Jonathan Abrams

Jonathan Abrams

CEO and Founder of Nuzzel

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 06, 2015

Discussion

Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
I'm a software engineer, entrepreneur, and angel investor. Currently I'm trying to connect everyone in the world with the news content that is most important to them, as founder & CEO of Nuzzel. I'm also Managing Partner of Founders Den, a startup community and co-working space in San Francisco, and previously founded the social networking service Friendster.
Anthony
Anthony@antbs
Hey Jonathan, congrats on the latest funding round. Ever since I discovered Nuzzel I've been checking it multiple times a day to cut through the junk and find the good stuff! I love the friends of friends feed and its balance of familiarity and discoverability - what plans do you have to extend this?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@antbs thanks Anthony. Our main plan for extending Nuzzel is to try to get the experience you have had, i.e. finding the good stuff and cutting through the junk, to everyone on the Internet, even people who don't yet understand how to use Twitter.
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@abrams @antbs and related to that, to also help you find great content about additional areas of interest that might be beyond what your main Nuzzel is feed is focused on
Alexandru Stanciu
Alexandru Stanciu@ducu · Building @svvendotcom
@abrams @antbs is this working for the Facebook-only users? Are there any such users?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@ducu @antbs this is stuff we will be rolling out in a few months. Facebook has never worked well in Nuzzel compared to Twitter, I think Facebook social graphs may be too poluted.
Alexandru Stanciu
Alexandru Stanciu@ducu · Building @svvendotcom
Hi Jonathan, could you give us some technical details about Nuzzel? Like server side technologies used, where is it hosted, how do you deal with Twitter API limits, what about websites with paywalls etc. How much of the code did you write yourself? Thanks and thumbs up for a great product.
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@ducu Hi Alexandru. I wrote the original prototype version of Nuzzel myself, but haven't had much time for coding lately. Our team is only 6 people, 4 of whom are software engineers, and they are great, and doing what some companies probably coudln't get done with 50 people. Our back-end is all written in Java, and we use pretty standard stuff like MySQL and Memcache.
Alexandru Stanciu
Alexandru Stanciu@ducu · Building @svvendotcom
@abrams How about Twitter API? Are you using Streaming or just REST? Thanks!
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
This is typically @rrhoover's question, but I'll go ahead and ask it: What's on your (smart phone) home screen?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@andrewmettinger Nuzzel, Twitter, Slack, Facebook, Yelp, Uber, Waze, Podcasts, Skype, nothing too exciting or surprising probably.
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@abrams @andrewmettinger well now I have to bite, what are your favorite podcasts? =)
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
Thanks everyone! I really enjoyed your questions. You can find me on Twitter at @abrams if you ever have further questions. 8-)
Russ Frushtick
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
What's your proudest accomplishment?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@russfrushtick Hi Russ, I'm very proud of Nuzzel, it's pretty cool how such a small company is doing things that the whole industry is paying attention to. I'm also proud of Friendster, despite all the problems that happened when I was replaced as CEO, because Friendster still was very innovative and inspired a whole generate of other Internet services in a way that was bigger than just one company.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Jonathan, what inspired you to create Nuzzel?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@ems_hodge Hi Emily. I was inspired to create Nuzzel by my own needs. I got tired of consuming news via RSS and was getting more stuff via Twitter and Facebook but couldn't keep up and didn't have time to click on every link and wanted a tool that would harness all of the social signals from my friends and generate a personalized news experience for me. I thought it was a pretty obvious need and someone else would build it, but eventually realized no one was building exactly what I wanted.
Zach Kahn
Zach Kahn@zkahn94 · Lead Podcast Marketing @ Vox Media
Hey Jonathan! Huge fan of Nuzzel, as you know. What is the future of Nuzzel as a product (vs. a company), specifically on iOS?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@zkahn94 Thanks Zach. I think the future of Nuzzel, including on iOS, is supporting everyone in the world, even if they cannot log in via Twitter.
Alexandru Stanciu
Alexandru Stanciu@ducu · Building @svvendotcom
@abrams @zkahn94 How do you see this working (ie. stepping away from Twitter) since Nuzzel relies exclusively on Twitter defined user networks?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@ducu @zkahn94 we are not stepping away from Twitter at all, we are going to help people use Nuzzel even if they don't have a Twitter account, but Twitter is still a big part of it.
Alexandru Stanciu
Alexandru Stanciu@ducu · Building @svvendotcom
@abrams @zkahn94 Oh sure but I mean.. For Twitter users you aggregate their following network, but how can you offer relevance to non-Twitter users?
