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Sold just got acquired by Dropbox and closed their company (usesold.com)
101 points by alexeichemenda on Nov 5, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 78 comments

The opening line follows the boilerplate trend of acquisition posts. Being acqui-hired is not something that you should be celebrating with your users... PERIOD. (On a side note, I'm genuinely happy for you all. Getting paid isn't a negative. It's a huge opportunity, but don't patronise your users).

"Yey us. :D We're super excited to announce we got acquired. High-five... too slow... Now go f* yourselves."

It's incredibly condescending to assume that any of your users share your happiness and are apart of this experience...

"We’re really excited..."

You use "we" so many times as if your users are apart of your acqui-hire, yet only mention "you" (your users who made this possible) in the closing statement.

Be honest and graceful, but asking your users for a high five on the way out isn't the way to do it.

PS. I hate posting negative comments. I'm a Brit, and like to be polite all the time....

EDIT: Call me out on this if you think I'm wrong. Other people who have read it think I'm just reading into it way too much. I tend to agree that I'm particular, and it could easily be chalked down to me being overly zealous to criticize another successful acqui-hire. :)

Thank you for a refreshing dose of the truth!

When you shut down the product, an acquisition is no good for the users, plain and simple. It may or may not be a personal success, but no matter what, it is the end of the vision that you and your customers shared. They were your supporters, your believers, and the lifeblood of your product, and disguising your celebration as everyone's is an indignity to them.

I sold my company and shut down my product because the right opportunity arrived at the right time. But I didn't frame it as a triumph for them. My words, from the acquisition email: "We’re excited...but it’s always bittersweet when something good comes to an end."

I have the same sentiments. As a user who relies on a service, it always feels very much a "we just got a huge wad of cash, we care more about this than if you used our serviced and paid for it, we're rich and fuck you if you used our service!".

This pattern of acquire and shut down makes me careful of which services I invest in using. If there is no paid plan I get very nervous. If it is VC backed and free I get nervous. I'd rather support a business and help them stick around and work on their product.

One product I was very upset about was an online collaborative editor that I was gearing up to get our team to use, which was suddenly acquired by Google and shut down as they didn't want any competition to their soon to be realised collaborative editing in Google Docs.

For that last point, if it was Writely, my understanding, from a distance, was that it was a build-or-buy and they bought, then later rewrote. And rewrote again.

I had the same feeling when reading this post. It's one thing to spin a positive when acquired for the product and not the people.

When you're about to shutdown a service, this kind of self-congratulation is more like a middle finger to the users. A humbly apologetic post would've been a better goodwill gesture. High five each other in private.

They don't have "users" in the same way a free blog site has users. I see no reason to be negative in this case.

If your favorite taco stand owner sells out to taco bell, the owner should be free to celebrate. You won't be able to get his tacos in the future, but it is not like he broke some implicit promise to always sell you tacos, nor are the tacos he sold you in the past somehow tainted now.

Shutdowns are only a problem when users make an investment in the platform.

I'm making an investment in the platform by using the platform. You don't think people have a right to complain? See: World coming to an end when Google discontinued Reader, a FREE PLATFORM.

The parent post is not saying the Sold people aren't free to celebrate. It's about how you do it in front of your former customers and users.

I think you are wrong here.

As I understand it, Sold was a service to help you sell stuff.

Services like this are by their very nature used mostly as a once-off thing - someone wants to sell something they don't want anymore. Once it is sold then the "user" has no relationship with the Sold service.

So now people who are selling things no longer have the opportunity to use the Sold service anymore.

I think it is unfair to criticize people for choosing not to offer a service to new customers anymore.

More generally I think it is even more unfair to criticize people for closing a business that wasn't very successful (because success = profit, and if it was so profitable it wouldn't be sold to be shutdown).

Finally, aquihires are much, MUCH better than most of the alternatives for a failing business. We've all heard stories of users panicking when a service shuts down after someone fails to pay the hosting bills. Aquihires avoid that scenario.

Why would you think this? You seem to imagine that people only sell one thing ever. I buy and sell a fair bit of specialist equipement each year (pro audio stuff) and there's a lot more stuff that I'd like to sell but don't seriously try to because it's a bit of a hassle to research prices etc.

