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Why is Path nailing it?

Look at the top headline on +Techmeme today: it's all about how Path is seeing huge success. +TechCrunch's +Alexia Tsotsis says it's grown daily users 30x since relaunch:

But no one really has nailed why. Well, my video sort of did (I included that again, in case you missed it).

"Damn, Scoble, you really are being a smartass today, so, why did they nail it?"

Because they are building a company, not a product. Even moreso they are building a culture and a mission, not just a company.

Almost every time I see a product that just doesn't seem right in some way I later learn that there are fights internally and it isn't being run properly. Heck, I've been inside a company where that's happening (actually, more than one).

In the interview I try to unpack on what's going on there, and we get close. Most CEOs don't let the conversation go to internal dynamics but, heck, it was late at night and I could sense that one of the guys, co-founder Dustin Mierau, wasn't so media trained (his friends told me after the interview went up that this was amazing that I even got him to talk) so I just kept going and kept the camera on. 51 minutes with a startup like this is very long by my standards.

Anyway, there's something else going on here:

1. We are chasing something deeper than what Facebook and Twitter can give us. Google+ tapped into that with its circles. That deeper thing is smaller, less public, groups.

2. Addictive technologies have moved to a new level with Path. With Path I can see when you merely view a post of mine. That is very addictive. It's hard to go to sleep or turn off the app when dozens of people are checking out your photo and commenting.

3. The design of it is subtle, but feels good through the entire product. That isn't true of many other apps.

4. Dave is able to articulate where he's going with the product. This makes me believe in the future of this company/culture and product.

5. The San Francisco cool kids are addicted and addicted deeply (you should see how often many of the insiders are posting stuff, including when they are going to sleep on my group). This means that the press will continue to talk about Path. People wonder why they don't get press for their product yet they aren't willing to cowtow to the "elites" or "insiders." Funny, getting featured on Apple's store brings tens of thousands of new users every day. This stuff matters if you are building a brand and a company. It isn't only the San Francisco cool kids, either. At LeWeb people from all over the world came up to me and told me they love Path. This causes us to be even more addicted to watching this company evolve.

Anyway congrats to Dave and Dustin. Can't wait to see what's next along your paths.

One personal note -- right after doing this interview I wrote this on Facebook:


Last night I met with Dave Morin, CEO of Path. I recorded an interview that ran almost an hour. It'll be up as soon as his embargo ends (I.E. whenever Apple approves something he's working on with his team). But I learned a few things about myself in that process.

1. Don't ever write off a born entrepreneur. Honestly I didn't like Path's original app. I'm not a private guy, so just didn't care for it. Plus, it had lots of other flaws. For instance, my best friends don't have iPhones. But he's kept at it, and I think he's onto something now.

2. Great design rocks my world. But great design doesn't just happen. In almost every case it's evidence that the company culture is healthy. That's something deep that we unpacked a bit last night. My favorite apps have employees that love working with their coworkers. Is that any accident? I don't think so. When I've found things that don't quite feel right, invariably I learn about corporate infighting and other cultural problems.

3. Facebook is forcing EVERY company to have a Facebook strategy. Even if that strategy is "we are avoiding it." We spend a lot of time talking about that too. Dave used to run platform at Facebook, and I didn't get why he was being so anti Facebook in his early versions. Today I totally get that and you'll see it in the video when that's up.

4. If you think mobile apps are done you are absolutely wrong. There's innovations yet to come. Dave gave me hope for the future.

5. You can build beautiful Android apps but they take a LOT more work than doing the same on iOS. The developers at Path told me, about one very cool UI element "on Android we coded that by hand." Plus, debugging is a chore on Android too. That said, companies that want to build a world-changing system need to build for both. I'm seeing the bar shift where companies MUST build for both to keep up with companies like Path.

Anyway, I came away from our conversation thinking I originally underestimated Morin. I won't make that mistake again.


