Brian Donohue on Operating Instapaper Through an Acquisition

The Evolution and Success of Instapaper.

1970-01-01T01:57:32.000Z

🌰 Wisdom in a Nutshell

Essential insights distilled from the video.

  1. Free model shift for Instapaper led to positive results.
  2. Transitioning to a free app with a subscription model can boost growth.
  3. Transition to San Francisco fosters outdoor passion and career growth.
  4. Instabaper, a personal search index, was maintained and spun off as its own entity.
  5. Instapaper's success is driven by user-centric product development and intentional reading habits.


πŸ“š Introduction

Instapaper, a popular bookmarking and reading app, has undergone significant changes and achieved success through strategic decisions and a focus on delivering a good product. This blog post explores the evolution of Instapaper, from its acquisition by BetaWorks to its transition to a free app with a subscription model. It also discusses the founder's efforts to keep the app alive and running independently. Additionally, the post delves into the speaker's personal journey of transitioning from New York to San Francisco and discovering a passion for nature and mountain climbing. Finally, it examines the decision to spin off Instapaper as its own entity and the importance of user feedback in shaping the product roadmap.


πŸ” Wisdom Unpacked

Delving deeper into the key ideas.

1. Free model shift for Instapaper led to positive results.

Instapaper, a popular bookmarking service, was acquired by BetaWorks in 2013. The acquisition was influenced by the emergence of a free competitor and the desire to focus on other projects. The service, which initially had a paid model, was eventually made free, leading to positive results. The transition was influenced by the advocacy of the new iOS developer, who convinced the leadership to participate in the free app of the week program.

Dive Deeper: Source Material

This summary was generated from the following video segments. Dive deeper into the source material with direct links to specific video segments and their transcriptions.

Segment Video Link Transcript Link
The history of InstapaperπŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Free competitors enter the marketπŸŽ₯πŸ“„
How Brian joined InstapaperπŸŽ₯πŸ“„


2. Transitioning to a free app with a subscription model can boost growth.

Instapaper, a popular reading app, was initially a paid application but transitioned to a free app with a subscription model. This change led to a significant increase in subscriptions, proving that the paid app download was a major cap on growth. The app was later acquired by Pinterest, but the founder was able to keep it alive and running independently. He reduced the app's server costs and focused on monetizing it through subscriptions. The app is now cashflow positive and has seen growth in its subscription offering. The founder's efforts have allowed InstaPaper to continue serving its users for the foreseeable future.

Dive Deeper: Source Material

This summary was generated from the following video segments. Dive deeper into the source material with direct links to specific video segments and their transcriptions.

Segment Video Link Transcript Link
Transitioning from paid to freemiumπŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Pinterest's acquisition of InstapaperπŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Spinning Instapaper out of PinterestπŸŽ₯πŸ“„


3. Transition to San Francisco fosters outdoor passion and career growth.

The transition from New York to San Francisco has been transformative, with a focus on outdoor activities and a new career trajectory in software development. The speaker has learned about building products at scale and managing larger teams. They have also discovered a new passion for nature and mountain climbing, starting with short hikes and gradually progressing to longer ones. They have learned to push through physical barriers and are now exploring intense workout routines for mountain climbing. While not interested in extreme climbing, they are interested in Mount Rainier and some South American peaks.

Dive Deeper: Source Material

This summary was generated from the following video segments. Dive deeper into the source material with direct links to specific video segments and their transcriptions.

Segment Video Link Transcript Link
Moving to CaliforniaπŸŽ₯πŸ“„
BackpackingπŸŽ₯πŸ“„


4. Instabaper, a personal search index, was maintained and spun off as its own entity.

Instabaper, a personal search index and long-form reading tool, was initially considered a side project within Pinterest. However, due to its potential and the lack of a solid return on investment, it was maintained and eventually spun off as its own entity. Pinterest could have integrated Instabaper's features, such as Instapaper Daily, which would provide users with the best article saved every day, and a monthly feature based on the intersection of URLs seen on Instapaper and Pinterest. However, the data from Instapaper was not suitable for Pinterest's news-based recommendation system, and Pinterest prioritized critical features over niche ones like offline downloads.

Dive Deeper: Source Material

This summary was generated from the following video segments. Dive deeper into the source material with direct links to specific video segments and their transcriptions.

Segment Video Link Transcript Link
Working on Instapaper within PinterestπŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Jareau WadΓ© asks - What types of product integrations could Pinterest have done with Instapaper?πŸŽ₯πŸ“„


5. Instapaper's success is driven by user-centric product development and intentional reading habits.

Instapaper's success is attributed to its focus on delivering a good product, which has been its best growth hack. The product roadmap is built around user requests, with features like exporting highlights and annotations to third-party services being prioritized. The app's simplicity is maintained by hiding advanced features in hidden places. The decision to use text-to-speech libraries was based on a trade-off between quality and cost. The app's growth has been driven by removing the paid download, which was a barrier to growth. To make time for reading, it's important to be intentional and dedicated, using tools like the Instapaper mobile app to sort articles by length and quickly go through them. Making time to revisit saved articles is challenging, but it's important to do so.

Dive Deeper: Source Material

This summary was generated from the following video segments. Dive deeper into the source material with direct links to specific video segments and their transcriptions.

Segment Video Link Transcript Link
Ryan Hoover asks - I’m curious how he and the team balance simplicity with new feature development/product expansion.πŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Raymond Durk asks - I love the rapid reading mode but would also love a voice enabled mode where the Google Assistant or Siri reads it. Speaking of I'd use it on my Google Home to listen to news if that was a skill.πŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Brian Kim asks - Any growth hacks that worked well?πŸŽ₯πŸ“„
Gustaf AlstrΓΆmer asks - How does it make time for focused time to catch up on everything he saves? What are his best productivity hacks related to this?πŸŽ₯πŸ“„



πŸ’‘ Actionable Wisdom

Transformative tips to apply and remember.

To apply the lessons from Instapaper's success in daily life, focus on delivering a good product or service. Listen to customer feedback and prioritize features that enhance the user experience. Simplify complex processes and make intentional time for activities that bring value and joy. Remove barriers to growth and adapt to changing market dynamics. By following these principles, you can create a product or service that resonates with users and drives success.


πŸ“½οΈ Source & Acknowledgment

Link to the source video.

This post summarizes Y Combinator's YouTube video titled "Brian Donohue on Operating Instapaper Through an Acquisition". All credit goes to the original creator. Wisdom In a Nutshell aims to provide you with key insights from top self-improvement videos, fostering personal growth. We strongly encourage you to watch the full video for a deeper understanding and to support the creator.


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