[UPDATED]: Why Facebook never happened in the UK. The case of FitFinder.

Update: FitFinder has been Relaunched as Floxx with Doug Richards as an Investor.  Good luck Rich!

Back in April this year, I heard of a little UCL based startup (FitFinder) that was gaining ‘Facebookearlydayslike’ traction in some UK Universities. It was a location based public/flirting service.  The founder pitch in the Guardian was this:

The concept is simple. If you “find a fitty” in the library you can anonymously post up a short description of them on your university’s fitfinder. You have the option to describe yourself, or provide a telephone number. Others in the library, including the targeted fitty, are able to comment on the post.

Awesome!

Like any Zuckerberg story, everything was going on fine. Early University traction, second class Universities begging for it, early press, what could go wrong?

Not much. Except that it was shut down by the University College London (UCL) for bringing the University to disrepute.

How?  Some people were posting offensive comments, blah blah bladder dash!

So why the hell am I speaking about it so soon, only 8 months after the incident?

Yesterday on Hacker News, a YC company posted a job opening anonymously

In just 6 weeks since launch, we have over 20M page views (now over 1M a day and growing fast) and hundreds of thousands of daily uniques. Our virality index is higher than Facebook’s in their fastest growth stage.

“Wow! That’s pretty cool”. I said to myself. ANOTHER location based stuff getting so much traction? That must be something cool.

It did not take long for the stealth startup to be uncovered by TC.

READ  What is wrong with the UK Startup scene?

It is LikeaLittle. It is described on the about page as

Basically, the site was made to allow you to compliment and chat about potential crushes you see around you.

Sigh!

To think UCL which hosts Open Coffee (A meetup for startup founders) EVERY Thursday and Seed Camp week (the biggest Internet seed funding program in  Europe) will KILL a startup with so much potential founded by its OWN student. Amazing!

I just feel gutted for Richard Marttel. Founder, FitFinder

HN link

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6 thoughts on “[UPDATED]: Why Facebook never happened in the UK. The case of FitFinder.

  1. Hey OO,

    Nice post, I can give you several other examples, one of the winners at Le Web (the marmite one), you and I know that idea was being done at Warwick Uni over a year ago. I know people can say “they made it happen etc etc” but whether we like it or not, seed/angel in the UK sucks.

    Pre-revenue/Pre-traction no one(or very few) will touch in the UK. However I do not believe this is the only reason, the UK never built a Microsoft, Cisco, HP, (or Enron/Lehmans 🙂 either, and I fail to see why we need to. We need to churn out more 30-50 million exits, not the 500-1Bn ones. We have less consumers, and in order to reach the consumer markets of USA or even say China the company needs to sit there…which eventually comes back tous packing our bags and moving abroad, unless we choose to do sub 50m exits.

  2. To be fair, FitFinder is a bit puerile. If Rich Martell is the British Zuckerberg, then FitFinder is his Facemash – not his Facebook.

    Bear in mind that Harvard shut down Facemash in the same way that UCL shut down FitFinder. But where is Rich’s resurgent British Facebook-equivalent? It doesn’t exist. Maybe THAT’s why Facebook never happened in the UK.

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