Of the thousands of tools that are essential to startups, many are themselves startups. And, as we all know, most startups fail, meaning some of these tools we’ve grown to use and love are no longer available.
We’re taking a look at some of the tools that shuttered their doors this year. We noticed a few themes. One was the founders were very transparent with their user base about why they closed, and these blogposts will surely be beneficial to other startup teams. Another was the importance of being analytical about how your product is used in making product decisions. And, finally, we were reminded again and again that even a large and loyal user base cannot sustain a business without a sound monetization strategy.
Nitrous was a cloud-based integrated development environment (a cloud IDE) for creating and publishing websites and web apps. Nitrous allowed developers to patch and deploy apps from anywhere using their cloud technology. Developers could work on any project without having to install and configure software or databases on their laptops.
Nitrous was founded in 2012, received $6.65 million in funding and had 100,000 users before their 1st birthday. Many developers used and relied on Nitrous, and the news they were shutting down shocked many. One Hacker News commenter wrote in their shutdown thread:
“I have been a daily user of nitrous since February 2014, the news hurts like a punch in the stomach, thanks to them I started programming again after a 15-year break. It feels as if a dear friend and office mate was diagnosed with 15 days of life. Such a bummer, Hope the best for the team.”
Their shutdown post was practical and focused on actions for users. They explained to their users how to download their data and told them to keep their eyes out for an open source version of the Nitrous IDE.
Andrew Solimine, Co-founder of Nitrous is also a Stacklister, having shared the business tools they were using at Nitrous. We, alongside thousands of developers, were sad to hear about the news of Nitrous.
There was not a lot of information released about the reasons behind Nitrous’ shutdown. From Ivan Burazin’s (founder of a competing Cloud IDE company) Quora answer to “Why is Nitrous.io shutting down?”, he suggests problems with monetization since the Cloud IDE space is very fragmented; Nitrous essentially had to compete with free options.
Blab was one of our six favorite apps for creating original video content. It was a great tool that let you host live video chats. You could have up to four speakers in a conversation, while your viewers watched and participated via live chat.
Blab had millions of users, but this blog post outlined some of the problems they were facing. Things like high churn and a divide in their users. Taking their observations of user behavior and preferences, the team decided to scrap the product and focus on what their users valued. From Shaan Puri’s post:
“Our team is already working furiously on the next evolution of Blab.
Instead of broadcasting, we’re building an ‘always on’ place where you go to hang with your friends.
Basically, we’re taking what worked —and doubling down on it.”
Blab’s story has some parallels to Instagram. Instagram’s founders first made a check-in app. But after seeing their users were most actively sharing photos of their everyday life, they scrapped the project to make a new one only focused on photo sharing.
Puri and the team were generous with their transparency, and their insights will certainly be helpful to other startups. The key takeaway here is for teams to be ruthless with themselves about how their customers respond to a product - and to use those observations to focus on what works.
In August Moz announced they would be focusing on search and would discontinue Moz Content and Followerwonk, two very popular and loved tools by marketers. Moz, founded by Rand Fishkin, is known for their SEO services.
Moz Content was a content marketing tool that helped users find relevant topics, authors, and popular posts across the web. It also offered “content audits” that analyzed your site (and your competitors) and provided feedback on how to improve your content.
Followerwonk was a free Twitter tool that let you search your followers for keywords in their bios, and gave you analytics on Twitter accounts. We described it as Twitter analytics on steroids earlier this year.
Moz Content and Followerwonk were complementary tools to Moz’s core SEO software. These were great tools to get people aware about the Moz brand. But with slow growth, and the tools not close enough to their core base, it made sense for Moz to focus on what they did best.
Moz has been a leader in this space and an invaluable tool for 14 years. Surely, this is related to their intelligence around product - from planning, execution and development to knowing when products are just not a good fit. We look forward to seeing many new SEO features Moz introduces in 2017.
Databases are one of the most important parts of a developer stack, and RethinkDB offered great features like easy auto-sharding, rational query language and real-time capabilities.
“We’re excited that the members of our engineering team will be joining Stripe, where we can put our expertise to work solving new problems and building infrastructure for developers around the world.”
Despite a large user base and a great community, it seems like RethinkDB’s problem lied with their monetization strategy. From their shutdown post, Akhmechet says “in spite of all our efforts, we were ultimately unable to build a sustainable business.”
Immediately was a sales email productivity app that lets you have CRM and email tracking capabilities on your phone.
“Immediately is our favorite email app for sales and business development professionals. It syncs with all of our tools, and is great for our sales team on the go. Awesome team of founders and developers that build new features as we request/suggest them.”
It was announced they would be shutting down at the end of July as part of their team moves on to work at New Relic.
Sunrise sunset this year, to the sadness of many users. It was acquired by Microsoft last year and is slowly getting integrated into Outlook. They removed the app from app stores in May, and completely shut down the app on August 31.
Sunrise was loved and used by many because of its simplicity, and how great it was at scheduling and aggregating your calendars. Benji Markoff, founder & CEO of Founder Shield, a boutique insurance brokerage for startups, used Sunrise.
“Sunrise is an awesome calendar app. They have great integration with Wunderlist, and they also add things from your calendar right into the keyboard on your phone. So, when you’re writing an email, you don't have to try to add in the event from a separate app.”
If you were a Sunrise user and you’re still looking for a replacement, don’t worry, there are a lot of alternatives you can try out.
Mandrill was developed in MailChimp, and many entrepreneurs were using both together for their email marketing stack. However, now Mandrill is part of MailChimp and is called MailChimp Transactional, giving MailChimp users access to powerful automation workflows.
So Mandrill hasn’t gone away (technically), but now you need a MailChimp account to use Mandrill for transactional emails.
For more information on the merge:
. . .