In 2011, BetaWorks CEO John Borthwick and his management team gave back $27 million "and then some" to investors, according to a recent TechCrunch Disrupt interview (see below), and then they topped up the tank for another few millions in investment to keep building what is emerging as a suite of media products that sew together the social web. According to Borthwick "What we have now is a collection of things," that Betaworks is using to build that many might call the social web version of cable tv. In several interviews on the web, Borthwick surfaces this idea that many people turn to the social web in a very human way to use media platforms as a social "nexus."
They communicate ideas, they set aside time to comment on articles, and they create a searchable social web that produces information about people to connect to, and problems to solve, to name a few pieces of the social web puzzle. While most attention has been focused on Borthwick's purchase of Digg, and Instapaper, and the "growth" story around his investments, little attention is paid to what he is actually doing.
Is he creating a more engaged social web? Is he sewing together dozens of media properties to create a more seamless information and engagement experience in the web? Is he making our modern century's New York Times, which is actually more of a series of conversation feeds, rather than a single media property run by a publisher's bias or business interests? It's fascinating to watch, and we have many questions for him.
Douglas Crets will talk about this with John Borthwick this Thursday at 3pm Pacific, during another live conversation hosted by the folks at Microsoft BizSpark.
You can watch the Borthwick interview with Alexia Tsotsis here.
If anyone knows the story of Cable Cowboy, John Malone, they might remember that Malone built his cable empire by literally going around the country and using cable to link up disparate terrestrial tv affiliates into one massive tv offering. There were brutal battles. Much of what Borthwick says in interviews focuses on this type of story. He tells Tsotsis in his interview that "the market is characterized by big companies, and this incredible startup system... but I think if you look at the products out there, I think of them more like an ecosytem or a cluster of things."
He says that they are focused on "the whole platform" and "the entire puzzle," rather than the single most profit-optimizing piece of the puzzle.
The fact that BetaWorks was able to return $27 million, "and then some" to investors should tell you that building something holistic for the web can be profitable.