Home Yobongo Acquired by Mixbook for Mobile Know-How, Chat to Shut Down By End of March

Yobongo Acquired by Mixbook for Mobile Know-How, Chat to Shut Down By End of March

A year ago, Yobongo was preparing for its big launch at South by Southwest. Today, Yobongo has been acquired by Mixbook. The whole six-person team will head down to Mixbook’s Palo Alto office and help expand its photo book printing software to mobile devices. It’s pretty good timing. I heard a new touchscreen device with a really pretty screen and new photo editing software is coming out soon.

As for Yobongo, the serendipitous mobile chat service will be shut down at the end of March. But Yobongo co-founder and CEO Caleb Elston says that Mixbook admires what he, co-founder David Kasper and the team accomplished. Yobongo took chat, an application defined and institutionalized on the desktop, and reinvented it for the mobile touchscreen. That’s exactly what Mixbook wants them to do for its software for making custom photo albums.

You need some numbers to see where Mixbook is going and why they need Yobongo’s help. Mixbook was founded in 2006. Its users have started 5 million projects and shipped 10 million products, including cards, calendars and whole books. 250 million photos have been uploaded. “They’re on a rocket ship,” Elston says.

Mixbook “wants to stay ahead of the curve on mobile devices,” says Elston, and the company is “just fighting fires trying to keep up with all the growth.” So the company is bringing Yobongo in for the team, its mobile design sensibilities and its problem-solving skills. They’ll work on iPhone, iPad and Android software alike.

For half the team – Elston, product designer Mike Gowen and engineer Alex Hofsteede – this move brings them full-circle. They all worked on Scrapblog prior to Yobongo. It was the same idea, an online tool for making printed photo books, cards, stickers and so forth. In 2011, after the Yobongans had left, Mixbook acquired Scrapblog. So now the Yobongo fellows can bring a wealth of mobile experience back to this kind of product.

Unfortunately, as is the way of things, Yobongo users will be left in the lurch. After launching at South By Southwest, the app remained restricted to Austin, New York and San Francisco for much of its life. It did open global and private chat rooms this year, but the local rooms for cities other than the initial three never opened. Still, Yobongo’s feature set was complete and compelling, especially after adding in-line photos last summer. As a proof of the team’s talents, Yobongo was a great app.

Yobongo was a product that felt excited by the new life mobile devices could bring to an old problem. Elston still doesn’t think the nut of social introductions via smartphone has been cracked (and neither do we), but he sounds equally excited to work on printed photo memories again. “These are not sales guys,” Elston says of Mixbook. “These are tech guys running a printing company, and it shows. They’re incredibly efficient for how big they are.”

Elston says he’s looking forward to relief from the questions of running a business. In addition to letting him focus completely on a product again, it will free him up to advise other companies and participate more broadly in the industry.

Yobongo’s investors will become Mixbook investors, and Elston says they’re excited, too.

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