April 21, 2017

Friendster 1: The Rise

by StartUp

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The Story In 2003, Jonathan Abrams was sitting atop one of the hottest new companies in Silicon Valley. He and his website were at the forefront of an industry that would eventually be worth more than $400 billion. So, what went wrong? Ask Alex Got a question for Alex Blumberg? Leave us a message at 812-641-1231, and your question could end up on the show. The Facts Andrew Dunn and Ian Scott mixed the episode. Mark Phillips wrote and performed our theme song. Build Buildings wrote and performed our special ad music. Additional music by Takstar, Jupyter, Tyler Strickland and the band Hot Moms Dot Gov.

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ALEX BLUMBERG: Hey, it’s Alex Blumberg with a quick message before Lisa Chow takes over and brings you the episode. Longtime listeners will know that previous seasons of StartUp focused entirely on Gimlet Media, the company bringing you this podcast. So you’ve heard us tell our story. And now we’re trying a new iteration of that. We want to do sort of a podcast version of an AMA -- an ask me anything. And we want your questions. If you have ever had any questions about Gimlet, about entrepreneurship, about what’s it’s like to record yourself while launching your first startup and sharing it with the world, now is your chance. Give us a call at 812-641-1231 and leave us a message with your questions. You can also find that number on the StartUp twitter page, @podcaststartup. We want to hear your questions. And now, here’s Lisa with the episode. And it’s a good one.

LISA CHOW: In 2003, Reyhan Harmanci had just graduated from college and moved to San Francisco, and she started getting e-mails from friends asking her to join this new website. Pretty soon she was hearing about it everywhere.

REYHAN HARMANCI: You could just hear people on the street in San Francisco talking about it like you would overhear conversations in cafes, people who didn't really know each other before were making friends through Friendster.

LISA: Friendster ... a social network, before anyone really understood what that was. A site that not only let you see and message your friends, but also your friends friends and your friends’ friends’ friends...

REYHAN: I remember leaving a bar one night and hearing some people next to me. Then being like—oh you guys are on Friendster? We're on Friendster. And everyone exchanged email addresses and then suddenly a day later we're like oh we actually have like 25 mutual friends and that was like a feeling that there was sort of this invisible kind of layer of connection that that you needed Friendster to be able to see.

LISA: It seemed like magic…Remember, this was the early 2000s. The internet was a totally different place. AOL was still cool. Most households were still using dial up to get online. But suddenly...Friendster was opening up this whole new world for people. There were all these connections you could explore, and people started reaching out to each other on Friendster for all sorts of reasons.

REYHAN: At some point I got a message from somebody I didn't know whose name my name is Reyhan and that's spelled R-E-Y-H-A-N. And I got a message from someone named Reihan, R-E-I-H-A-N, who was just a message like—hey we're homonyms! like we should be friends.

LISA: Based on the spelling, they thought their names were pronounced the same way.

REYHAN: And then I was like you know looked him up and we had lots of mutual friends then I googled him and he's like like a political writer and I was like cool like my homonym is a political writer for Slate. And then we actually though stayed in touch and then became friends in real life.

LISA: Do you ever ask him like what compelled him to write to you?

REYHAN: I mean we can call him.

REYHAN: Should we? I don’t know what he’s doing right now.

LISA: Sure, let’s try it.

REYHAN: Hey friend. Hold on I'm going to put you on speaker if that's OK.

REIHAN SALAM: Just let me know when.

REYHAN: OK it's happening.

LISA: OK. OK can you just introduce yourself to me.

REIHAN: Hi my name is Reihan Salam and I am best known as a friend of Reyhan Harmanci. That is my chief distinguishing characteristic in the world.

LISA: So What compelled you to reach out to Reyhan?

REIHAN: So she was friends with a bunch of my friends but also she was friends with a lot of my cool friends. So of course, that piqued my interest.

LISA: Reyhan and Reihan emailed back and forth … He was in New York. She was still living in San Francisco. They’d write about bad rock shows, their ex’s, politics. And then, one week, Reyhan traveled to New York to visit some friends, and decided to invite Reihan over. Something her friends weren’t fully on board with...

REYHAN: Honestly I think that they were like why are you bringing somebody you met on Friendster into our lives slash apartment. Like, they were like, this is not something we do.

REIHAN: I think we also talked on the phone before then.

REYHAN: I know God. Are we so old that we had made phone calls. I mean, this is humiliating. We like meet on Friendster and then make phone calls. Jesus.

