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December 19, 2008

From Zero to Xing: Socialmedian's 2008 Drive to Acquisition

As has been widely reported, Socialmedian was acquired by Xing today for a purchase price of $7.5 million, an excellent return for the bootstrapped startup which had raised less than $1 million in funding. The success of Socialmedian has significant impact for me personally, as it is the first company to have debuted here on this blog, and see a successful exit. I see it as a real proofpoint for being invested in a story, rather than doing the typical "hit and run" announcement-fed, PR-driven stories typical on many other blogs who are driven by the day's news.

On April 8, 2008 (my birthday), we first told the story of Socialmedian: (Former Jobster CEO's Social|Median Incubating in Alpha).

While other sites around the Web slowly picked up on the story, few were as invested as I was in not just reporting on the site, but using it in a big way. In a month's time, it was clear to me that the site was getting significant momentum, which I reported on May 13: (SocialMedian Is Growing Rapidly In First Month's Availability).

Later in the month, on May 29, in response to a comment from Robert Seidman, who said, "You could call deadpool on stuff like Social Median and Toluu right now," I said "Developers Are People Too, Don't Forget", and that we don't always know the full story behind a site, and their goals.

By the end of May Socialmedian underwent a redesign and got even more useful.

And as the site grew, for whatever reason, I maintained a higher than anticipated presence, trailing only the founder, Jason Goldberg, in terms of people following my updates. Surprisingly, Goldberg and team ran a contest that delivered a new iPhone to the two most popular non-employees on the site. Turns out I won, which I found out, as my bleary eyes checked out Twitter sometime around 5 a.m. during a kid's feeding when they were a month old. (See: It Appears I Won an iPhone 3G from Social Median!)

That was cool, but I was just as positive on the site as before - no more, no less, and I could see them continue to pound forward.

By the end of July, Socialmedian got out of invite mode, and opened in full beta. (See: SocialMedian Opens Up and Launches Beta). The expanded activity on the site had me noticing how many comments were taking place on the site, which I wrote up in early August: Hey Bloggers, We're Discussing Your Posts At Social Median!

And the company kept adding updates. On August 30th, I noted they Integrated With Google Reader for News Discovery, and by September 4, they expanded again, tagging on a feature they called "News Streaming".

The growth had guest poster Rob Diana say shortly afterward, that the Increased Activity Streams Boost Social Median's Chances.

On September 22, Socialmedian added the ability to alert users to times they were mentioned and extend to Twitter, with the launch of Replize. (Social Median Takes Guesswork Out of Online Mentions With Replize)

Not living in a bubble, Socialmedian surveyed its users to see their preferences, and on October 3rd, they delivered results that not only showed users' activity but where else they got their news. At the same time, the service was showing significant traffic growth across the board. (See: Social Median Surveys Early Adopters' News, Tech Preferences)

On October 7, Socialmedian introduced the ability to both like and dislike items.

On October 17, Jason pulled the covers back a bit and showed how they were able to continue to innovate while staying small: (Social Median Stares Downturn In the Face By Staying Small)

As a news site, Socialmedian, like all the rest, got sucked into the election in a big way. On October 29, a week before the vote, they launched a dedicated election news hub.

But while Socialmedian grew users and gained visibility, they didn't avoid controversy. Like other services, the breaking away of comments and original posts raised the ire of CenterNetworks' Allen Stern and others. We asked, in November, "Does Anybody Care About Non-Blog Commenting Anymore?"

And just last week, in wrapping up what I believed were the top 10 new Web services that came to light in 2008, Socialmedian was way up on the list, at #2, behind only Twitter Search, formerly Summize. I knew Socialmedian was hot, and said I expected an acquisition by the first quarter of 2009. And it came very, very quickly, with this morning's news, further validating Socialmedian's model and differentiation from the many different services out there.

It has been exciting to have a front row seat to see Socialmedian develop all year long. Socialmedian is one of those sites this year that hit a sweet spot for me, both as a blogger and as a user, who found critical value in what Jason and his team were doing. That they have found success is fantastic, and something I hope will push the many other services we've worked with this year to keep going.

But as the above recap shows, they didn't get here by launching and waiting for millions of users. They worked hard and released early and often, and today's announcement is the result of their consistent efforts.

So who wants to launch on louisgray.com in 2009 and be part of a similar story? Let me know.