> Services like this are by their very nature used mostly as a once-off thing - someone wants to sell something they don't want anymore. Once it is sold then the "user" has no relationship with the Sold service.

There's people who make their entire living selling things online, and have been for at least 10-15 years (how long has eBay been around, again?)

From what I recall, Sold wasn't aimed at professional sellers - it was a middleman mostly targetted at people who just wanted to get rid of their stuff without having to deal with eBay directly, even if that meant getting less money for it.

Yes, this is true - but we are looking at a very specific case here: Sold, and my understanding is that there marketplace never really took off. That means it is doubtful there are people depending on Sold as a means of support.

The big difference, of course, is that Sold doesn't have regular users. It's not like Reader shutting down and all your saved articles disappearing into the void. Users who completed a transaction got paid.

I received an email from them with the same content before I opened hacker news, and had the same thoughts as you. So no, I dont think your reading into it too much.

Companies don't get acquired thoughtlessly, and I'm fairly sure the founders understand the implications for their users.

I'm sure a lot of thought went into this, and one way or another they are going to have to announce their decision. It makes sense that they would approach this from as positive an angle as possible. I mean, what's the alternative? Are you going to announce to your users that your promises will go unfulfilled, and that they can consider themselves shafted henceforth?

Yes, this news is being spun in a positive light, but I think that's both reasonable and expected in these situations.

> Are you going to announce to your users that your promises will go unfulfilled, and that they can consider themselves shafted henceforth?

What do you think sounds better to users - the above, or the above + "and we're so so happy about this; high five, suckers."?

Also, companies indeed don't get acquired thoughtlessly, but I doubt any single thought went toward users. I'd be surprised if anyone thought, even for a second, that there's a Joe and a Jane out there who rely on their service. Startups have no sense of responsibility for the userbase they built nowdays.

Boiler plates:

"You're all very talented and deserve success" - To staff when you are making staff redundant and/or shutting the company.

"We're super excited we got acquired" - When you're shutting down your service and choosing to exit via acqui-hire to save face.

A catalogue of such boilerplates might be quite insightful to the people who are consuming them and at the same time could help startups out who are in dire need of copy for the right occasion.

I was about to say you'd fit well in Europe, then I saw you are a Brit. My comment still holds, if you see what I mean ;)

It's really something cultural I guess but I can only feel the same way as you do.

Nitpick: apart -> a part

As someone unfamiliar with Sold, I really appreciated the "What was Sold?" section: I rarely, if ever, see that on shutdown/acquisition placeholder pages and always wished more companies would do that.

Also unfamiliar with it till now, just watched the video and wow... it looked like an awesome service. I wouldn't have been able to use it, as I'm in Ireland, but if selling was that simple it could really disrupt the likes of Craigslist.

I guess as its an acquihire maybe the vision couldn't become a reality though :(

it's an opportunity for someone to start their own, a big hole just opened up.

shameless plug, but check out our startup http://sellsimple.com - we're tackling the same problem.

I looked through the site and watched the video - I think you don't handle the logistics of it?

One of the things that most appealed about Sold is that they send you a box, you put the thing in it, and that's it. For me, that's the biggest pain point.

Is that something you're looking to do?

We have a different system - but yes, we do help with that.

Instead of sending a box, we automatically purchase a shipping label for your item using the shipment method of your choice (USPS, UPS, FedEx). The shipping label already has the address of the buyer and everything filled out.

All you need to do is drop off the package (we'll show you the closest shipping locations).

From there we automatically track the package and show both the buyer & seller realtime updates of the package location & delivery.

We're calling this service "ShipSimple" and it's bundled into the overarching SellSimple platform.

The ShipSimple feature will be released in version 1.4 (coming very soon).

Nice! But I didn't get that information by looking at your site (as apparently parent didn't either), so you might want to look into that. And while you are at it, where do I find more information about the process, about the company behind it, the provisions,...? Other than that, nice concept.

US only I guess?

try shyp.com

I get a bad gateway error.

This is how this letter reads to me:

Woohoo, we got acquired.