LISA: All over the country, millions of other people were having their version of the Reihan-Reyhan experience.

ROBERT SIEGEL: Young adults by the hundreds of thousands have been signing up at a website called Friendster.

LISA: In the first year, Friendster grew to over 4 million users.

ROBERT KRULWICH: We’ve all heard that everybody on earth is connected, but now there’s a website called Friendster.

LISA: It was the hot new internet thing, the first site to really take off after the dot com bubble had burst.

CHARLIE ROSE: Friendster has quickly grown to become one of the top 100 highest trafficked sites on the network, with more than 8 million users.

LISA: The idea of an online social network was so new at this time that Friendster was able to patent it. Patent number 7 million 69 thousand 3 hundred 8. “System, method and apparatus for connecting users in an online computer system based on their relationships within social networks.”

REID HOFFMAN: Before even Myspace started, before Facebook started was oh yeah Friendster is the interesting social place… you should go check it out

LISA: Reid Hoffman was an early investor in Friendster… and co-founder of another social network, LinkedIn...

REID: There was a bunch of kind of social discovery that Friendster was the first thing that had done that…and there was enormous interest in that….

LISA: Do you feel like the crown was theirs to lose? Like in the sense of you know the social networking crown. You know they were the first in this space before MySpace before Facebook.

REID: Absolutely….It’s possible that Friendster would be bigger than Facebook, it's possible that Friendster that would be equal to Facebook. Or even secondary but still a significant presence.

LISA: Instead Friendster faded from people’s minds and was eventually sold to a company overseas, while Facebook went on to be worth 400 billion dollars. So how did a company with so much promise end up losing so badly? Over the course of the next two episodes, we’re going to find out. From Gimlet Media, this is Startup, and I’m Lisa Chow. And today, we’re taking a page from business school -- and presenting a case study of Friendster. What went wrong? And what can we learn from it?


LISA: The guy who started Friendster was Jonathan Abrams. He moved to the U.S. from Canada in the 90s, and founded his own company. But it ran out of money in the dot com bust. He was trying to figure out what to do next, and he started thinking about how people make connections in Silicon Valley....

JONATHAN ABRAMS: You don’t just email a venture capitalist out of the blue...they want to meet people through referrals and introductions. And I didn’t know anybody in Silicon Valley. I hadn’t gone to MIT or Stanford or any American school that gave me a built in network. , So I had to do a lot of networking. I went to a lot events and met a lot of people and really had to do a lot very conscious networking. And I think in general that’s the way a lot of people meet people -- You meet people through other people you know. Whether it’s for business or other things.

LISA: Jonathan was also single at the time, and thought meeting people anonymously through dating sites was kind of creepy. So he had an idea: what if we take this thing that happens everyday in real life --- you meet a new person through someone you already know -- and put it online. Create a place where people could connect with the friends of their friends. And the friends of their friends’ friends… for business, romance or just for fun.

JONATHAN: They would actually uh, map out their real life social graph. On the internet. And you would be able to see this sort of uh, 6 degree of separation concept mapped out in real life. You’d actually be able to see it. And people would be willing to do this and would actually enjoy it.

LISA: It was this last bit -- that people would be willing to do it and would actually enjoy it -- that was a risk. Because for this idea to work, Jonathan would need people to radically change the way they interacted on the internet. He would need them to start using their real names with their real photos. Which at the time -- no one was doing….most people chatting online were doing it anonymously… behind pseudonyms and avatars...here’s Reid Hoffman again.

REID: Whether it was AOL or instant messenger or the various kind of community sites you wouldn't say Reid Hoffman you'd say you know anime fan right or classical music aficionado or whatever. That’d be obviously a little too long. So the idea of using your real name online in 2003...it seemed kind of crazy...

REID: It was still kind of like is that dangerous you know are stalkers going to find you. How's it going to be used. What's going to happen.

LISA: Even Jonathan wasn’t sure this thing was gonna work. But he started coding up a prototype anyway, and he called it Friendster. He invited a dozen or so people to start testing out the site. And one of those people was Jim Scheinman. Jim was in his 30s, married with kids, and he didn’t really think the site was for him. He thought it was for younger people, people looking for friends. So he asked a younger colleague of his to check it out.

