November 25th, 2008

Another Portland startup closes down


SandyUsually, when I have to mention a company going through layoffs or—worse yet—shutting down, it’s a fairly grim and unwelcome affair.

This is a welcome change.

I’m happy to report that Portland-based Values of n is being shutdown—because it has been acquired by Twitter, the popular microblogging service that powers the conversations of the Portland Web startup scene.

Why the shutdown? I mean, Values of n has some amazing technology and thinking in its products: my favorite anthropomorphic digital assistant, Sandy, and Stikkit, little yellow online notes that think. Which I guess makes them somewhat anthropomorphic in their own right.

Yes, the technology is amazing. And Sandy has quite an impressive relationship with Twitter. But quite frankly Twitter doesn’t know quite what to do with those assets at this point. So they’re going into the mothballs.

Which brings us to the reason they actually did acquire Values of n: one substantial piece of intellectual property by the name of Rael Dornfest.

Ev Williams of Twitter couldn’t have put it any better when he said:

Rael Dornfest is a famously talented engineer, author, and entrepreneur. Before founding Values of n, Rael served as Chief Technology Officer at O’Reilly Media and is known for his pioneering work on RSS as well being the series editor of O’Reilly’s celebrated Hacks books…. [I] have always thought he was one of the smartest guys I know.

Smart, indeed. Incredibly talented, yes. And in possession of an insane amount of energy.

It’s a little known fact that the amazing—and highly lauded—services of Values of n were single-handedly conceived and managed by Rael with some help here and there. (But he did the bulk of the work.) Even with all the stress of running those services in parallel with a consulting business, he remains one of the most delightful and intelligent people in the Portland tech scene.

And the good news is, Portland is exactly where he’ll remain. Twitter can have his intelligence and guidance, but we get to keep him here. Which means Twitter wins, Rael wins, and we win. Win, win, um, win.

But don’t just take my word for it

This news was all over the tech scene on Monday. Here’s a quick smattering of posts that provide more details on the acquisition:

  • A fork in the road
    “I have taken an engineering position in the User Experience group at Twitter. I started consulting there a few months ago, and fell in love with the team, their way of thinking about things, and of course the product (my Twitter user id is in the low 100s). It turns out we worked incredibly well together, the feeling was mutual, and they pulled me in as a permanent member of the team.”
  • Twitter Hires Rael Dornfest, Shutters Values of n
    “Twitter just announced on the company blog that the company has acquired the assets of Portland, Oregon based Values of n and brought its well-known engineer founder Rael Dornfest on to the Twitter staff. Dornfest’s latest project at Values of n was an anthropomorphized personal assistant service called Sandy.”
  • Twitter Acquires ‘Values of n’, Adds Rael Dornfest To The Team
    “The primary goal of the acquisition appears to have been to bring Rael Dornfest to the Twitter team. Dornfest is the founder of Values of n and former CTO at O’Reilly Media, whose responsibilities also included editing the O’Reilly Hacks series. He was also the head of the RSS-DEV group, which created the RSS 1.0 standard.”
  • Twitter buys a company, closes it, keeps its founder/engineer
    “The micro-messaging service Twitter, fresh off its rejection of an offer to be acquired by Facebook, has turned around and made a purchase itself: A personal productivity and information management solutions company called Values of n, Twitter reports on its blog.”
  • Twitter Buys Start-up’s Assets; Hires Founder Rael Dornfest
    “Twitter grabbed headlines today after reports surfaced saying it declined a $500 million buyout offer from Facebook. Now, Twitter is making more news today by saying it has acquired the assets of Values of n, a company that developed a sticky-note application as well as a personal productivity app that works over e-mail, SMS, and the Web.”
  • Twitter Acquires Values of n (Makers of Sandy)
    “Judging by the lack of updates to Twitter I highly doubt that we’ll see any of the Values of n’s features integrated. I am devastated to hear they will be shutting down all their services as well.”
  • Rael Dornfest joins twitter; now this gets interesting
    “Now the man’s going to join forces with Ev Williams, Biz Stone and other smart people at twitter; my product development head is bursting with speculation about the cool direction twitter could go in (and thinking multiple products people, one at a time…). And of course the dude’s an engineer….”
  • Twitter says I want Sandy
    “These are two pretty cool products and I have been a fan of I want Sandy for a long time and it usually runs most of my calendering.”

While I’m sad to see Sandy go, I’ll eagerly await her return. And in the meantime, I’m looking forward to Rael lending his intelligence, wit, and inimitable energy to Twitter.

Congratulations to Rael. This couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

And Sandy…? Call me.

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11 Responses to “Another Portland startup closes down”

  1. Aaron says:

    This is great news for Rael and Twitter.

    Do you know what’s happening to the rest of the Values of n employees? I know at one point their website listed several folks as part of the team (although I can’t seem to find that page now).

  2. Rick Turoczy says:

    @Aaron: I remember that picture too. I believe that those “employees” were more of the contractor variety than the traditional full-time employee variety. That is, the company of Values of n employed Rael and potentially a part-time employee or two. I don’t think there were any other full-time employees affected by the acquisition.

  3. Rick Turoczy says:

    I have received some additional info from another source who says that, while at one time there were full-time employees, they were not currently employed by Values of n at the time of the acquisition.

  4. Aaron says:

    That’s cool… glad to hear that nobody is getting laid off. Thanks for the detective work. :)

  5. [...] on 2008, Vidoop, Shizzow, KGW’s The Square with Stephanie Stricklen and Aaron Weiss, Twitter, Rael Dornfest, pdxtst, Our PDX, Neighborhood Notes, OpenID, calling Facebook Connect the Hotmail of this [...]

  6. [...] Geek, Beer and Blog, KGW’s The Square with Stephanie Stricklen and Aaron Weiss, Twitter, Rael Dornfest, pdxtst, Our PDX, Neighborhood Notes, OpenID, calling Facebook Connect the Hotmail of this [...]

  7. Syntax says:

    Really looking forward for Sandy’s features to pop out of Twitter. Nothing heard of it so far. Anyone know the similar assistant online who is wired via instant messaging?

    Cheers

  8. Rick Turoczy says:

    @Syntax There was an open source project to design another version of Sandy, but I’m not sure how far they’ve made it. Here’s the blog http://sandysback.blogspot.com/

  9. [...] home for a good chunk of the year. Rael “@rael” Dornfest’s Twitter project Sandy was acquired by Twitter. And Alex “@al3x” Payne, who served as Platform Lead at Twitter and worked on the API [...]

  10. [...] Portland’s Values of N was acquired by Twitter in 2008. [...]


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