Random Etc. Notes to self. Work, play, and the rest.


Yesterday we announced the closing of Bloom Studio, Inc. A little bittersweet but not an unlikely outcome for a start-up like ours.

We tried a lot of things out, had a popular hit with Planetary and a thoughtful flop with Biologic, and gathered data and wisdom about how the world responds to highly graphical/interactive environments for exploring everyday information. Stubbornly, of course, I still believe there's something there, but unfotunately there's not enough there to keep Bloom going today. If you're thinking about trying something similar then do drop me a line, I'd be happy to talk through what worked and what didn't.

In more upbeat news, I started a new job as a Data Visualization Engineer at Square! I'll have more to say about that as it progresses, but for now I'm content to soak it up and get to know how everything works.

As Bloom wound down I was fortunate enough to have the time to explore several different opportunities in depth and learn a lot about different approaches to building teams, companies and products. In some ways it was the first time I've ever felt part of a job market so I tried to take full advantage of that. It's a very good problem to have, but making a final choice was difficult.

It was tempting to take what I learned from Bloom and help build another company from scratch, or to return to my consulting/agency comfort zone, or to find a small company of friends where I would have immediate impact. In the end I've chosen the role where I think I have the most to learn, where I'll have a chance to apply myself differently, and get to know a kind of team, vision, scale (400+ people) and trajectory (new office, new markets) that I've never experienced before.



Wow! I’m surprised to have found this in my feed Reader. It appears not very long ago that Bloom has been founded. If you’d be willing to elaborate on the “what worked and what didn’t” theme here in public, I’d be very interested to read what you tried out and learned.

Posted by Marian Steinbach on 5 November 2012 @ 12am

Hi Marian.

Sure, I can elaborate a little bit.

First, on the timeline, we took funding almost two years ago. This is how long it was expected to last if we didn’t find a business model or large/exciting market for the work. It’s typical for a start-up of our size and shape here in San Francisco. The fact that we’re comfortable and open about it does not mean we’re happy about it, of course!

I think the main learning for me was not to try to change everything at once. We knew a certain approach to visualisation would produce compelling work (from our time at Stamen), and that there was a solid business model for that approach: consulting. With Bloom the idea was to see if we could do the same kind of work for everyday consumers, and build our own products instead of consulting for other companies. That was an open question - still is, because you can’t prove a negative. However in setting out to answer the question we also changed other things: we used iOS, not web; we used 3D game-style graphics not 2D vector graphics; we restricted ourselves to 3rd party APIs and didn’t “own” data like our consulting clients did. And more.

There are some invisible things we did that didn’t advance our cause enough, even if they were important engineering efforts. For example, on the data side, we tried to unify and normalize the data feeds for Biologic and create a “platform” before we had a product/customer-base that really needed it. Arguably this was going to be necessary in the future, but it is also expensive to do it early, especially if it doesn’t work!

There are many other things that either went wrong or didn’t work, but they are probably specific to our team and tactics rather than the overall strategy. Other notes will be shared at the fireside, over coffees and beers, and handed down informally from visualisation start-up to visualisation start-up!

Posted by TomC on 5 November 2012 @ 7am

Kick Ass Tom. Love Square. They could do with your TLC :)

Posted by Priya Prakash (@priyascape) on 14 November 2012 @ 5pm