I was interviewed recently on the Bloomberg TV program "Taking Stock." I talk about how Threadless works and discuss our new projects that aim to bring community-based design to new products, organizations and industries. I also say "uh" a lot.
I'm excited to announce a new project we launched today - Twitter Tees by Threadless. We've brought the Threadless crowdsourcing model for t-shirts to the Twitter community. Twitter Tees will feature notable tweets submitted and voted on by Twitter users, with art direction and design of each shirt by the in-house creative team at Threadless. We've already gotten some nice coverage by Mashable, BrandWeek, and O'Reilly.
Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, originally reached out to us in early January regarding some Twitter logo tees they were interested in producing. Here at Threadless, we had already been refining a strategy to bring crowdsourcing to other vibrant communities, so the timing was perfect. In February, Biz invited us to speak to the Twitter team at their San Francisco office about Threadless and crowdsourcing. It was great to exchange ideas with their team and they really liked our idea for enabling any Twitter user to submit and vote on tweets to make the best Twitter Tees. Once we decided to move forward, our team here at Threadless did a great job taking this project from concept to live site in a very short time. The Twitter API provided a great platform for developing a richly integrated site, and Biz Stone and his colleague Maggie Utgoff were incredibly supportive.
Here's how it works. After logging into the site using your Twitter credentials, you can instantly access your own tweets and submit them for consideration. You can also nominate others' tweets for consideration, and you can vote on any tweets submitted to determine if they are worthy of being printed as a Twitter Tee. Importantly, in respect of your privacy, you must approve any tweet of yours that someone else has nominated before it is eligible for voting. Also, in respect of your time/messaging preferences, you can choose to approve all, deny all or review each nomination on a case-by-case basis. Tweets from protected Twitter accounts are not eligible for nomination or submission. Each week we'll print two new Twitter Tees, based on community vote. If your own tweet is selected you will receive $500 and if you are first to nominate a successful tweet you will receive $140.
We launched the site with four great Twitter-themed tees from existing tweets:
"I'm huge on Twitter" by @xenijardin
"140 is the new 420" by @mutgoff
"In space no one can hear you tweet" by @LouisTrapani
I can't wait to see which tweets the community submits and votes up in the coming weeks, but I expect them to be as diverse and varied as the conversations happening constantly on Twitter. Please check out the site and submit, nominate and vote on some tweets! I'd love to get your feedback.
First, we recently launched a new site for each of our four key tee shirt brands: Threadless (user-submitted and rated designs); TypeTees (user-submitted and rated slogans); Select (established artist designs curated by Threadless); and Threadless Kids (popular Threadless designs for kids and babies). Previously, only Threadless and Threadless Kids had their own sites. This new structure provides each brand its own unique space where it can grow, be promoted and speak to its distinct audience. At the same time, the universal navigation bar at the top of each site and other cross-site promotional aspects, give each site the support of being part of the Threadless family. And with a single shopping cart, you can shop seamlessly across sites, with one integrated check out. I think all four sites look great, and I believe that this "separate but together" strategy will benefit each. Personally, I find submitting and rating slogans on TypeTees to be addictive. I guess it's because I couldn't design a compelling art tee shirt to save my life, but I'm still up for the challenge of submitting an original idea and seeing if the community will deem my slogan worthy of printing.
Second, Select recently partnered with design/technology icon John Maeda and the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where Maeda recently became President, to curate a series of four stunning designs from RISD professors. The "RISD Collection" includes: Renaissance Beauty by illustration professor Trent Burleson; The Journey by industrial design professor Soojung Ham; Nature vs Nurture by graphic design professor Nancy Skolos; and Ouroboros '08 by illustration professor Randy Willier. Part of the proceeds from the RISD Collection support a $15,000 donation made by Select to the RISD Scholarship Fund.
Third, we opened our first Threadless Kids physical store today. The store is located at 1905 West Division in a great little shopping district in the Wicker Park section of Chicago. Well before the severity of the economic crisis became apparent, we took a cost-conscious approach of doing more with less. Not only were we able to launch a beautiful, engaging shopping experience on a budget, but we believe that the Threadless brand and spirit are more truly conveyed by this design than by expensive build outs that were originally considered.
The team here at SkinnyCorp has done a great job on all these initiatives. I am lucky to be working with such a talented, passionate bunch.
One last update that might interest you is that we just launched a MASSIVE month-long holiday sale today. There are big discounts on items across all four sites, and we'll be unveiling a new promotional "gift" on each of the next three Mondays. Enjoy!
Check out this track. It’s things like this that make working at Threadless really special.
Snippet is a musician from England who used to be part of an electronic act called Deep Joy on the amazing Mo’ Wax label. Mo' Wax was home to many pioneering and talented acts, like DJ Shadow, Attica Blues, DJ Krush, and Dr. Octogon. What set the label apart, however, was that each release was delivered in equally impressive artwork, oftentimes from famous artists like Futura. Mo' Wax was truly one one of the labels where the case for vinyl over any other format is a no-brainer.
Anyhow, Snippet read about Threadless recently in one of the UK newspapers. He got so inspired by our community and the idea of user-designed products that he wrote a song about Threadless called “I Love Your T-Shirt.” Now that's community love!
