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Urban Airship to shut down SimpleGeo (urbanairship.com)
74 points by mikeocool on Jan 12, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 60 comments

> In order to deliver on this aggressive vision in the shortest amount of time possible, we need to focus our product development efforts.

Let me get this straight. You want to focus on developing your product, but you want your customers to focus on migrating to another provider so that you can focus on your product. This is a pretty shitty way to treat a paying customer. A two and a half month notice is basically a fuck you, I'd be surprised if you kept any of those customers.

> I'd be surprised if you kept any of those customers.

So would I, considering they're shutting down the product...

Roughly three months warning, plus free service during that time, plus free Urban Airship Pro for six months seems pretty reasonable to me. What length of time would you have considered fair?

3 months of warning for the shutdown of a product with no drop-in alternatives is really an insult. Look closely at the migration page (https://support.urbanairship.com/customer/portal/articles/31...) and you'll get a sense of the effort to replace SimpleGeo. For instance, the recommendation for users of the Context product is to read the Wikipedia page on R-trees, then download various census etc. data to replicate the functionality in-house.

This isn't about users being too lazy to switch to option B, this is about SimpleGeo building an innovative service and then abandoning its paying users.

Can't say I agree with you about us "abandoning" our users. SimpleGeo was acquired by Urban Airship and the decision was made to discontinue the service. Disappointing, sure.

I don't see how your comment explains anything or makes it seem better. You sold the company to a company that wasn't committed, and your users are suffering for it.

I like that phrasing, "The decision was made." Like it was an unstoppable edict from God himself. I can't speak for anyone else but I never support the future endeavours of a dev that treats me like that.

I'm your customer, and if you sell me to another organization you better make damn sure that organization has my interests at heart, or you'll never see me as a customer again. YOU dropped the ball. Passing the buck only makes you feel temporarily better, it doesn't actually make anything better.

I think you just disagree with my choice of words. But to the extent that a Web business can abandon its customers, this is what it looks like.

That's just passing the buck, and besides, "you" didn't abandon SimpleGeo users, UA did.

   SimpleGeo building an innovative service and then abandoning its paying users
well, that's what companies do when they fail, go out of business, or are acquihired, ie a business failure by another name

No, that's what Urban Airship decided to do with the service they bought. We're dealing with the only continuing entity in the equation here, Urban Airship, which is not going out of business. Urban Airship is making the decision to abandon their customers (they bought them) in a crappy manner.

Without working at Urban Airship or SimpleGeo (or being close to someone who does), how would one know that when Urban Airship said they were excited to acquire SimpleGeo to continue improving the service that it was BS, and that the search for a replacement should have been started?

More to the point, a more trustworthy company would comport in such a way that its paying customers don't need to know the difference. In this case, that might mean open sourcing components or giving enough notice that their customers could reasonably transition. A link to the R-Tree wikipedia page is not what I'd expect from a reliable vendor.

Urban Airship "bought" SimpleGeo, a failed service. Where "bought" means forcibly swallowed it based on VC pressure.

Anyone with half a clue could have seen this coming a mile away.

Why would you spend time and effort developing a failed product you didn't create when your highly successful product is your main focus?

Move along, nothing to see here.

People probably developed for the API before SimpleGeo was in trouble. Those who already invested in the API hoped that UrbanAirship would continue the SimpleGeo brand, perhaps with better management. It would appear that UrbanAirship spent a couple million just to try & snag customers.

Essentially they've punched a hole in the SimpleGeo life raft & are offering parachutes & life raft building instructions to the now drowning customers. Some will be hostile to these actions.

> how would one know that when Urban Airship said they were excited to acquire SimpleGeo to continue improving the service that it was BS, and that the search for a replacement should have been started?

As a reader of HN, one would expect that acquired products are almost always shuttered within a year. Customers that didn't have year-ahead contracts are exposed to that high-probability risk.

@foobarbazetc: you seem to know an awful lot about the SimpleGeo acquisition. Which VCs were forcing Urban Airship to do the deal?

The free service etc are lovely perks, but a year of notice would be nice.

