Nandini Jammi

@nandoodles

The Rise and Fall of YPlan Is The Most Boring Tech Story Ever

A plea to tech media to please redefine “newsworthy”

Last week, YPlan, the events discovery and booking platform you never used, sold to TimeOut for £1.6 million.

Sounds about average, until you learn that investors pumped £31 million into the product over the past three years. Then it sounds devastating.

But why did I know exactly what YPlan was, despite the fact that I nor no one I know has ever used it?

Because a few years ago, it raised some cash, which was enough to earn it a press write-up.

Then it raised more cash and had more stories written about it:

What made this app newsworthy, a so-called “rising star,” was never its usefulness.

Rather, it was a one-time association with British actor Stephen Fry, Demi Moore’s ex-husband Ashton Kutcher, and a launch party in Bowery featuring Pharrell Williams. And money. Lots of it.

In fact, an entire sub-header of the following VentureBeat article ambitiously named, “The Rise of YPlan” could find no evidence to back up such a thesis outside of a cute anecdote about Stephen Fry liking it, followed by a feel-good anecdote about Ashton Kutcher also liking it.

If only the faint praise of Stephen Fry could help one build that $1 billion business.

But as it now tries to make sense of this wunderapp’s early demise, TechCrunch wonders, “Why did YPlan sell for so little?”

Then it answers its own question:

“The beleaguered startup generated a pre-tax loss of £6.2m in the last financial year filed.”

So a better question might be: Why did a company that spent great sums of borrowed money but failed to ever become a viable business, receive such diligent press attention from start to finish?

If you build it, they will definitely write a story about it

“There’s nobody building a startup business anymore. Everybody’s creating a startup financial machine,” lamented serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk in a recent Recode podcast.

“I cannot wait for the armageddon that is going to put out 97 percent of these fake entrepreneurs. This is the greatest era of fake businesses, ever.”

Nobody in tech media would agree, as they remain busy amplifying the great non-stories of our time, enabling hi-tech fantasies that dare to dream small.

And brazenly, they continue to peddle a storyline that is as tired as it is untrue:

“If you build it, they will come.”

But will they?

Certainly a fawning tech reporter will. Luckily, creating stories about companies creating stories about value they haven’t yet created, is its own business too.

One thing that seems to have fallen by the wayside: the startup business that brings in revenues, turns a profit, adds tangible value to its customers and is equally — if not more — ballsy because they don’t have to answer to investors.

These are the bootstrapped businesses quietly hitting their customer acquisition milestones, validating product-market fit, proving market value and even creating the categories they come to dominate.

Quietly, because no one’s covering it.

In our industry, what is newsworthy is that YPlan once raised money and then it did not take over a $1 billion market.

But if nothing else, lets agree on one thing. The YPlan story arc is not new or even remotely interesting. The tale of the startup that raises money, doesn’t gain traction, doesn’t build a viable customer base and doesn’t earn revenues, was never a story to begin with.

Can you find a better story to tell? I dare you.

I’m a B2B copywriter and product marketing consultant. If you’d like to learn more, visit my website.

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