Eric Willis
Eric Willis@erictwillis · Working on something new
@abrams Thanks for doing this AMA, Jonathan. How did your experience with Friendster shape the way you're currently running Nuzzel? It seems like you're being extremely deliberate (smaller rounds than you could have likely raised + laser-focus on your niche) and that seems like a contrast to how quickly Friendster grew.
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@erictwillis Hi Eric, oops it seems like my reply to this question got lost somehow. I hopefully learned a lot from the problems at Friendster, the Nuzzel team actually also includes Kent and Ross who were part of Friendster. I think we learned a lot about not giving up control, about web scalability, about keeping the product simple.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far and why?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@ems_hodge Hi Emily, there are so many moments, I'd have to think for a long while to pick the most memorable. There are a lot of ups and downs as an entrepreneur. Recently I found out that comedian Steve Martin and Dell Computer founder Michael Dell are using Nuzzel, stuff like that is really fun and exciting. On the other hand, some days we literally get emails from people who are annoyed at something in our product telling us to "fuck off". It's certainly not boring.
Sydney Liu
Sydney Liu@sydney_liu_sl · Co-Founder of Commaful.com
Hi Jonathan! Thanks for doing this AMA. You've been working on great products and ideas for awhile now. From Friendster to Founders Den to Nuzzel. What is something that you've learned that you think entrepreneurs don't understand or appreciate as much? Thanks! Sydney
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@sydney_liu_sl Hi Sydney. I think in general there is way too much generic startup advice out there right now. There's no magic formula for startup success. Most will not be successful and the path of a successful company is often unique and includes some randomness and luck too. Every single company I have started and product I have built has stemmed from years of personal and professional experiences and thoughts leading up to that project -- I'm a bit skeptical of people who want to start a company because all their friends are doing it, and then look around to find an idea.
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Hi Jonathan! What do you think of Twitter Moments? How do you think it changes (1) Twitter's future and (2) how people consume news in the future?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@melissajoykong Hi Melissa, I believe Twitter Moments came out this morning, and after I'm done this chat, I'll hopefully find some time to play with it! But it's exciting to see Twitter launching new things.
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
It is notoriously challenging to start a news-driven business. What's the biggest challenges you've had to overcome in the process of building Nuzzel thus far?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@melissajoykong Hi Melissa, we certainly have faced some skepticism from investors about doing a news-based business. Which is funny because there is so much exciting stuff going on with news now, including BuzzFeed, and Axel Springer buying Business Insider, etc. Obviously we have some great investors despite this, but several people told us "there's no money in news".
Rick Marini
Rick Marini@rmarini · Entrepreneur, Angel Investor
Hey man! How does Nuzzel fit in with the changing landscape of media / news consumption?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@rmarini Hello Sir! There is a lot going on these days with how news is discovered and consumed. Obviously Facebook, Twitter, Google, SnapChat, and others are all doing interesting things. What Nuzzel is trying to do, and I think our approach is unique, is help people solve overload and connect them to the stuff they really need to know about. And we do it cross platform, including via email, which is super old school, and via our innovative personalized news alerts on iOS and Android, which is a very new approach. We are also talking to news publishers about how we might help them in the future.
Sebastian Deutsch
Sebastian Deutsch@sippndipp · 9elements
Hi Jonathan, are you doing NLP on the content that you're aggregating?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@sippndipp Hi Sebastian, we are not doing NLP. Our focus in on harnessing the power of social curation.
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
Hey @abrams! I love Nuzzel and it's basically the only way I can keep track of Twitter between sessions. Now that Twitter is experimenting rolling out new product features (polls, modding character limits, etc.), what one feature is the highest on your wish list?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@alexcartaz Hi Alex! I'd love to see Twitter take Twitter Lists off the back burner and start making them easier to create, find, use, etc.
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What do you envision for Nuzzel 1 year from now?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@jakecrump Hi Jake. I think a year from now Nuzzel has become a platform where experts and organizations have created thousands (or millions) of feeds that people can engage with to get relevant content across many different topics, professions, and communities.
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
What are you thoughts on Jack returning to Twitter as the CEO?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@andrewmettinger Hi Andrew. I think it's great. At Friendster, I never had the opportunity to come back and try to fix things. Also great that Adam Bain will be COO. Seems like everyone is excited and it's good to have things figured out so they can move forward.