I really love SimpleGeos logos, but I have never grokked what problem they really solve for the user, but I totally get what urban airship solves. I've done a couple of app project with geo data but I don't see any benefit of having that part as a separate service.

This is such fantastic logo and identity design work: http://softfacade.com/simplegeo.html

Thanks for posting this link! I've always wondered who designed the beautiful icons on their pages, and it's even more remarkable to see them in high-res.

They charge like $30k+ for website design - they better be good. SimpleGeo made someone money - a web design firm!

SoftFacade didn't design the SimpleGeo website, I did :)

Could you post your contact info on your HN profile, so I can get in touch with you?

i'm not available for work, but you can find me at www.callmejeffrey.com

Ha, that's why I love HN!

Ok - the icons cost a lot though I'm sure ;-).

I have that sticker on my laptop, it started so many conversations when I'm coding in a cafe.... http://twitpic.com/86jy4y

Though I guess now it's a very different story to tell, compared to less then a year ago when I was hanging out with the SimpleGeo guys, it still going full speed ahead.

So they didn't buy SG to get the founders, and aren't going to use the tech, so all that's left is customers, which they're not going to keep using a transition strategy like this.

I don't get it...

they are going to use the tech, just as a feature of their push product, rather than as its own offering.

Yeah, the straightforward reading is that they are folding the tech into their flagship product instead of running multiple products.

That's what they're trying to do, but by forcing the users to adapt rather than adapting on the product side. Certainly doesn't feel like a user-centric approach.

Engineers other than the founders?

They could have just been hired directly. Why bother acquiring if you have no interest in 1) the IP, 2) the founders or management team, or 3) the customers?

It's not that simple to hire. They acquired a team specialized in geolocation that worked together for a while. Might be worth its weight in gold.

We were actually just starting to use SimpleGeo for storage and lookup. We need to geocode the points and their added benefit of weather/location info was a plus. Does anybody know of a good alternative?

Edit: Here is a great list of alternatives https://support.urbanairship.com/customer/portal/articles/31...

It's depressing how little trust you can put in web services these days. I'd considered using SimpleGeo for a project and, like most people who did, it would have been a major component. Phew!

Antics like this make me distrust all web services in the future. They've got to have a really strong income stream and most definitely not a target of a talent acquisition, if I'm to rely on them.

We all know SimpleGeo was a failure. It doesn't count as an acquisition. It failed, and the founders moved on to Urban Airship.

The co-founders left to work on new ventures. There's Joe Stump's Sprint.ly, and Matt Galligan's Circa.

For anyone that is trying to find something on Circa ... seems it is still in stealth. Might save you some time Googling.

To be fair, that's not true at all. It was an acquisition in every sense of the word at the time. SimpleGeo, customers, tech and team were acquired (apart from us founders).

Was SimpleGeo not profitable? Is there a particular part of the service that is more popular?

It seems this is the accepted wisdom among the posters here. For those of us not in the Valley/Portland, what were the signs that an acquisition was due to business failure?

One poster said most companies that get acquired are shut down within the year (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3458414). This appears ridiculous on its face (or there needs to be a mass migration from Heroku), but what other symptoms should folks have been looking for here? I'm interested in objective measures that one might reasonably use in evaluating vendors. I'm specifically not interested in things like how many/few job postings they run on Stack Overflow, the chatter at the last San Jose Ruby Meetup, VC blog posts, etc.

Well, one sign is that the exit price was about a third of the money they raised.

Thanks for the help, but that's not exactly what I was looking for. For instance, I'd have needed ready access to the amount of their total capital raise and the exit price. Exit prices are usually not published, and I don't believe this one was published. So that's still kind of an "Inside Baseball" answer. I was looking for more objective answers, but perhaps the only way anyone here knew SimpleGeo was doomed was by staying current on the scuttlebutt. Unfortunately, that doesn't really scale.

I think what really happened is that Urban Airship discovered the SimpleGeo service was really crappy and decided it needed to shut it down as soon as possible to avoir eternel peril...

SimpleGeo has rewritten its platform several times (project GISele, then project Penelope), it was done by people who thought they knew how to do geosearch, but they really had no idea, for example they never offered polygon search, they also only offered tag search a few weeks prior to being acquired, and it was done by a girl who left the company like a week after her feature went live.

