Our Incredible Journey: The Tumblr of Startup Demise

Our smartphones are convenience boxes filled with all sorts of magical, useful apps on which we rely to monitor our sleep, wake us gently, control the temperature of our homes, buy our morning coffee, remind us of all the things we would otherwise forget, warn us of traffic snafus, keep us connected with family, and so on. And at any moment, the companies who built those apps on which we rely so heavily could be bankrupt or worse... acquired.

I mean, bankrupt is one thing: there's good chance that a solid app will be picked up by someone who will endeavour to keep it online or at least some enthusiast who just can't part with it will build a knock-off model that's surprisingly slightly better.

But an acquisition... no, that means the end. And they always seem to have the audacity to issue some BS press release putting a positive spin on the whole thing that they think will console you in your time of need. Jerks.

Here's a for instance for you. Tell me if this sounds familiar:
It's your favourite app. It's probably operated by a tiny team of three out of someone's basement with a server rack held together by duct tape and popsicle sticks. But it's one of your favourites and you've become pretty dependent on it. In fact, you use it every day to monitor your pet rabbit's movements with super high-precision GPS coordinates in the event that he tries to make a break for it and leave the confines of the bunny mecca you have set up and immediately deploys a small automated gate to seal the room well before the bunny approaches the door. It's your bunny nanny in the event that you forget to close your bedroom door. And it's saved your too-tired-to-think-before-coffee butt more than once after you left it open on your way to work.

Today, you got an email from your beloved startup informing you that they've been bought by some massive tech conglomerate. You're happy for your friendly startup at first but then you realize that OMG this is the end. Buggs Buddy (oh how the clever play on your favourite childhood cartoon character still makes you smile), Buggs Buddy is shutting down immediately. Full stop. The app will cease to function within the "coming weeks", they say. "It's been fantastic", they say. "Thank you for joining us on this incredible journey, we can't wait to see what the future holds", they say.

But you see the writing on the wall. You know it's the beginning of the end. You saw an anonymous insider post on Reddit that said the GPS-dependent algorithm used to calculate the velocity of the rabbit toward the gate-closing sensor is proprietary and piqued the interest of some autonomous electric vehicle magnate. Now he's bought the whole company, made petagazzilionnaires of those guys in the basement and completely discarded your precious app like superfluous drivel.

Our incredible journey indeed.
I see you nodding.
I feel your pain.
So does Phil Gyford.
He's the creator of the Tumblr Our Incredible Journey which catalogues press releases issued by companies in these exact circumstances.
It reads like the biggest pile of PR BS creatively optimistic media relations writing you'll ever come across.

Which is part of the reason why Gyford created the site:
Cataloging the thrilling opportunities start-ups are offered when their incredible journey continues by being bought by an exciting company. However, as a user of the start-up’s service, your own incredible journey must end, because all of your photos and writing and checkins and messages and relationships must now be deleted.
In part this site is simply a snarky and angry response to companies and people who profit from an acquisition while showing little regard for the efforts of the thousands of people who spent time on their service.

But this site also asks broader questions: Is this the best way to structure and grow businesses? Is this the best long-term model for keeping people interested in making and doing amazing things on the internet? Why does almost no website or online service (my own included) have a plan for what happens to their users’ content over the long term?
Part snarkfest, part reality check, one thing is sure: Our Incredible Journey is a lot of fun to scroll through.

Here's a recent entry for Second Sync which pretty much matches my sample scenario to a T:
Screen shot of Our Incredible Journey

Head over to Our Incredible Journey to see if you recognize some of the incredible journeys that have come to an end. Maybe you'll learn why your favourite app mysteriously stopped working last week...

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