enough users. Seriously, seeding the community with posts is a good thing. It sets tone and gives people something to interact with. If you're a startup in this space you need to hire a few people on minimum wage and get them to spend 9 hours a day making posts on different accounts.

It's a shame to see it go.

4) login required. Seeded content does nothing to attract new users when behind a wall. Hell, I had an account and the content still felt a degree removed from when I wanted it. Even a static cached digest would at least attract new users.

Agree on it being a shame though. Imzy was founded by a contingent of "the good admins" who've left reddit, as far as I can tell.

Required login is a problem.

I tried switching to them a few months back as I was tired of the negative stuff on reddit so reddit but nice was awesome sounding. After a day someone posted a bunch of spam posts in one of the communities in the form of "hey I came across this blog suggesting this what do you think" same user multiple links to the same blog with each article trying to sell the same supplement affiliate offer. I reported it as spam and was told that they'd just hired a spam expert who determined it wasn't spam. I decided that if their spam matster couldn't recognise affiliate offer spam the place would be 90% affiliate offers soon enough as the affiliate forums heard about it so I stopped visiting that very day.

"The site will go dark on June 23rd."

(1) Two years is too little time to create a Reddit alternative (2) shutting it down in less than 30 days is really bad.

I think both sides on "too little time" are right. It's certainly true that going slow and steady and waiting for the incumbent to show weakness is sometimes a viable strategy, and that it can take a long time for communities to grow from a handful of users to millions.

It's just that when you take $8M+ of VC money, they don't want to wait around. They want "dat hockey stick" within a couple of quarters. I think it's wise and honorable for Imzy to recognize that they're unable to satisfy those conditions and bow out instead of continuing to blow investor money and keep the staff on a dead-end job.

Imzy is offering data export, which is unusually good for a shutdown of such an early-stage startup.

Reddit took off within months of its launch. ~30 days to download data is pretty standard.

Reddit spammed fake comments for months in order to gain traction...


(I'm not proposing Vice as a great source, but it's the first thing that came up on google.)

I first checked them out the day they opened (July 05), and was using them daily by January 06. There were definitely real people and a growing community by then.

I wouldn't attribute their success to fake accounts, although the fake accounts were probably necessary to seed the community. Rather, they took off once they added comments (Dec 05, IIRC). It's the same story as Whatsapp (messaging), YouTube (related videos), and AirBnB (pro photos): there was one feature that they really needed for product/market fit, and once they added it, people started using the product on their own.

Steve Huffman himself attributes early success to the spam campaign.

Yep, because otherwise the site would have seemed like a ghost town despite growing because of the 1-9-90 rule. They had to keep submissions going until they attracted the 10% of users that makes a community truly come alive.

Reddit gained traction because its frontpage was accessible to everyone (no signup) and it updated more frequently than Digg. The stuff you read on reddit turned up on Digg later and slashdot days later. Eventually you stopped going to Digg because you'd read everything already on reddit.

Last I heard (in 2016), reddit was not yet profitable, but were working towards it.

Feel free to provide them another round of funding. 2 years is plenty of time.

Agreed about two years. I feel they jumped the gun to make it into a business when it was just a site.

Reddit was already sold to Conde Nast after 16 months.

nothing on the home page or "learn more" link actually shows anything about the site, just that it's yet another online community. I'm not surprised this shut down so quickly, you're giving almost no details to the user at all about how it works, what it looks like, or any sort of interactive demo. requiring someone to sign up just to see it in action is silly.

I wonder what their bounce rate was. Seems like such a strange decision to put a community behind mandatory registration… should have dropped you into some public topics instead.

How in the world did they raised 8 Million a mere 8 months ago is baffling to me

I don't know anything about Imzy but this page traps my back button. I hate that :(

Whenever I see a startup shutting down, sadly, my first thought is: Who? Granted I don't work in technology, but I'm a big user, fan, consumer, etc. So I have to wonder: Am I just missing these companies, is their market too narrow, or do they have trouble reaching a larger audience?

Hey, Imzy is the first one of those startups you are talking about, that I did know before reading its "incredible journey" message :-) It's also one of the very few the purpose of which I understood.

Granted, I didn't think it was a startup but a hobby project run by 2 or 3 volunteers on their free time... That millions and millions are invested in such projects is a mystery to me.

What was this? It appears to be some sort of community, yet the front page offers zero discoverability?

I'm on HackerNews multiple times every day.

Imzy is a company that came, raised over $10MM in funding, and went out of business in 7 months. This is the first I've heard of them.

How on earth does that happen? It's inexplicable.

"The CEO worked for reddit... therefore he passes our elitist / in-group biases! Let's throw money at him... oops"

We were actually a company just shy of 2 years.

You were a /usable platform/ for just shy of 7 months.

Being a company and having a usable product are not similar things.