This company was probably a scam from day one, it only got money because its founders were reknown.

Not sure where you're getting your information, but it's almost entirely wrong. GISelle is the same tech as Penelope. It was renamed because there was a trademark issue. Polygon search has been implemented for some time, but was delayed for product reasons (it's actually live, just undocumented). Tag indexing was launched with SimpleGeo storage from day one. Indexing of all properties by default happened several months before the acquisition. Both features were developed by people who are still at the company.

The company was acquired because it has real, defensible technology. If you're going to talk shit, at least get your facts straight.

Really disappointed to hear this news. The SimpleGeo Context API gas been a really great resource for geographic data that isn't otherwise easily/affordably available, like neighborhood boundaries.

zillow distributes free kml files for the neighborhood boundaries.

Edit: here is the link http://www.zillow.com/howto/api/neighborhood-boundaries.htm

Yeah, I've looked at those a while ago and it seemed that few cities, particularly NYC, the data was some what low quality. It was either really lacking in certain areas or the neighborhood boundaries were far off from what people who actually live in the city consider to be the boundaries.

Although perhaps they've gotten better, I'll give them a look.

That link is old, but another resource to look into is http://www.openstreetmap.org/

Is there a good implementation guide for using the kml data to lookup a neighborhood given a lat,lng? I considered the Zillow files prior to using SimpleGeo, but implementing a spatial database in MySQL seemed very complex in comparison to a simple CURL request. Perhaps, this is worth another look.

I definitely wasn't happy when I heard the news as I now have to rebuild some production code. However, I always had the feeling that relying on a smaller provider for critical data was a risk -- the SimpleGeo API was just too easy to pass up.

It appears that Factual might be picking up some of the slack. I'm also looking into Google Maps API again. Oh well -- no sense worrying about it; just need to learn and move on.

"Why did SimpleGeo fail?

1. You could mean "to dwindle, pass, or die away". To this definition, I would say that no, in fact, SimpleGeo did not die, as it's going to be thriving at Urban Airship, working towards a larger goal of building a powerful mobile infrastructure company." - Matt Galligan, SimpleGeo Co-Founder


Anyone know of any sites using SimpleGeo for their location infrastructure?

We use it at reddit/redditgifts. Really bummed.

I'd been considering using it through Heroku to be able to find nearby bus/train stops in a public transit mobile web app. I see that SpacialDB is in private beta as a Heroku addon (http://addons.heroku.com/spacialdb) - does anyone have SpacialDB experience? I'm looking to find nearby points out of a database of ~5000 locations, namely all the public transit stops in the Boston area.

Hi Andrew, would love to have you to try out SpacialDB, just send me an email at info~at~spacialdb~dot~com and I'd be very happy to send you a beta invite.

With SpacialDB, we wanted the best of both worlds, traditional GIS and Web, RT & Mobile-Centric APIs.

The way we did this was to let users provision databases, then import any geodata (points,lines,polygons 2 or 3D) into SpacialDB and either use a raw PostgreSQL connection (from a pool) or our REST API (http://devcenter.spacialdb.com/Layers-API-v1-Documentation.h...) to query it - its super useful for building geo-apps quickly.

In fact, initially that's why we built it; we need a quick way to get going for a lot of the disaster response work we do at nomad-labs (geospatial.nomad-labs.com)

We were using it in a yet to be released iPhone app as part of a venue locator. Specifically, we had various Storage layers with venues and other points of interest. Our client would have been able to add and remove POIs easily without updating the iOS app, layers could be turned off and on, etc. Now we must use local static data, we're just a couple of weeks away from release and can't really afford to switch our location backend.

Any good alternative to SimpleGeo? Is Factual even the same?

quote from article: "Factual has been providing SimpleGeo with their Places data since June 2011"

(cough) acquhire

Are you stuck between a rock and a hard place due to this announcement? Get ahold of my employer, Skookum Digital Works, if development is a bit tight before the transition and you need some helping hands.


Sorry for the shameless plug, but it's mutually beneficial if time is tight.

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