Blippy co-founder contemplates next move
As a little boy, Philip Kaplan, the serial entrepreneur long known as Pud, was â€śforce fedâ€ť Ritalin. Kaplan says this with a laugh, but even today, the 35-year-old admits to having trouble focusing for too long on any one thing. â€śMy wife says Iâ€™m like a kitten with a ball of yarn,â€ť he shrugs.
Kaplanâ€™s attraction to the next shiny new thing has led him to start dozens of companies in his lifetime, including F*ckedCompany, which famously chronicled dot.com busts and saw 5 million monthly unique visitors at its peak a decade ago; AdBrite, the advertising sales and services network; and Blippy, a controversial social network that asks users to share their credit card and online purchases.
But Kaplanâ€™s corporate creativity has also taken a toll. He left AdBrite in 2008 after â€ślaunching 10 businessesâ€ť within the company. â€śThere were 125 employees at the time. No one knew who was doing what. I realized I was creating a lot of chaos.â€ť (Kaplan remains the single biggest individual shareholder of AdBrite, which has raised $35 million, largely from Sequoia Capital.)
Over a lunch of shrimp burritos in San Franciscoâ€™s Noe Valley neighborhood recently, Kaplan revealed for the first time that he has also left Blippy, which last year raised nearly $13 million from investors, most of whom piled into the company before it even launched.
â€śI mainly worked on Blippy for about a year, but I purposely didnâ€™t have a title,â€ť Kaplan told pe HUB. Pushing his blue plastic glass frames up the bridge of his nose, he said heâ€™d always â€śjust wanted to float around the office and help where needed, but now Iâ€™m less active, though Iâ€™m in the office from time to time and Iâ€™m still Blippyâ€™s biggest angel investor.â€ť
Kaplan maintains that Blippy is â€śdoing really well,â€ť having moved away from simply recording what people purchase to inviting them to review the products they acquire. â€śItâ€™s doing better than most people could do. But it hasnâ€™t, like, exploded into something huge yet.â€ť
Itâ€™s hard to say whether Kaplan will notice if Blippy ever takes off. Though he said heâ€™s happy to be free of any corporate responsibilities â€“ â€śitâ€™s only the second time since I was 13 that I donâ€™t have a jobâ€ť â€“ Kaplan confesses that heâ€™s running a mind-boggling 20 to 30 businesses right now. One of them is the free email newsletter service TinyLetter, which Kaplan calls â€śone of my favorite things Iâ€™ve ever done.â€ť In fact, he thought the company could potentially â€śtake off really big. But it turns out that not many people need to do newsletters.â€ť
Kaplan also recently resuscitated MoBog, a predecessor to Instagram that he founded in 2003 but killed soon after. (â€śIt had a Chatroulette problem, if you know what I mean,â€ť he said, referring to the social networking site that randomly connected strangers from around the world via their Webcams â€” many of them looking to expose more than their personalities.)
Meanwhile, Kaplan has been developing â€ślittle sillyâ€ť iPhone applications that â€śare me, making art, just to put it out there and learn how the whole process works.â€ť He speaks excitedly about one in-process application that centers on social networking and that â€ścould, in theory, get big. But who knows.â€ť
â€śA lot of what I do is sort of put things out there and see if they take off,â€ť said Kaplan as he headed out of the taqueria to program some more from his home.
â€ś(Beyond the companies Iâ€™m running) are another 50 that Iâ€™ve shut down. Sometimes, if something makes $50,000 a year, thatâ€™s cool. It just does its thing and makes people happy. But if a company (were) to go crazy like F*ckedCompany or AdBrite, Iâ€™d probably move everything off the table.â€ť