How do you burn through 8 million dollars in 2 years on what's basically a forum? This is crazy.

bay area salaries?

They are front Salt Lake City

If you will miss Imzy, check out Lyra - we're a nonprofit conversation service which respects language and the reader's attention. www.hellolyra.com

We're also a nonprofit and don't accept ad revenue or investment, so please excuse the plug. In contrast to Imzy, we're more focussed on conversation than community-building, but this enables us to make our sharing model harrassment-proof by design.

Just checked your home page. Really no idea what the service is after 3 seconds of looking. Sadly, that's all most people are going to give you when they land on your website.

That's too bad. I tried it out, made an account and posted and everything, but there were too few people and everything was very tricky to figure out.

I wish there was a simple Reddit clone that focused on positivity, like Imzy, but it seems that all of these things are way too expensive.

I mean cmon, eight million dollars (in the last round alone) wasn't enough to keep a link sharing site alive? How is that possible? What on earth were they spending that money on?

I sort of don't like how centralized Reddit is, but there is indeed a subreddit for everything.

UpliftingNews, Wholesomememes seem to be very popular, positive shit being the main content

I clearly remember when Imzy and Voat sprung up out of reddit turbulence, trying to ride a wave of discontent in the reddit community.

I'm sorry to say I was cynical and doubted they would last.

You can't force a community to happen. I never followed Voat but I did give imzy a chance and the feeling was very much that they were trying to force a community.

Personally I think the best chance of building a community is to build it around a service. Look at reddit and imgur for examples. They both started out offering a pretty specific service to users but grew into communities because people could use the service in a social way.

I believe there are other examples of this but mentioning instagram feels silly since they're now owned by THE largest community. But it's the same thing, they were a photo website and now every 13 year old is there.

I'm sure there are more examples of this. Offer a service to people, something mildly useful or entertaining, and attach a social aspect to it and I'm sure you'll get a community to spring up.


This article by Chris Dixon sums up what you're trying to say — couldn't agree more with it!

I checked out Imzy a couple of weeks ago:

1. Barrier to entry was a login (I had previously gone here and left when it first started, and didn't sign in. I eventually created an account just to check it out.)

2. Interface was confusing

3. Exploration felt difficult

4. It wasn't immediately obvious why I was there

5. Not enough juice/content to bring me back

tl;dr: Social networks + open domain communities are hard.


I'm actually curious about the internal analytics and feedback processes and KPIs use to make design and development decisions on the site.

That would be the most useful outcome of all of this: what tools they used, what drove their decisions, and why that control loop failed.

This was inevitable from the very beginning. Disagreement forms the kernel of worthwhile discussion.

An argument can also be made that "echo-chamber bubbles" are affecting people personally, intellectually, and culturally in tremendously harmful ways, so this is a very tiny step in the right direction.

Can that argument be made persuasively, though? I for one do not enjoy online "debating" one bit and try to avoid it as much as possible. I see it mostly as people shouting at each other.

Meanwhile, the best "debates" I've ever had were with people within what could arguably be described as my "filter bubble."

Imzy suffered from the big launch syndrome which always fails, instead they should have applied the proven path approach http://course.feverbee.com/the-proven-path/theprovenpath.pdf community startups are hard but success is possible with lots of patience, i run https://www.kenyatalk.com/index.php and can vouch for the proven path

I like Imzy and am sad they are shutting down.

Reddit needs alternatives to it that works better.

I am working with someone to open source their Kr5ddit code on Github by rewriting it. Look at http://k666.kr5ddit.com which is a start with no money invested yet. Look at http://kr5ddit.com to see how it uses bitcoins to buy Kr5ddits used to moderate stories and comments. It is not complete yet, but it is a good idea and allows anonymous posts without an account, but you can't earn kr5ddits without an account. Imzy tequired invites to get an account.

Why does Reddit need alternatives?

What would "works better" entail?

My team and I launched a Reddit-like platform called Snapzu (http://snapzu.com) in 2013, a couple years before Imzy launched and I know exactly what the struggles/hurdles are in building community and generating consistent but vital user growth. | However, we are extremely lean (all of us are working part time and out of pocket) so our monthly costs of operations are extremely low, allowing us to keep going. We also have no outside funding, so basically no investors breathing down our necks, or any rush to monetize.

That being said, our original base plan (like Imzy's) never really materialized (because of the harsh "network effects" AKA "chicken or egg problem"), so we've since pivoted allowing us to use most of our core tech (of which we admit we slightly over-built at the time) in a separate (but still completely tied in) SaaS-like service that allows bloggers to have their own Reddit-like communities for their blogs.

Utilizing a voting community on a blog brings several previously untapped benefits which I won't get into here, but our recently launched landing page at the Blog Enhancement Suite (http://blogenhancement.com) explains it. Note: It's still a work in progress and we're playing around and A/B testing the copy, but the service is live.

