4. June 2013–
It’s rarely a good sign when a founder unexpectedly leaves their business – and that's what seems to have happened at much-hyped Berlin startup Amen, which counts actor Ashton Kutcher among investors. Amen cofounder Caitlin Winner has left the startup, moving to the US to work for Facebook – at least if you go by her Facebook profile itself.
German magazine Netzwertig has reported that Amen’s lead developer Ricki Gregersen also left the startup, in April. According to the same article, rumours have emerged that the team may be trying to sell Amen to Yahoo and that Berlin company Tape.tv may have also shown interest.
Amen, the platform for opinions
Amen is an iOS app for voicing opions that allows users to make statements about people, places and things. Other users can then agree with an “Amen” or reject the assertions with a “Hell No”.
The startup, founded in 2011 by Winner, Felix Petersen and Florian Weber (one of Twitter's first developers), is known for its noteworthy investors including Index Ventures, Sunstone Capital, A Grade (Ashton Kutcher, Ron Burkle, Guy Oseary), Path founder Dave Morin's investment vehicle Slow Ventures, SoundCloud's Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss, and Christophe Maire. Together, they've provided Amen with multi millions in funding.
Since launching two years ago, the app hasn't seemed to reach critical mass. As is typical for startups, the founders have never given concrete numbers – but if various app lists are anything to go by, Amen hasn't held a noteworthy position long-term.
Nor has its companion app, Thanks, which launched earlier this year. Thanks – pitched as a more "useful" product – pools social recommendations and gathers data already in Amen's lists of the “Best” and “Worst” of everything to provide a search engine for users.
A suspicious silence
Since launch, both apps have become quiet. Social media channels have all but dried up, not a good sign for a company that values an active user community.
Amen CEO and cofounder Petersen, who made his name selling previous company Plazes to Nokia, used to be particularly active in promoting the startup. Lately, he's been increasingly active as an angel investor, including in Berlin startups Mentor and Loopcam.
As for Kutcher, the potential problems at Amen may symbolise his second "miss" in Berlin. Just a few weeks ago, booking platform GetYourGuide acquired one of his investments, experience platform Gisdy.
Could Amen really monetise?
Questions have been raised before about the Amen business model and the intense hype surrounding the young company: Could this kind of app make enough money from affiliate links, for example, when it doesn’t have a representative number of people using it? With too-few users voting businesses or places up or down, a competitor could easily manipulate the results to favour their company.
That Amen's usage failed to take off as expected can be taken as fact. As the company is not currently commenting, though, anything further on how well it's doing or what the future holds is still under wraps.
Translated by Michelle Kuepper
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