I'm thrilled to announce that I have just joined skinnyCorp / Threadless as CEO. skinnyCorp operates several online communities, the largest of which is Threadless, a community-based t-shirt company with an ongoing open-call for design submissions. Essentially, designers from around the world submit designs which are rated by the large and active Threadless community. The weekly winners are paid a cash prize and their designs are printed onto t-shirts which the company sells. Founded in 2000, Threadless has been growing rapidly and is the original and leading player in this space. Also, just recently, the company launched Threadless Kids.
I am excited to be working again in an entrepreneurial, consumer-focused company that bridges the creative world and the web world. I'm particularly happy that it's one with such a vibrant and passionate community. I am looking forward to collaborating closely with Jake Nickell (founder/CSO), Jeffrey Kalmikoff (CCO), Harper Reed (CTO), and the rest of the extremely talented team.
Jake posted the anouncement on the Threadless blog earlier today. It's a great welcome to begin what I expect will be a tremendously rewarding, fun, and successful partnership.
I'm excited to announce my involvement on the board of directors of social music start-up Qloud. The company's "My Music" application has been live for just three months on Facebook, and has already acquired 1 million users. That makes it the #2 music app on Facebook, with more users than Pandora, Last.fm and imeem combined. If you haven't already installed "My Music" on your Facebook account, please give it a try. You can get it here. The "musical poke" feature is novel and I find myself using it a lot to send songs to friends on their birthdays.
Founders Toby Murdock and Mike Lewis and their team have done a great job so far with excellent support from their main backer - AOL founder Steve Case and his team at Revolution LLC. Directors and/or additional investors include Chris Blackwell (founder of Island Records who launched the careers of U2 and Bob Marley), Ted Leonsis (former Vice Chairman of AOL), Jim Bankoff (former EVP of AOL), Tige Savage (Revolution), Dave Goldberg (former GM Music at Yahoo), and Paul Vidich (former EVP Warner Music). I feel fortunate to be a part of this distinguished group helping drive Qloud forward. The full press release is here.
Today, for Qloud, the sky's the limit.
Yesterday morning I woke up and was delighted to see that Google had finally enabled more storage for Gmail. It comes at a price, but who cares? I have been bumping up against my 2.8 GB Gmail storage quota regularly for months now, constantly teetering between 98% capacity and full. It's been annoying and a bit stressful. Each week I've had to devote an hour or so to "garden" my account, ripping out the weeds (messages with large attachments) in order to make my e-mail account work again. Except they're not really weeds - they're files I would prefer to simply archive. In fact, the point of Gmail is to never have to delete anything. It's core to Google's marketing pitch for Gmail, as I am reminded whenever visiting the "Trash" section with the message "Who needs to delete when you have over 2000 MB of storage?!" Me for one, and probably thousands and thousands of others. For many of us who use Gmail as our primary mail service and who send and receive large files, 2.8 GB runs out fast. What was particularly troublesome was there were no good tools on Gmail to make gardening fast and easy. Despite, Gmail being a generally fantastic product of the world's largest search company, there is no option for searching messages by file size (to determine which messages are clogging storage the most). Instead, I have been downloading my entire archive to Mac Mail, sorting by file size there, and returning to Gmail to search and delete files one by one. When on the go, and using Gmail on my Blackberry, I was often stranded since Gmail for mobile doesn't enable trashing messages. If I received a very large set of photos or presentation mid-morning, I would have to wait until I returned home to garden and restore service.
So, a big "thank you" to Google for offering more storage. Google sparked a web-mail storage war when it launched Gmail by offering over 2GB for free. Other web mail service providers had been trying to charge users for anything above nominal storage. In response to Gmail, AOL and Hotmail upped free storage to 2GB. Not to be outdone, Yahoo recently pursued the nuclear option - unlimited free storage - as it watched Gmail take off. As a user, I would have preferred Google match Yahoo's price. However, I think Gmail is a great product and believe Google can easily charge many users for storage. And while I still think it's a bit ironic that Google doesn't offer some key search functionality for Gmail, it's a non-issue for me now.
I am excited to be an angel investor in Grockit, an online learning start-up based in San Francisco. Earlier today, Michael Arrington at TechCrunch wrote about the fundraising. I have been looking at the online learning space over the past year, initially inspired by the success of MegaStudy in South Korea. Besides building a very valuable business in its home market through a combination of online and in-person teaching methods, MegaStudy fueled an interesting cultural phenomenon - they turned teachers into rock stars! Top teachers at MegaStudy do the equivalent of stadium tours and, as they walk on stage, the student-fans go wild. Business Week wrote a great piece on MegaStudy last year.
When speaking to Farbood Nivi, the founder and CEO of Grockit, a few months ago, I was similarly inspired. His vision is to "abolish Education and replace it with Learning." He plans to do this, in part, through a novel concept called MMOL - Massively Multiplayer Online Learning. Essentially, Farb believes that students learn best from each other, and he has some great ideas on how to build a business around this concept. He's also got the street cred to build a leading company in this sector, having been a top ranked teacher with Princeton Review for years. It's very different from MegaStudy, but I like it even more.
Good luck to Farb, his partner Michael, and the rest of the Grockit team!
A digital arts and media guy with a thirst for entrepreneurship, electronic music and beer.