I've been paying attention to and observing Imzy ever since I learned about it, which was shortly after their launch. Some mistakes I feel they made, right off the top of my head:

1. No front page (for lurkers): They force users to join to be able to view content. The 90/9/1 rule is real, ESPECIALLY in the "community" space. 90% of users just want to lurk and that's just the nature of the internet. It's probably the same here on HN. 9% will participate in some ways, voting, etc. 1% will submit and comment, etc.

2. Lacking in social media: I've been following the @Imzy Twitter account for the entire duration, and most of their Twitter activity basically stopped approx 5-6 months ago. At that point I had a feeling that they we're starting to "give up" because it likely wasn't effective enough for the time they we're dedicating to it. We faced that exact problem, but we split up our content into 15 main categories (science, gaming, politics, tech, etc) and have Twitter, Medium, Wordpress, etc profiles for each. We then automated them using IFTTT using our category RSS feeds so that each account automatically tweets/shares the best posts as submitted by our users into said category.

3. No real target market: It's really hard to get people to stick around when most of them DO NOT share most common interests. Again, it's why we made sure to categorize the content so that people that want Science stuff can easily find it and/or subscribe to the Science RSS, follow the Science Twitter account, etc. We now also only focus on attracting bloggers, our new REAL target market (in a business sense) after the pivot.

4. Giveaways: Imzy was giving away all these plushys and stickers and stuff in return for loyalty. I just don't believe many people care about gimmicky things like that and it must drive up the costs/expenses that could otherwise be spent elsewhere with more effectiveness.

Imzy IMHO also did a lot right. I envy their PR tactics/strategy, as they got mentioned on all the top tech sites numerous times. Their devs/team made a solid app/website.

I wish the Imzy folks best of luck in their future endeavors.

I'd be interested in snapzu, but when I put in my email to request an invite, it says "already registered", yet when I try to log in, it says "email not in our database".

If you're looking to create your own community, I run a small tool called HelloBox


We started as a "build your own HackerNews" then we transitioned it to a "build your community" tool. We've been going for about 3 years - a plenty of work to do and undergoing a pretty big re-design at the moment.

Do you think if you pivoted into a niche like drivetribe you could have survived?


I still didn't get my stickers....

What did Imzy do? Anyone know?

They were a Reddit clone that tried to be more mainstream both in UX and content moderation.

Reddit never would have been reddit without gonewild and jailbait.

Here is a TechCrunch piece from last year:


Oh, I thought Imzy was putting on a show. Character looked fun!

Sounds like it had nothing to do with the project...

The execution overall at Imzy seems lazy. Kind of shocked that a founding team that raised an A last October is folding in May. Embarrassing performance all around.

I'll miss the community. Really nice folks. :-(

Been on there for a while, but not posting much as... there isn't much to post about. Something of a pity, but also very expected.

Overall execution feels lazy. Can't believe someone funded this team at a series A at that valuation.

How did they go about promoting the site? I ask only because I have never even heard of Imzy until just now.

There were a couple of splashes of coverage about June/July 2016, and again in October. Faded out quickly after that.

Turns out the vast majority of people don't want to spend their lives in a permanent "safe space"[0]. That was a fast flameout

[0] https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/25/a-chat-with-imzy-co-founde...

I don't see what's massively objectionable about wanting to build a community based on tolerance, kindness and mutual respect.

It's not objectionable, it's just impossible. Well, not completely impossible, you can do that if all you allow is pictures of food, kittens and flowers and people responding with the thumbs up emoji (actually I'm not so sure about food anymore).

But at soon as you allow discussion of something even slightly substantive people will start to perceive some opinions as attacks on their ego.

No matter how rational and dispassionate an argument objectively is, someone will perceive it as violence.

What happens is that "tolerance, kindness and mutual respect" becomes "protection of the moderator's ego" and adherence to an ever expanding set of intellectual dogmas.

It is a great idea for sure but "tolerance, kindness and mutual respect" live on a spectrum... and people are all at different points on it.

What I find funny you might find offensive (thats how humor works some times) by trying to have rules and enforce them your always pissing someone off... the less you have the better and let people be their own filter.

Problem is, that's not what it was in reality.

Worse, several of the interaction, UI/UX, and management decisions simply amplified the initial bias (as is often the case).

Imzy was doomed out of the gate, despite some interesting ideas.

It's an existential threat for people who want to be intolerant, unkind, and disrespectful, because it makes it clear that spaces that don't accept such behavior end up being at least as productive and as useful for the world as spaces that do.

Therefore it's extremely important for such people to establish the world as a a safe space against safe spaces, and to push the idea that such spaces are untenable or morally bad or whatever will avoid more of those spaces existing.