JIM SCHEINMAN: And she used it over the weekend, and I'll never forget this. She came back on Monday and I said -- "So, you know, Nicole, what'd you think?" And she said, "It changed my life." [chuckles] I said, really? At that time, I'd never heard of a company that had changed someone's life. With a couple of hundred people on this service in a weekend. So I asked her specifically what happened. And so she said, first of all, I met a long lost friend that I hadn't seen in 10 years who used to be a camp buddy. And we're gonna— get to know each other again and have coffee. I'm like, "Oh, that's really cool." So what else? And she said, "And I got a date next weekend." I'm like, okay -- this is a big idea.

LISA: Jonathan… the company’s founder… was watching early users in amazement.

JONATHAN: I would just look at the logs. And people were uploading photos, they were sending messages. I mean, they were doing all the things I’d hoped they would do. And i was just watching it kind of in shock that it was working.

LISA: Pretty soon -- the number of people testing the site grew from the initial dozen to several hundred. Jonathan felt confident enough to start looking for investors. One of his first calls was to his close friend Melissa Lloyd. They’d met at his first startup.

MELISSA Lloyd: When I met Jonathan, within the first 3 minutes, I realized he was a genius. He had this sense of purpose and confidence about the future of the internet that frankly, I’d never heard before. Three years after their first meeting, Jonathan went to Melissa’s house for Thanksgiving, and described Friendster to her and her husband around their dining room table.

MELISSA: He goes, "We built a prototype and it seems to be catching on." And I go, "Well, I'm not even sure I'd use it but whatever you do, we would put money in." So we put a very modest investment of like 10,000 dollars, and that was his first investment. And I’m the very first person listed on the term sheet.

LISA: Over the next several months, Jonathan raised nearly a half a million dollars from angel investors. And in March 2003, Friendster launched publicly. On the main page, the site was described as quote “an online community that connects people through networks of friends for dating or making new friends.” end quote. There were small oval shaped photos of people, connected by lines. And Jonathan's face was at the center. People's individual profile pages looked a lot like a dating profiles. They listed people’s age, interests, location. And people were using all those things to search the site.

MIKE MOHAN: You could search you know other people who were like you know one or two steps removed from you.

LISA: This is Michael Mohan. He started using Friendster pretty soon after it launched.

MIKE: I was searching for single women one or two steps removed from me

KELLY: You could set a filter. Like you know within a 10 mile radius or such and such an age

LISA: Kelly Tillery was another early Friendster user.

KELLY: And one of his filters was likes midnight cowboy.

MIKE: The movie Midnight Cowboy. And so on Kelly's profile she also liked midnight cowboy which is one of my favorite movies. And so that's why I was like oh I should I should totally hit this girl up.

KELLY: [laughter]

LISA: Mike and Kelly got married 7 years after they met on Friendster. And it was these kinds of experiences people were having … meeting people they never would have met otherwise ... that really made the site explode...Within a couple of months of launching publicly, Friendster had a million members. Six months later, it was at 4 million members.

LISA: What was it like going to the office everyday?

JIM: It was so exciting!

LISA: This is Jim, the guy who let his younger colleague test the site early on. He had been so sold on the idea behind Friendster that he joined the company as head of business development.

JIM: If you were a Friendster member early on, you used it everyday all day long. There wasn't any other competition. There wasn't Facebook, there wasn't Snapchat, there wasn't Instagram. If you were social on the internet and you were under 30 you were under 25, you were living on Friendster.

LISA: Friendster was one of the fastest growing sites anyone had ever seen at that point. Which makes sense because if you think about how a social network grows, you join, you invite 10 friends, they join, and they each invite 10 friends, that's exponential growth. Kent Lindstrom was an early employee and investor. He remembers when the site went from a local San Francisco phenomenon to a national one.

KENT: I remember driving to work one day and I was listening to the Howard Stern radio show.

LISA: On the show...Howard Stern was talking to Kathy Griffin about how she had just fired her personal assistant for spending too much time on the site...

KATHY GRIFFIN: He's all about Friendster...

HOWARD STERN: Did you don't hear about Friendster?


KATHY: And Looking up. Friends on Friendster and corresponding with his friends and Friendster.

HOWARD: Friendster's the new Internet craze. Yeah. You... I don't even know how to explain it. Ron Zimmerman put me on it. I want to kill him.

KENT: It was sort of the first time I'm hearing that on a national radio broadcast. Like, "Wow." Like somehow something jumped out of Silicon Valley, made its way across the country to New York and I'm listening to it on my radio. That, was the moment when I went "Wow- this is really. This is something different."