Thanks a lot for bringing our valuation up buy trusting us. We started $service to solve a problem that matters to you. Because of that we're joining $totally_unrelated_product.

Thanks for all the fish.

Let me add:

"Because of that we're joining $totally_unrelated_product. And damaging the ecosystem that allowed us to get to this point."

It bears repeating that every time one of the acquire shutdowns occurs it makes users that much less willing to take a chance on a small startup. Even a shutdown like this that isn't screwing over existing users reminds everyone of the pattern.

Hmmm, maybe I should start ending this, or every message, with "Sarbox delenda est".

(Sarbox must be destroyed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carthago_delenda_est) ; more specifically, this last nail and quite a few others need to be removed for the casket that the normal IPO was interred into.)

Let me fix the previous sentence:

We started $service pretending to care about solving problem that matters to you so that we could extract from you as much money as possible quickly.

I don't believe what startups say anymore. They don't want to solve anything. They want to make something that looks like a solution for long enough that they get piles of money.

Maybe it's understandable, but I'd like they'd be more up-front about this.

"They don't want to solve anything. They want to make something that looks like a solution for long enough that they get piles of money."

But if they don't offer value to their customers, how are they going to "get piles of money" in the first place?

Most likely they would have gone out of business either way because nobody is going to do an acqui-hire deal if their company had plenty of funding or was actually profitable. If I was working somewhere, I'd rather the founders managed to finagle an acqui-hire rather fire everybody.

You're right, though, there's nothing great about it for the users.

Not necessarily.

They could have been not profitable enough, for themselves or their investors, especially if they got a rich enough acqui-hire offer. Or however profitable their efforts, if they couldn't raise enough money to properly peruse them. They could be facing more work of a type they don't like or weren't good enough at (including hiring the necessary talent), e.g. marketing and sales, and preferred the maximum pivot possible.

Well, those are all just variations of either not being a successful, profitable company or the founders simply not caring anymore. The end result would still likely be the same for the users.

You can still make an exit and be graceful about it. Clearly in their message they mention that user's trust was important to them. I believe that in that case the best reward is to be honest with them.

If I was an entrepreneur I would be rather annoyed by that kind of message because user's trust is a shared resource. It's selfish. Soon enough start-up will start to be negatively connoted. A sort of Made-in-China in the virtual world.

funny, in the old school economy this would be a failure.

oh crap, i couldn't run my company, the business i have built. i have failed my employees, my vision, my customers. all for naught, i got swallowed and now i am an employee.

but in web/tech bubble? hooray, i flipped this shit for cash. so long suckas.

One caveat to this is with the closing of the IPO exit, one either has to be very successful or get acquired to exit. And your investors could be demanding some sort of exit, they're generally not in the game for your employees, vision or customers.

Arranging and exit for investors or founders can be extremely hard; I watched my father do that several times in the period when IPOs were still possible.

This is a failure; is a net negative for their users, those were numerically more than the engineers. But the HN is crowed with the later plus short-term big profits are pompously celebrated by the vapid american culture (and media).

Can I add this as a quote to my email signature? :)

Build popular service, attract loyal user base, sell popular service to bigger company so they can gut it and screw your users; business as usual in the startup world, judging by 5 years of HN and Slashdot.

Every time I suggest this might not be a cool thing, people tell me I just don't understand the business model, or something. Same thing yesterday when Microsoft announced they were ripping out Skype's API. It's weird.

Can anyone comment on the motivation for Dropbox to acquire a company that apparently helped people sell things? Is Dropbox interested in working in that domain or are they just picking up devs for their own product?

I think they jump on anything to do with boxes /s

Mildly correct.

I think they are trying to ramp up their mobile efforts. My friends company was recently acquired by them, and it was for this reason.

Picking up devs.

I am also wondering. Sold and dropbox don't look related to each other at all!

I get a google products vibe from these sorts of acquisitions. Don't get too comfortable with that little startup! It could disappear tomorrow...

True of anything. It's just as correct to say, "don't ever fall in love; your lover will either leave you or die, and you'll just be sad then". While true, it's missing the point: the years of joy that can be had before someone dies (or gets acquired, or canceled).

