At one point not too long ago, Digg had hundreds of millions of people hitting the site daily, giving news stories a thumbs up or down, voting whether each piece should be prominently displayed online. Head honcho Kevin Rose graced the cover of Time magazine, and Google reportedly proposed acquiring the San Francisco startup for $200 million.
But though Digg continues to draw millions of people, it is no longer remotely as influential as it once was. A major redesign to the site drew harsh criticism last year, leading traffic to plummet and Diggers, its loyal users, to defect. Two of its most prominent founders, Rose and Jay Adelson, left.
The big lesson learned from the downfall of Digg, Rose said, was about hiring. Rose recalled that Digg was growing so fast that he would hire just about any warm body he could find.
This time around, Rose said he is taking his time to find a good fit. Before, Digg would hire engineers with a targeted set of skills to tackle the specific problems Digg was facing during its skyrocketing growth. For his new startup, Rose is looking for well-rounded developers who have a “swiss army knife” of technical abilities. That gives the small company more flexibility, particularly because it’s planning to experiment with multiple projects and ideas.
“This time we’re taking the time to find the right people,” Rose told TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington during the Disrupt session.
Milk has raised about $1.5 million in funding to date. Its first product is a mobile app called “Oink.” Rather than rate restaurants, coffee shops, and other venues a la Yelp, Oink lets users review specific individual products. The premise is that it will help people find the neighborhood’s best cup of coffee or identify that the restaurant’s chicken salad sandwich is its best item on the menu. One early user, for example, has rated an amusement park’s best rides.
Regarding the future of Digg, where he remains a board member, Rose said that the news-ranking service has a new management team and is planning new launches, promising, “Digg will not remain the same.”
Photo courtesy Mari Smith