The NYC startup Branch bought by Facebook and stays in the City

Maria Teresa Cometto —  January 14, 2014 — Leave a comment

Congrats to Josh Miller for his deal with Facebook. According to the Verge, his startup was bought at a $15 million value. In his words:

<<After two years building Branch and Potluck, I am thrilled to announce that we will be continuing our mission at Facebook! We will be forming Facebook’s Conversations group, based in New York City, with the goal of helping people connect with others around their interests. Their pitch to us was: “Build Branch at Facebook scale!” Although the products we build will be reminiscent of Branch and Potluck, those services will live on outside of Facebook. A more thoughtful note and details to come soon but I am writing this haphazardly from a mountain in Japan (I was tipped that the story was going to leak while on vacation). In the meantime, a huge “thank you” to our investors. Especially, Jason Goldman, Evan Williams, Biz Stone, Ryan Freitas, John Borthwick, and Jonah Peretti, who all spent an extraordinary amount of time with us.>>

Josh was one of the young entrepreneurs we interviewed for “Tech and the City”. Here is his profile in the chapter “The Meatpacking District and Chelsea”:

“The extraordinary thing is that nerds are cool today, and working at a startup is sexy,” confirms Josh Miller, 22 years old. He is co-founder of Branch, a “platform for chatting online as if you were sitting around the table after dinner.” Miller works at Betaworks, a hybrid company encapsulating a co-working space, an incubator and a venture capital fund, headquartered on 13th Street in the heart of the Meatpacking District. This kid in T- shirt and Bermuda shorts, and a potential star of the 2.0 version of Sex and the City, is super-excited by his new life as a digital neo-entrepreneur. He dropped out of Princeton in the summer of 2011 a year before getting his degree—heresy for the almost 30,000 students who annually apply to the prestigious Ivy League school in the hope of being among the 9% of applicants accepted. What made him decide to take such a big step? An internship in the summer of 2011 at Meetup, the community site for those who organize meetings in the flesh for like-minded people. His leader, Scott Heiferman, took him to one of the monthly meetings of New York Tech Meetup and it was there that Miller saw the light. “It was the coolest thing that ever happened to me,” he remembers. “All those people with such incredible energy. It was nothing like the sheltered atmosphere of Princeton.” The next step was to take part in a seminar on startups where the idea for Branch came to him. He found two partners –students at NYU who could design a website. Heartened by having won a contest for Internet projects, Miller dropped out of Princeton. “My parents told me I was crazy but I think they understood because they had also made unconventional choices when they were kids,” says Miller. “My father, who is now a lawyer, played drums when he was at college, and he and my mother, who left home at 16, traveled around Europe for a year. I want to be a part of the new creative class that is pushing the boundaries farther. I want to contribute to making online discussion important again. Today there is nothing but the soliloquy of bloggers or rude anonymous comments.”

The idea, something like a public group email exchange where one can contribute by invitation only, interested Twitter cofounder Biz Stone and other California investors who invited Miller and his team to move to San Francisco, financing them with a two million dollar investment. After only four months in California, Branch returned to New York, where it now employs a dozen or so people. “San Francisco was beautiful and I learned a lot from Biz and my other mentors, but there’s much more adrenaline here,” explains Miller, who is from California, born and raised in Santa Monica. “Life is more varied here and creating a technological startup is something new, unlike in San Francisco or Silicon Valley where everyone’s doing it: it grabs you like a drug. Besides New York is the media capital and we’re an online publishing organization so it’s only right to be here.”

That’s why even after being bought by Facebook Josh will stay in NYC.

Maria Teresa Cometto

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