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Congrats on the recently announced round, @Jonathan (details here by @Jim_Edwards for everyone else)! Twitter continues to invest in curating its content and surfacing relevant things that aren't necessarily at the top of people's chronological Twitter feed. IMHO, Nuzzel becomes less useful if they can execute on this well. What are your thoughts and what do you think of Twitter Moments which launched today?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@rrhoover Hi Ryan! I think what Twitter and Nuzzel are doing a pretty complementary. And I think Moments, what Nuzzel does today, and the things that Nuzzel will be launching in Oct and Nov, are all pretty different.
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@abrams oooo! Teaser! Can you hint at what you're building now?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@rrhoover we have a bunch of big things launching in Oct and Nov, and I think if you read my previous interview with Jim at Business Insider, there are hints about them.
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@abrams what advice would you have for your 25 year old self? your 30 year old self?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@eriktorenberg Hi Erik. The biggest thing I did in my 20s was leaving Canada and moving to Silicon Valley, which was one of the best decisions of my life. In my 30s, I made the big mistake of not retaining control of Friendster, that would probably be the thing I would give my younger version advice on.
Pete Huang
Pete Huang@petejayhuang · Product Manager
Just looked at Nuzzel, looks good! Couldn't sign up via Twitter though... One piece of advice for an aspiring product manager?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@petejayhuang that's weird that you could not sign up, please email us the details so we can help!
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
Hi Eric. I certainly I hope we learned a lot from the experiences we had at Friendster (which Kent and Ross from the Nuzzel team also were part of), I think we learned a lot about keeping control of the company, about scalability, keeping the product simple, and more.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@abrams tell us more - what would you have done differently?
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@eriktorenberg @abrams what are the problems that come with success too soon? how do you manage your own psychology around that and not let ego get the best of you?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@eriktorenberg @abrams the simplest thing would have been to retain control of Friendster, exactly the way Facebook's founder was advised to. I don't think we would have gone through 6 CEOs in 6 years had I been in control of the company. Noam Wasserman at Harvard Business School talks about this stuff, he calls it the Cash vs. King paradox, that good founders are supposed to give up full control and share it with VCs to get rich, but that was certainly not my experience.
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@eriktorenberg @abrams dealing with the early fast publicity and growth and attention was certainly challenging. But the funny thing is that the big mistake was not keeping control. Some of the silly inaccurate press about what happened at Friendster said that my ego was a problem, i.e. got big, but in reality the problem was the opposite. I was not arrogant enough to try to retain full control of the company and thought the right thing was to recruit an all-star board and share control. Unfortunately, Friendster's shareholders would have been better off had my ego been bigger. If Google and Facebook had shared control with their investors, I think you would have seen a Scott Sassa or Terry Semel type dropped in as CEO at those companies too. That was the model back then. Remember why Ben Horowitz needed to blog years later about their philosophy about supporting founding CEOs instead of replacing them.
David Notik
David Notik@davenotik · Founder, Woven(.co)
"Friendster's shareholders would have been better off had my ego been bigger." @abrams hear hear... ego aka conviction, confidence, dedication, determination. Nice to "meet" you via this AMA. Love Nuzzel, and immersed in the space myself.
David Turner
David Turner@dturneresq · RSA Fellow
Do you guys feel you owe anything to the early versions of Digg? What about Reddit? Are they the granddaddy of the news aggregation services we have now? What is the future of these services?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@dturneresq Hi David. I actually thought Digg was going to do something like Nuzzel before I started working seriously on Nuzzel. But it seems like Digg 4.0 ended up somewhere half between the classic Digg and Nuzzel and didn't succeed on either side unfortunately. Although Digg was one of a generation of "web 2.0" startups inspired by Friendster's launch, Digg was not really social the way Friendster and Nuzzel are, since you didn't see top news from your friends but rather the global Digg community. So I don't think Digg or Reddit is that similar to Nuzzel. Summify was more similar. Also, what we are trying to do at Nuzzel is help people cut through the noise and save time. I think the way people use Reddit is probably the opposite of that.
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@abrams @dturneresq by the way, there are a LOT of other news aggregation services that came before Nuzzel, like Rojo, Newroo, and more.
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@abrams @dturneresq and by the way, former Digg CEO Jay Adelson is an advisor to Nuzzel.
Alexandru Stanciu
Alexandru Stanciu@ducu · Building @svvendotcom
Which products you see as Nuzzel competitors?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@ducu Hi Alexandru. I think 99% of people who read news online and not using ANY tool to filter the news. They are not using RSS or Nuzzel or any of the other products that people sometimes ask me about. So in the broadest sense, how does Nuzzel become mainstream enough that we are a real alternative to people stumbling around looking for news without any tool, just going to CNN or old school news portals like Google News or Yahoo News?