I believe that even deeper now. I don't always get it right.
Dominik Mayer's profile photoCharles Warren's profile photoMendel W's profile photoTed Oakley's profile photo
Yes, Mr. S. you nailed it. A private personal journal that kicks ass.
How long does Path have to sustain this period of initial excitement and adoption to convert it into real staying power? How many things like this come out of the gate strong (or at least strongly hyped) only to disappear a month later? Color anyone?
I am using it to post on multi-platform, it's quick & fast. I love it.
Dave's said it all along and I'm glad you finally believe it!
Path vs. Instagram is going to make 2012 interesting. Happy Holidays Robert.
I think its silly to compare Path to Instagram, Instagram isn't a journal without photos.
I think it would be a shame if it did sell to Facebook at some point, it would totally defeat the reason I use it.
I'm willing to give it time, but the fact is, I don't care when my early adopter friends go to sleep, and I already see where they are via Foursquare, see their photos via Instagram and read their thoughts via Twitter. If I could persuade my close family to use this then it may be of use but I'm not certain they'll ever be sold by it when Facebook has managed to do user retention so well.
I like Path today. Tomorrow it needs to stick to friends and not acquaintances. Where everyone is missing it is that "friends" are situational, contextual and change often. No one is tackling that. 
...and the Android App still sucks. You can't just force the UI of an iPhone app onto Android.
+Robert Scoble Yes, I'd love to see Path go mainstream - if I could curate a group of my closest friends and family, and they used it religiously, it would be brilliant. We'll see...
+Robert Scoble It's funny, for right now, I don't have any family or Friends in Path. So right now my 150 are all intelligent tech and social media conversationalists figuring out Path. 
Sooooo did you really just broadcast his password? :/
+Martin Bryant agree re the early adopter problem. Having said that, Path is SO beautiful and addictive that all other apps I regularly use fade in comparison.
Being an early adopter is not only about trying out new stuff, its also about using stuff no one uses for a long while before any of the "normal folks" use it.
Of course it has to be rewarding enough even without having all your close friends on it. Dont know about you but I believe it totally is!
+Robert Scoble Re: Comparison to Color - So I guess Path needs to have silly amounts of money poured into them, then disappear for awhile, only to re-emerge victorious? Hmm, maybe they are on the right uh, path, then.... (so sorry.)
+Hamutal Meridor Yes, it looks lovely, but to me it's just another place to share things that I can already share elsewhere - I'd given up on it since I got back from LeWeb. Going to give it another concerted go as a result of this thread though :)
+Robert Scoble Yes, I find the 'personal journal' and 'semi-intimate sharing' functions don't quite gel. What I want to publish in there for my own personal record may feel spammy to my friends on there. A difficult balance.
I don't know a single person who is using it, so I have no-one to follow. That said, I still love Path. I'm just using it as a personal journal/scrapbook and having a lot of fun with it.

Even if friends end up signing up, I will consider a private account that I just use as a journal.
I would +1 the iPhone app for Flipboard. I can't believe how much I use it, mainly to read Twitter feeds. But I absolutely love it. 
strange. i only have 5 friends on path and I'm already annoyed that there is no noise control. aren't you usually the first one crying for noise control?
This is true that graphically Path is an achieved product. It's nice to see. However, i was thinking about an article you wrote on how difficult you could be with apps sent to you everyday and when you review them. Well, it seems that the review is not objective for everybody. Objectivity is what we expect from journalists. Now i can tell you that Path, although nice to see, is quite full of bugs and it didn't take me more than 2 minutes to make it crash like a beginners app. So how come you didn't spot this kind of issues? why you dont even mention issues? i taught you were so tough in your reviews.
Or maybe you are not really always as objective as one could expect from a reviewer, journalist?
Quite disappointing to tell the truth.
Excellent interview Robert! Very, very interesting....thanks!
+Kol Tregaskes for me, it's not the UI, it's working out where it fits into my life. Can a personal journal really double up as something you share with up to 150 people? The moment you start sharing with an audience, it's not a personal journal, as you start editing yourself (even if it's subconsciously).
+Martin Bryant True. I've not used it enough to decide on this. Generally, though, I always edit myself like my Mum reads my posts. :-)
+Vic Ted a-ha! Definitely some UI enhancements needed then - totally missed that. Thanks. 
I buy the concept and considered using it. But I can't see how the tagline 'Private personal journey' fits with the privacy policy.

Some samples wrt to 3rd parties:
- "we will not share except with service providers we are working with" Really? ... can it be more fuzzy... "not accountable for what service providers do with the data" .... That is not very responsible treatment of my data.

- in case of a merger my data is shared? That makes you a really good target for acquisition, surely good from a business perspective

It may be private wrt to people, but scary wrt to how it allows to share with companies. Think it needs some more to be trustworthy.
Path now allows 150 friends max (it was 50 before). What do you think about that?
If I use it as a journal then I'm worried about locking my content into a closed system. Are there export / sync options?
Or did the whole uploading your contacts without your permission nail their coffin?
I love it as well..just can't convince anybody else to use it so for now its only my Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare dashboard.
be persistent showing your excitement - it's all it takes :)
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