LISA: Newsweek, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone all wrote about Friendster. One Silicon Valley publication put Jonathan on its cover, with two women, one on each side, leaning in for a kiss.

JONATHAN: And then we get this email from somebody at the Jimmy Kimmel show asking me to be on the show. And when I saw that email I was just like, huh?

LISA: Jonathan accepted the invitation, flew down to Los Angeles and went to the studio.

JONATHAN: There’s these blazing lights, there’s an audience full of a lot of people.

JONATHAN: There was an actress from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And she I think gave me a kiss. And Jimmy Kimmel spent the whole time really kind of teasing me and asking all these crazy questions.

LISA: Friendster was officially a hit. And from the outside, it looked like the company was on track to be the next big thing. But inside the company, signs of trouble were starting to emerge. As the number of users ballooned …..the site struggled to keep up with all of the increased traffic… And Friendster was still a tiny company, about 10 employees. One of the engineers, Chris Lunt, remembers everyone working around the clock to keep the site running out of their small office in Mountain View.

CHRIS LUNT: The place was kind of unwashed. It had sort of the funk of a big dorm room of people who had been spending too much time in that space. We couldn't move fast enough to keep up with the growth.

LISA: Part of the problem...Jonathan says… is that the technology back in 2003 just wasn’t as advanced as it is now.

JONATHAN: Today we can click a button and create ten new servers in five minutes. But back then, if you wanted ten servers, we had to call some company in Fremont and say, "We want 10 servers." And we want this amount of RAM and this amount of this, and they'd build them and we'd go to their office, we'd pick them up and we'd take them up to a data center, rack-mount them. I mean it was -- a lot more work.

LISA: So there was actually someone who was going and picking up a server and putting it in a data center?

JONATHAN: I actually did that myself in the early days, which I'm really not qualified to do. I mean basically we were always behind. Like whatever we were in the process of setting up was quickly no longer going to be sufficient.

LISA: Chip Benson was an early employee at Friendster, working in customer support. And he says users were starting to notice the problems.

CHIP: we had customers actually you know the users actually writing in saying, "Can you guys please fix the performance issues? Please!" And they said, "We really love Friendster, we think it's so neat -- but it's killing us to wait two minutes for a page to load.

LISA: Jonathan said he started to fear the very thing that all startups want most: growth.

JONATHAN: Instead of having a party every time we got to some new milestone, it was just more like panic.

LISA: So the team was confronted with a very weird problem. How do we slow the growth? How do we prevent people from visiting the site and new users from signing up?

Again, here’s Kent Lindstrom, an early employee and investor.

KENT: We used to send out different emails. Like every week we would send you an email that said your network grew by XYZ people. We stopped sending those because of the surge of traffic we would get when those went out was too big.

LISA: So you actually started doing things to stop--to basically not incentivize the growth?

KENT: Yeah, we were in the business of not wanting a surge of traffic.

LISA: And every time Jonathan would get another media request, there was a collective groan among the small team of engineers because they couldn’t handle more traffic.Frustration was growing … and as the engineers looked for solutions… one idea emerged that seemed like a fast and simple fix… Remove the social graph … the feature that showed you how you were connected to other people on the site. People one degree, two degrees, three degrees away from you.

CHRIS LUNT: It was one of the most technically challenging parts of delivering the website and the thing that could be very slow.

LISA: Again, Chris Lunt, an early engineer.

CHRIS: At one point, I went to Jonathan and I said, "You know if we take this off of the page - if we don't load this automatically when somebody comes to the page, but only provide it on demand, or if we cache it, put up a sort of periodic update on that - as opposed to giving it to you live in the moment every time, we can really increase the speed that the page loads in." And he said, "Absolutely not." He said, "That is what the site is really about, it's about how you’re connected to these other people, that's what's interesting, that's the thing that's worth doing and beating everybody else.

LISA: The very thing that had drawn users like Reyhan and Reihan to Friendster. This ability to see your friends and your friends friends and your friends friends friends all mapped out was proving to be his undoing. What happens when too much of a good thing is killing your site? That’s coming up, after the break.


LISA: Welcome back to Startup. So Friendster launched, saw this tremendous growth, and then, the site started crashing under all that growth. But despite all their technical problems, Jonathan and his team had still created something that was entirely new -- a social network. Their site was seeing unprecedented growth…. And that got Silicon Valley’s attention. Investors were intrigued. And they felt that the technical problems were solvable…Reid Hoffman was an early investor….