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@abrams: as the founder of Friendster and Nuzzel, you have a lot of experience building social products people love. Over the next 5-10 years, what do you think will be the biggest change, advancement, or revolution for how we use technology to interact with others?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@alexcartaz I have no idea. A lot of people in Silicon Valley are currently obsessed with virtual reality, drones, bitcoin, wearables, etc. But I'm pretty focused on social, software, and mobile. I was the director of engineering of a VC-backed mobile startup in Silicon Valley in 2001, which is almost 15 years ago, and way before iPhone, so I know that we often get the timing wrong. WAP/WML, Palm, J2ME, etc. were funded for years before real smart phones emerged. But I really am a guy who builds things, I'm not as interested in trying to predict the future.
Bhavik Chinai
Bhavik Chinai@bhavikchinai · Founder-Vamaship | Director-BVCVentures
Hi! Do you think there's any way a B2B tech product can build a network effect?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@bhavikchinai I'm sure there are many examples of that. Amazon Web Services. Maybe Slack?
Michael Downing
Michael Downing@michaeldowning · CEO, Tout
@abrams How much MORE Awesome will Nuzzel become in the next few months?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@michaeldowning haha Hi Michael, one of Nuzzel's amazing advisors! you know we can't go into all the details of that yet! 8-)
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@abrams: what is the most interesting thing you learned while creating Nuzzel? what organic use case has most surprised you (if any)?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@alexcartaz These types of questions are the hardest, because there is so much and it's hard to sort through it all in my head on the spot. We've learned a lot. Perhaps what has surprised us is seeing Nuzzel take off in other countries even though we have not even translated the app yet. I'd say our original product hypotheses about the power of a social curation approach have been proven out, what we probably didn't even realize earlier on was that our approach could also be used to create feeds that are relevant to topics, something we are still in the process of fleshing out into its full potential.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
what advice do you give for savvy + experienced founders looking to start their next company - how should they evaluate ideas? how did you?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@eriktorenberg A savvy and experienced founder probably starts their next company based on deep interests and insights again, not on ego or a desire to prove something. But if success came to easily in the first project, there are definitely some cases where the second project ends up being a overfunded disaster vanity project.
Val
Val@valsvven · Svven
Nuzzle does a good job of cutting through the noise but it still involves the user curating their sources - who they follow, friend . How would you improve on that model? How would you attract people who are not heavy users of Twitter?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@valsvven Great question. Our thinking is that the "regular" people could piggyback on the curation work of experts and influencers and organizations.
Alexandru Stanciu
Alexandru Stanciu@ducu · Building @svvendotcom
Would you sell Nuzzel to Twitter?
Srirang
Srirang@srirangr
Hi Jonathan! Really love Nuzzel. The app made it to my smartphone's home screen in just 2 weeks. Great job! What do you think will be the one thing that Nuzzel will be remembered for in the future?
Jonathan Abrams
Jonathan Abrams@abrams · Engineer, entrepreneur, and investor
@srirangr Thank you! Hopefully Nuzzel will be remembered for being the company that actually connected people to the content they needed. I think most social networking services now offer a lot of social overload. Most news apps send you generic news alerts that are not interesting to you. Facebook shows you pretty random stuff. So hopefully we can change all that.
Srirang
Srirang@srirangr
@abrams @srirangr Facebook often shows random stuff because of promoted content as well. Will Nuzzel screen the promoted content and show only the interesting stuff? That will be a huge blow to the ad-based economy. (But a huge win for the end users)
John Reynolds
John Reynolds@reynolds_wrap · director
Hi Jonathan, could you speak about Nuzzel's 1st funding insights aka what was "initial breakthrough or connection w/ investor(s) as I assume your were an unproved tech but a very powerful idea that needed a home?
David Turner
David Turner@dturneresq · RSA Fellow
Let's but forget @kevinrose
David Turner
David Turner@dturneresq · RSA Fellow
Sorry. But it annoys me and I am in the words of Lady Gaga sick and tired of the originators of many of these ideas being sidelined and forgotten.
David Turner
David Turner@dturneresq · RSA Fellow
Maybe @kevinrose didn't always get it right but who does? It's hard to come up with a strategy that covers every eventuality, And he recently made a much publicised and criticised admission of his fallibility.
David Turner
David Turner@dturneresq · RSA Fellow
However I do wish you and all startup founders well @abrams