Right about now a blog post is going up announcing the news that the Digg team is joining the Washington Post’s social advertising agency SocialCode.
We understand the actual property of Digg is also in the process of being sold, and that the deal just isn’t done yet. That’s why you won’t read much in the press today from Digg founders like Kevin Rose or Digg’s investors or current management. Because the story isn’t over. The other shoe should drop in the next week or so.
I’m not going to do the big Digg postmortem here. That’s less because it’s not all done and more because I wrote it several months ago, when it was clear it was the beginning of the end for Digg. From that post:
So what happened? In my view, Digg had a lot of things right. More than a million people loved its product – rabidly loved it. They loved it in a way we’d rarely seen until that point. Digg had top investors. And it had the vision part, too. Rose’s mission has played out. Digg helped transform how we consume media. While media properties balked at the idea in 2006, share buttons litter the Web today. We no longer rely on media gatekeepers for news. No one tells us what the front page should be– we create our own with the help of our friends.
Unfortunately Twitter is the one that’s pulled the bulk of his vision off, not Digg. It’s another example of what I’ve argued before– that it’s frequently not the company that comes up with something first that nails the execution. (And it might explain why Rose spends so much time on Twitter.)
The lesson from Digg is crucial as Silicon Valley’s ecosystem has made it easier and easier to start a company. It’s that a great product is necessary but not nearly enough. Building a real company is harder, and it takes execution and leadership. Things like a New York-based CEO and a sometimes-distracted co-founder took a toll on Digg in its most pivotal days. As I wrote in my book a year after that cover, startups reflect their founders’ personalities. Back then, Slide was characterized by silent intensity, Facebook was like a messy, pizza-stained dorm room, and Digg? Well, Digg’s offices were empty most evenings.
To me the end of Digg — as we’ve now been witnessed the slow rolling end for a while now — always represents an end of an era. Digg was an everyman of the Web 2.0 era, while Facebook was always an outlier. And I always root for the everyman to win.
But there’s an absolutely huge silver lining for startups here. It makes me feel a little like a vulture to point it out. But, attention startups: David Sze is back on the market for new deals.
Sze pretty much single-handedly put Greylock’s West Coast office back on the map with investments in LinkedIn, Digg, Revision3, Facebook, and Pandora. All of these companies — even the ones that didn’t work out as well as he’d like — got Greylock cred in the early Web 2.0 days. But that slug of social media deal making, at a time when most major VC firms were still shying away, came at a price. Sze has been mostly locked up on boards for years.
Now, he’ll be off two boards, and that’s a lot of open bandwidth all of the sudden for one of the top-five best consumer Internet VCs in the world. Go get him, startups.
(Greylock Discovery Fund is an investor in PandoDaily.)