I make an effort to not be intolerant but I have found myself being attacked for holding beliefs and political positions that are "outside of the mainstream" and there are people who can not tolerate that.

I like that they made the attempt to build this but I would have never joined it because I could see myself getting into conflicts because of my beliefs.

Would you join a Subreddit which reinforces these political beliefs and is that not a safe space in itself?

It seems to me that everywhere on the internet that you might class as a 'haven of free speech' (whether it's 4chan, Twitter, Mumsnet or Atheists Rationalist Skeptics Anonymous) comes with an underlying set of social norms which to some extent preconfigure the kind of debate that will happen there. Imzy is just another one of those, no?

Would you join a Subreddit which reinforces these political beliefs and is that not a safe space in itself?

If I understand your question, yes. I would join such a Subreddit because an echo-chamber isn't what I seek.

I completely agree with forbidding things like doxing or making threats of violence but I'm concerned that "Safe spaces" only encourage intolerance towards other points of view.

Disagreement is good. Maybe I'm wrong and you can show me a side that I had never considered. Maybe you're wrong and I can present an argument that changes how you think about something. I have had my mind changed by a persuasive argument in the past. Perhaps I will again in the future. I have friends that I have seen change their views over time and I hope that I was at least a part of what caused them to change on those issues.

> If I understand your question, yes. I would join such a Subreddit because an echo-chamber isn't what I seek.


> I completely agree with forbidding things like doxing or making threats of violence but I'm concerned that "Safe spaces" only encourage intolerance towards other points of view.

Now now. If I went on /r/the_donald and started leaving comments about Gun Control, Trans Rights and Abortion, you and I both have a fairly good idea what would happen.

How do I know that? Well, a giant Pepe the fucking Frog fills half the screen when I even load the page, for a start, and I literally cannot upvote in /r/the_donald until I click the frog and subscribe. It's the online equivalent of a pub hanging a sign on the door saying who it welcomes in. Sure, you can ignore it, but are you really going to?

It's a de facto safe space. In fact, it's not even really a de-facto safe space, given Rule VI of The Donald is "This forum is for Trump supporters only." and if rule VII - "No linking to other sub-reddits" doesn't make it an echo chamber, I don't know what does.

Likewise, If I went on a Democrats subreddit and started raising Republican talking points, I'd be shown the door pretty quickly.

The issue isn't "pro" or "anti" safe-spaces, because everywhere is a safe space to someone. It's when people start to get selective about which safe spaces they're going to allow that gets to people.

> Now now. If I went on /r/the_donald and started leaving comments about Gun Control, Trans Rights and Abortion, you and I both have a fairly good idea what would happen.

/r/the_donald has become (or maybe always was) a safe space for 1488 identitarians. Things like /r/The_Donald and Stormfront are part of the problem just as much as safe space policies.

> Well, a giant Pepe the fucking Frog fills half the screen when I even load the page, for a start, and I literally cannot upvote in /r/the_donald until I click the frog and subscribe

Disable custom CSS, it's a dumb feature anyway.

Alternatively, you can close your eyes, cover your ears, turn off the radio, change the channel, close the browser, do literally anything else. Some people are anti-censorship in all its forms, but you have a nice straw man going there. Freedom of speech, freedom of thought

That's a pretty funny comment to make on Hacker News, which is regularly accused of being a hivemind and downvoting comments / censoring stories that challenge its ideologies.

Wasn't this a real-world, put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is bet that people wanted a heavily moderated forum for communication?

Yes, but it's not at all clear to me that it failed because that bet failed. It's not at all clear to me why it failed, period -- the post says that they "were not able to find our place in the market", which could mean lots of things, e.g., that there were lots of users but no obvious monetization strategy.

In general, "Startup X failed" is extremely weak evidence for "People don't want the product that startup X was building." Take Rdio for example: given the success of Spotify, Amazon Music, and others, it would be absolutely incorrect to conclude from Rdio's failure that people didn't want on-demand music in their browser or a mobile app for a fixed fee.

The comment being ironic-in-context doesn't make it any the less true.

It absolutely does -- Hacker News is popular, so it serves as a counterexample to the implication that a "safe space" website is doomed to being unpopular.

Looks like a wonderful product. Too bad I find out about it on the day they're shutting down.

Why are you shutting down so soon? ~2 years doesn't seem like a very long time.

Will you guys follow the trend recently and Open Source your code base?

yet another startup I only hear about when they are shutting down.

Agreed. Why is that, and how can it be avoided? I guess that's the million dollar question.

that's probably why they are shutting down?

Bad marketing?


Please don't post like this here.

I would prefer a way of downvoting things like this but i can't. Instead i read it because it was posted.

Is there a relevant amount on information of going out of business, no one used and no one cared for?

Surprise, surprise. Last time I heared something about Imzy was when they were handing out beta invites.

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