I managed to grab socialmedian CEO Jason Goldberg for a rapid-fire interview this afternoon, following the announcement this morning of the acquisition of SocialMedian Inc. by Xing, as reported earlier today on The Next Web.
“The most awesome stage”
Last year, Facebook's VP of Design thought the TNW Conference main stage was the best she'd ever been on.
DP: Hi Jason – congratulations on the news.
DP: Do you anticipate Social Median being integrated into the Xing.com network, or are there other opportunities will you be pursuing following your acquisition by Xing?
JG: We will continue to operate and grow socialmedian as a standalone service as well as integrate features from socialmedian into Xing. We’ll also be working on other applications that bring relevant content and increased user engagement to the Xing platform.
DP: The Xing Appplications Platform?
JG: We will be launching and developing a platform which enables third parties to connect with Xing’s network of users both on Xing as well as integrating aspects of Xing onto their own sites.
I’ll be leading this effort to make Xing the go-to place for companies and developers to connect with Xing.
DP: Cool. Sounds very exciting. I remember tipping social median for success in May 2008 when it was still in alpha release. Socialmedian has been built and developed rapidly – what have been the key driving factors for you?
JG: The key to developing socialmedian has been a rapid development process in which we built every step of the way with our users. We constantly gather user feedback which drives very short development milestones. We test stuff by shipping it vs. pretending we know all the answers. Ultimately the user is always right so it’s most important to grow and develop with your users. As an example, our first development milestone was 3 weeks long. We then shipped that code to a small group of people and got their immediate feedback, then repeated that process weekly.
DP: And it worked well! What have you got right, and what have you got wrong along the way?
JG: I’d say we get 30% right at first and then learn the other 70% as we go. The key is getting the 30% done in a way which it enables you to learn the rest from your users and to be able to rapidly adjust as you learn from them.
We got our learning model for product development really right – we put less focus on user interface than we maybe should have, but users seem to forgive you on design when they like (or at least respect) the core functionality.
DP: I understand you’re going to be based in Germany – what changes do you think that will bring for you?
JG: I’ve promised myself that I will learn two languages in 2008: German and Ruby on Rails.
Our software is developed in Ruby, and Xing is making a major investment in Ruby. I am serious about getting more into the code. At heart I’m a product guy.
DP: How you see elements such as Google Friend Connect and Facebook Connect driving developments in the next few years offering ‘friend-filtered’ information, and where do you think socialmedian fits into that picture?
JG: I do think that we are just in the very early days of the distributed web and that the portable social graph will be a big driving force of further developments in 2009.
DP: Finally, what’s your key single-sentence piece of advice for a web startup?
JG: Earn one success at a time. Meaning, while you may have a big grand vision, getting on base at first is more important and practical than hitting a homerun (in U.S. baseball terms). Just focus on achieving 1 milestone at a time and don’t get ahead of yourself. And spend as little as it takes getting there.
DP: Jason, thank you so much for your time. I hope we might see you at The Next Web Conference in Amsterdam in April 2009.
JG: For sure!