REID: They got out there early. They got a viral growth curve. They had an interesting product, they had a lot of momentum.// suddenly people were like oh my god this is really interesting I should I should try this.

LISA: Instead of Jonathan chasing investors, investors started chasing him. Friendster was a year and a half old at this point. And Jonathan says this time was surreal.

JONATHAN: I remember I was driving in between the offices of a couple venture capital firms, and i had a voicemail from another venture capitalist, pretty famous guy, um, I don’t even know how he had got my phone number, because I had not given it to him. And he said “Hey jonathan, what’s this hear about you doing the deal with so and so and so and so, I thought you were going to do a deal with me. And I hadn’t even pitched this guy.

JONATHAN: And that was weird. And that is not normal.

LISA: And things got even crazier for Jonathan when one of the biggest Silicon Valley firms approached him. The firm was Kleiner Perkins. And specifically one guy at that firm, a guy by the name of John Doerr, who was an early backer of Google, Netscape and Amazon.

MELISSA: He was considered the…the visionary in Silicon Valley.

LISA: That’s Melissa, Jonathan’s close friend and first investor in Friendster.

MELISSA: When he started courting Jonathan...I was like, "Are you kidding me, John's Doher is going to be after me on a term sheet?"It was just sort of a little heady. It was sort of like a Hollywood director discovering an actress. You were like, "Woah, you are going to be, this is gonna be real."

LISA: And while Jonathan was being pursued by these famous investors, another offer came his way...from a young company that was growing rapidly. A little company called Google. Its founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin told Jonathan they wanted to buy Friendster for 30 million dollars. Suddenly, Jonathan had a decision to make: sell to Google … or take money from the venture capitalists who’d been courting him. Exit now for 30 million, or try and build the next billion dollar company. It didn't take long for Jonathan to decide.

JONATHAN: We thought okay by now it’s clear this could be the next big thing. And I thought that if we had the opportunity to get the investors who had helped all these other companies Yahoo, and Amazon, and Netscape and Ebay, all become huge successful companies, If we have those kind of people stepping up to help us? That just seemed like a, a really good shot.

LISA: Jonathan said no to Google’s offer to buy Friendster. Kent Lindstrom was one of the first employees to hear the news.

KENT: The moment that Jonathan turned that down. He really set himself on a path. He really set aside millions- tens of millions in retrospect because Google hadn't gone public yet. Probably hundreds and millions of dollars. To build something.

LISA: Jonathan had chosen the venture capitalists. Two of Silicon Valley’s most prominent firms, Kleiner Perkins and Benchmark Capital, invested 13 million dollars in Friendster. And in return Jonathan gave up some of his shares and voting rights at the company.

LISA: how did things change when the investment money started to pour in?

JONATHAN: Everything changed, actually. Part of it was not just the money, we also started hiring VPs, then additional team members and members of the management team that were recommended to us by the investors. Um And we moved to a bigger office and -- I think really everything changed at that point. I mean, I was excited because at the time I thought that this was a really smart move and that with the additional capital that I thought we needed to keep up with the growth as well as the advice and the help that we were going to get from the investors that this was. A real step forward in sort of increasing the likelihood that we'd be able to take Friendster to full potential and make it a big success.

LISA: A lot of people with impressive resumes started joining Friendster. A guy who’d worked at Netscape came to help build a world-class engineering team. A woman who’d been the third employee at eBay became Friendster director of community development. And then, there was a product guy from Yahoo, who had launched Yahoo news, sports, weather, and finance. Chris Lunt, an early engineer, remembers the hype around these hires.

CHRIS: Jonathan spoke to everybody about this is such an exciting opportunity, look, you’ve got people who have already made it, who are coming here to be apart of it because it’s that revolutionary and exciting.

MELISSA: In the very beginning - he was very enamored with the group of people around them.

LISA: Again here’s Melissa…

MELISSA: He was like, "Oh I must be part of the club, I brought together the heaviest hitters in Silicon Valley, and they have money in this idea and they're supporting me, and look at this, This is amazing!.

LISA: But when Jonathan brought Melissa in to see Friendster’s new office … she felt something else..

MELISSA: He was so excited to show me his new offices, and I met one of the people that this new engineering group had brought in and I was sick to my stomach.

LISA: She said it was clear to her right away that this guy, didn’t respect Jonathan.