Hate to be all philosophical, but everything is temporary. Even the Universe itself.

>Don't get too comfortable with that little startup! It could disappear tomorrow...

But that is true of all services. This is why savvy businesses try to stick with services that have competition; that way they have somewhere to go if their provider of choice goes under for whatever reason.

I'm sorry, but I do not fully understand your comment. "It could disappear tomorrow" ? Sold has written on their blog that they are shutting down their company..

As in, reading about ever increasing numbers of these sorts of acquisitions makes us weary of using products from these small starups since they can get acquired and shut down their service suddenly, much like how we need to be wary of using Google products and APIs these days since they could be shut down suddenly.

That was always true, even before the startup craze. This is specially true for small companies, but sometimes, they are the ones who can provide the most value.

Also, it's not like if Microsoft was shutting down. You'll be deprived of a couple of products, at most.

I think they meant that they are uncomfortable with the idea of trying to use a lot of the apps and startups that are popping up nowadays, as they could leave their customers / userbase as soon as the acquisition is finalized. How much value can I really get out of a product if they are only in it for the exit?

I wonder if startups are starting to see a reluctance in users to fully buy in to trying new products. This reminds me of one S13 YC startup that got bought by Pinterest a few weeks ago..

I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that a company named "Sold" sold itself when it got the chance.

Maybe more startups should choose M&A-friendly names. Acquired.io, which is available for registration, is a sure winner.

Here's the submission (and accompanying discussion) that introduced Sold to HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5801340

Sounds like another one for http://ourincrediblejourney.tumblr.com/

I really don't get why Dropbox has acquired during the past two years Snapjoy, Mailbox, Endorse and Sold. Their product didn't change at all...

I think there is a space for an disruptive _accelerator_ that completely prohibits this kind of behavior (a.k.a. acquihires), like a make-it-a-big-or-sink-with-it kind of thing, so users (and potential users) would trust more their start-ups knowing that this luxury-garage-sales-of-engineers is not the goal.

This is a bit of a shame, Sold seemed like a good idea - I have some stuff I'd like to get rid of, but don't want to spend much time setting up the listing etc.

I didn't actually use them because they hadn't branched out into the product category (PC Hardware) that I would have used them for.

I used it once and liked it. But they came across as dorky snobs in there marketing.

Glad you enjoyed using Sold. We are definitely dorks, hopefully not snobs, and had a ton of fun making our marketing in house :)

Congrats on joining Dropbox! As someone who has a ton of stuff that I'm too lazy to sell, I'm curious if you could speak at all about why the business was not working. Do you think Shyp [http://www.shyp.com/] is a better business model?

Congrats on the acquisition ! Can we know a little more about who (if not all) of the team will be joining Dropbox ? How many people were working at Sold ?

I think the marketing is creative and well done. Although why would you sell those Alden longwings? Those are awesome shoes! :)

> I used it once and liked it. But they came across as dorky snobs in there marketing.


Congrats to the team and to Dropbox!

Hey Sold team... do you have any lessons learned to share with the community?

I don't work for Sold, but I think the #1 thing you should consider is how you brand your company to make it attractive for acquisition. A good name can go a long way.

So they were acquihired?

First post I've read on HN today and here are the summarized talking points of commenters:

1. Oh noes, they are celebrating their acquisition with users. That jerks!

2. Small startups are like Google products -- prone to be discontinued or acquired and closed. Beware!

3. They failed their users and their business model is a failure. Failue!

4. "What is sold?", "meh", "puns".

I love HN technical discussions but startup or business threads? So much negativity... Thats enogh HN for me for today.

Congratulations to Sold team!

I guess you could say they were...

(puts on sunglasses)


Sold sold. Nice pun :)

Sold sold Sold.

i'm really interested to see what dropbox plans on doing by acquiring a service like this. Any ideas?

I'm starting to wish we'd see anything Dropbox was doing with all the acquisitions.

Dropbox has hired some really smart people (and shuttered some great services) over the past year or two, but I haven't yet seen that intellectual capitol reflected in their services.

Congrats !

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