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Not just owned, but incubated by their employees. That completely blows me away that IAC is so, so good at rebranding for different audiences.

Yeah, the most interesting part of this article is that, if true, it seems like Tinder was kind of a pseudo-startup, a subsidiary of an established corporation given a more media-friendly backstory by positioning it as a startup. In retrospect I'm surprised that kind of thing isn't more common. (Or maybe it is?)

This sort of thing is, in my experience, quite common, but rarely successful. Large companies are aware of the innovator's dilemma and try to form skunkworks teams to find the Next Big Thing.

But the problem is that most seem unable to assemble the right people, and give them the right autonomy, to really enable them to behave in a startup-like manner. Instead it just becomes recruitment joke where recruiters say "it's like a startup in a big company!" while the candidate rolls their eyes.

Right, though that's a different case I think. You're talking about trying to replicate some kind of innovative startup environment within a big company. My read here is a bit different, that IAC had an idea for how to enter this space, knew what they wanted to build there and even assigned employees to start building it, but needed a better media story than "Match.com launches hookup app". So instead they cooked up a hot startup led by young cofounders launching a new "dating" app— but where the startup happens to be an IAC subsidiary and implementing the IAC market strategy, which is omitted from the branding.

In a way I think it's the opposite story of skunkworks. Those try to replicate a startup-like independence while also emphasizing the parent brand's ultimate credit for any output (e.g. ZFS was developed by a Sun skunkworks and proudly claimed by Sun). Here it looks like IAC wanted exactly the opposite: a fake startup that didn't really have independence and instead just implemented IAC's strategy for this vertical, but which emphasized its own brand and kept quiet about the parent brand.

One other area I can think of where that's fairly common recently is in fake microbrews launched by the big brewing companies. The recipes and market positioning are entirely dictated by the parent company, but there's a kind of microbrewing identity that is presented to the public.

It's really common for retailers and marketers to segment the population by demographic or price. Look at Gap, which also owns the Old Navy, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Athleta, and Piperlime brands. They're selling the same basic thing--clothing--but targeting different segments in ways that let them maximize profit by pushing the right buttons.

So why wouldn't that approach work for something like online dating?

One of the best examples of a 'skunkworks' project I can think of is the original Xbox and Xbox Live team (http://www.polygon.com/features/2013/11/11/4849940/xbox-live...).

The article describes quite well how successful this approach can be if you do it right. A company like Microsoft has such a massive amount of talent and resources, that even allowing a sliver of that to work on a project in isolation and freedom can lead to huge success.

I've personally experienced a 'startup in a big company' situation, and that also seemed to work quite well at first. Sadly, the whole thing fell apart once the big company started trying to take control back. In fact, I think the resulting situation was worse than if the 'startup' had never had a taste of independence.

I was in one that worked. But it worked because the main company was dying and the startup was the escape pod, with the CEO on board and driving it.

AutoTrader.com is a good example of a successful startup within a large company.

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