Casey Newton of the Verge:
Genius, which raised $56.9 million on the promise that it would one day annotate the entire internet, has been losing its minds. In January, the company quietly laid off a quarter of its staff, with the bulk of the cuts coming from the engineering department. In a post on the Genius blog at the time, co-founder Tom Lehman told employees that Genius planned to shift its emphasis away from the annotation platform that once attracted top-tier investors in favor of becoming a more video-focused media company.
While Genius has done some incredibly dumb things over its short existence, it is truly a brilliant product. More than anything, its simplicity is key to its appeal. A move into video explanations feels like investor meddling more than it does a conscious strategy change.
This move strikes me as a symptom of a broader cultural condition in Silicon Valley that emphasizes rapid growth and significant investment. Genius is the kind of product that probably could have existed just fine without investors, lots of staff, or big offices. Sure, it may have taken longer to arrive where the company is today, but they wouldn’t have to take on the baggage of VC whims or high overhead. As a result, they’d be able to keep the company true to what it does best.