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Oh yes, all of you, it’s weekend and it’s a long weekend here in the United States because we have Monday off. As you read this, I’m – hopefully – napping on the couch with three dogs around me, all four of us drooling as we nap.
But! First! There’s a lot to do, so let’s dive into the hub of a startup from earlier in the week and, yes, talk a little bit about money.
The esports world is quite a fragmented place. Built on top of various games, forums, tournament series, platforms, chat apps and websites, it can be a legitimate attempt to find out what the hell is going on even in your favorite game. So in 2020 Juked.gg started building a centralized news hub for all things esports.
The company saw success early on, with a seven-figure round that we discussed in early 2021. But according to co-founder Ben Goldhaberthe service had a period of rapid growth, which he described as “up and right” in graph form, before seeing its active user count plateau last year.
What happened? According to Goldhaber, who also uses the gamertag “FishStix”, Juked ended up in the top 1% of esports fans, but failed to reach a larger audience. So the nascent company was smart about asking its users about its service and what they thought of it. From those conversations, Goldhaber said users brought up issues inherent in esports, such as community toxicity, spam, and hottakes.
So Juked decided to spin a bit and build the social network the users were effectively asking for – a less toxic place to be an esports fan.
The product launched Thursday after a period in closed alpha after it was tested with about 750 users before being made more widely available.
According to information from AppAnnie (now Data.ai, apparently), the service did chart among iOS users in the United States this week, albeit only in the social networking category. We’ll be reaching out to the company in a few months to see how the downloads are coming out.
Big questions remain, including how the service plans to combat toxicity at scale — I had to agree to a pretty strong set of terms to sign up. Juked plans to use human moderation with AI in the future and will require users to sign up with a phone number. All good ideas, but not tested for the company on a large scale.
I dig what Juked worked on because I’m an esports fan. But I’m not exactly in the market for a new social network either. Let’s see how the startup’s in-market juke can help it score more points. (And probably raising money, since it’s been a year since the equity crowdfunding round, so we wouldn’t fall in shock if the company worked over the next few quarters to raise more money.)
A story of two profit calls
This week brought another wave of earnings calls from tech companies. And as always, we’ve been eyeing the market for hints at what’s ahead for startups.
Most of our work is here, in our dive into how important forward guidance is for technology companies today. Lagging results seem much less important to investors than what they see in front of them. So when Amplitude was slammed by investors in the public market, we took notes. There were other companies that took similar blows, including Meta, so don’t think we’re pointing a finger at the recently publicized Amplitude. (It was right on the list last year, remember.)
But there was another side to the coin, which was Appian’s earnings. The low-code automation company has been a quieter story in the public market than most tech debuts. That’s not a diss, ghost; his CEO Matt Calkins told me the same thing this week when he discussed the company’s results.
How so? It comes down to Calkins’ definition of what innovation is, and it’s not just building something. When he told TechCrunch that his company has long been an engineering-led organization, he told us it’s not enough to make something cool. If the company doesn’t market a new function, sell and use, then it is not really innovated. Innovation, he said, is an experience, not a product. The ultimate result of innovation, he added, is a customer’s testimonial to a new position — when someone goes up to the plate and says that something new is really good. Which requires people to, well, know that something exists so they can put a spin on it.
I like his perspective. It helps explain why much of the so-called innovation in the blockchain world is less like real innovation than creating a collection of hypotheses† yes, some of the more esoteric web3 products on the market today will make a real impact, but most of them are more coding tricks than useful tools.
Just before I let you go. The workforce shortage experienced by companies in the United States is not only driving up the cost of personnel, it is helping companies like Appian. The company sees customer demand to automate more of their work because employees don’t want to do it. And unhappy employees bounce.
Finally, Appian’s growth has been accelerating for a while. And it had an earnings report that didn’t lead to a stock price collapse, but a to deserve† Returning to our starting point for this conversation, that’s the bar that companies have to set today for weeding out a few hundred basis points of market cap expansion. It’s a much tougher market than it was a few quarters ago. That’s why, I think, the IPO window is still broken for a while.
Big hug and I hope your weekend is peaceful!