MELISSA: Here's the founder of the hottest startup in Silicon Valley, and he says to this - I believe he was the director of engineering - he said, "I really want you to meet my friend Melissa, she was the first investor in Friendster, And he looked at me, and he goes, "I really have to get back to what I'm doing over here." The fact that he was so dismissive of Jonathan and felt ok doing that in front of me said that there is a big problem here. And he is clearly seeing Jonathan as someone that's not adding value or he would have treated him with value and I remember turning to Jonathan and I said, "Watch out because this is - these are not the people I want you to be around." I felt from that moment, my gut was in knots about what was going to happen at this company. Because they weren't people that were there to serve Jonathan's vision.

LISA: And Melissa was right. A lot of the new people coming into Friendster had already made names for themselves in Silicon Valley...they’d been successful elsewhere...and they had their own ideas for how to fix the problems at Friendster. The board made a choice.

JONATHAN: One of the investors basically emailed me, said we needed to meet. And then met me, I think, at a bar or a restaurant in Mountain View. And basically informed me, while we were gone, we had a secret board meeting and voted to repl -- to essentially replace you as CEO.

LISA CHOW: What did this board member say exactly? Did they give reasons?

JONATHAN ABRAMS: There were some things that were sort of mentioned, things that I had been sort of -- blocking, that were cited as things maybe I was getting in the way of. I mean basically the idea was we've lost confidence in you, and we think it's so urgent that we need to make an abrupt change.

LISA CHOW: What were you feeling inside during all of that?


LISA CHOW: I mean it sounds painful.

JONATHAN ABRAMS: Yeah, I mean it sucked --

LISA: The guys who had been courting Jonathan five months earlier, had just fired him. I reached out to John Doerr and some of the other board members at that time. None of them was willing to talk to us on tape. But one confirmed Jonathan’s account -- that they felt he was blocking things and was the reason problems weren’t getting fixed. Melissa, Jonathan’s old friend and first investor… remembers when Jonathan told her the news...

MELISSA: He was very measured. "Well I'm no longer CEO of Friendster" Just like that. Just like when he said, "I have this thing I'm working on" at the very beginning. And I remember feeling so devastated for him and for the company.

KENT: I remember sitting down at our office in Mountain View.

LISA: Kent Lindstrom also remembers hearing the news….he was one of the first employees that Jonathan had hired.

KENT: It was probably late at night, it was dark, and he- Jonathan came into my office before I left he said "I have been, you know, I've been replaced by the board of directors." And then the things start going through your head are-" Is that normal? Is that not normal? Wait he founded this company how can he do that?" You go through a quick entire jumble of thoughts. The denial, the anger, the grief all that.

LISA: But Kent says there wasn’t much time to process these feelings because…. pretty quickly the board was putting an entirely different spin on the firing…

KENT: All of a sudden it was the board of directors coming in and saying: This is going to be amazing. We're going to get you a professional CEO. Even the guy who ran Yahoo. Maybe somebody who ran Intuit." These big names and all of a sudden it was stars and lights.The shock and disappointment was really quickly eclipsed by this wave of activity, and recruiting, and new people coming in- and excitement, and promise about the future.

LISA: That future … and what actually came next for Friendster … that’s in the next episode of Startup.


LISA: Next week on Startup, what happens when you go from running a TV network to running a tech company?

SCOTT SASSA: My favorite thing is the engineers used to say, how’s our brain dead media executive doing today?

LISA: That’s next time on Startup.


StartUp is hosted by me, Lisa Chow. Our show is produced by Bruce Wallace, Luke Malone, Simone Polanen and Emanuele Berry. Our senior producer is Molly Messick. We are edited by Caitlin Kenney and Pat Walters. Production assistance and fact checking by Alvin Melathe. Special thanks to Eric Mennel and Natalie Jones.

Mark Phillips wrote and performed our theme song. Build Buildings wrote and performed our special ad music.

Additional music by Takstar, Jupyter, Tyler Strickland and the band Hot Moms Dot Gov.

Andrew Dunn and Ian Scott mixed the episode.

To subscribe to StartUp, go to Apple Podcasts, or whichever app you like to use. Or check out the Gimlet Media website: GimletMedia.com. You can follow us on Twitter @podcaststartup.

Finally: a quick reminder that Alex Blumberg is taking listener questions… So if you want to talk to Alex about Gimlet, about being an entrepreneur… leave him a message at 812-641-1231. Some lucky callers will get a call back -- and might be featured on a future episode of Startup.

Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.