Lately I’ve been tossing GlobalGrind.com around to some of my friends, asking their opinions and giving them a few observations of my own about the site. These particular friends of mine are Black, web-savvy individuals who run the gamut of designers, content producers, and/or backend developers. They know their stuff when it comes to the web, especially Web 2.0.
- GlobalGrind.com was in alpha phase testing during the summer of 2007. I registered for an account back in July, and began setting up camp because I beta test everything whenever I can.
- In its alpha phase, the site was nothing more than a thinly designed startpage, with default feeds consisting of urban websites like XXLMag.com, allhiphop.com, etc.
- Russell Simmons backs the site.
- It raised $4.5 Million in venture capital in September 2007.
- A thin and paltry post from the site’s blog claims they “redesigned” the site, when in fact, they switched up business models. It now looks like a digg clone, only the labels have been switched out for more “urban” audiences.
Needless to say, looking at the final product, my friends and I were less than enthused. In fact, we’re confused as to what is going on over at Global Grind headquarters.
Global Grind Presents… Clones
The site claims they recently redesigned, but it appears as though they passing off a digg-clone as a redesign. Anybody with half a brain on the web knows they went from the startpage model to a digg model. This is not switching out CSS files, or fancying up some XHTML. Everything is different on this site. Where is my startpage that I spent time putting together on the alpha site? Gone, and without an e-mail to let me know it would go AWOL during this “redesign.” Global Grind does not care about its users.
I’m not mad at them for jumping on the startpage fad. That was somewhat of an interesting idea, and startpages have some way to go before they get played out. But don’t insult your users by claiming a “redesign,” especially your beta testers. Your beta testers are some of the most important people you want to listen to, and it’s important to keep lines of communication open at all times.
Why does the design look derivative? It looks as though they bought a generic template, and filled in the blanks. The logo doesn’t connect the product (alpha or beta versions) to the name for me. Frankly, the site design is tacky and has poor UI, UX, IA, and OPP. This applies to the previous design too, though I may have given it a pass because most startpages have wonky design elements.
Show Me The Receipts
The greatest thing about the Facebooks and Googles of the world is that
you can start out with very low overhead and make millions. Global Grind raised $4.5 Million from Accel Partners, with Russell Simmons adding his own undisclosed investment funds to the project. Where did all this money go? In a recent episode of Run’s House, Russell pitches the site to his brother, Rev Run, and asks him to invest in the company. Russell retorts that he spent a lot of money in “Schmuck Insurance,” which sounds like he just asked someone to write up some hefty NDAs and Non-Compete paperwork. Did this so-called Schmuck Insurance cost $4.5 million? Because looking at this site, I have no idea where else the money went. Copy the digg concept (people copy digg all the time *cough*MySpace News*cough* and it doesn’t seem to catch on), switch out a few category labels…..what else is there to spend $4.5 million on? Definitely not design. Is all of the money going to marketing? Did they take out a Super Bowl ad? Open up a new office building? I’d like to note, Digg raised its first $2.8 Million in VC funding, ten months after it launched. Meanwhile back at the ranch, GlobalGrind has $4.5M+ out the gate and this is what they have to show: a broken site, cloned and derivative to the max?
The lack of innovation on Global Grind is disheartening. The switch from startpage to digg model isn’t the disappointment, as much as it looks as though they tried to create a Black/hip-hop version of something else with poor execution (BET, anyone?). Flickr started out as a MMOG, and managed to flip the business into a photo managing/social website. Startups flip the script all the time, that’s part of startup culture: chaos, uncertainty, and constant revisions. GlobalGrind copies the ideas of others, throws some Black people/hip-hop in the mix and then asks for more money. Where is the innovation? Aside from the startup mindset of innovation and creativity, what about hip-hop’s element of innovation, being different, doing your own thing?
I thank people like Tiffany B. Brown and Cyde Smith for stepping up and offering some trained analysis on the disappointment that is Global Grind. I think Global Grind boosters are nothing short of those following the Simmons brand, going off of Russell’s business savvy. To a certain extent I can’t blame them, however, Russell himself knows that everything he blesses doesn’t turn into gold. I can’t hate on Russell Simmons, and I’m not. I greatly respect the man, and I can identify with him. I just finished reading his last book and loved it, I like Rev Run & his fam, and I especially love Kimora (read & loved her book too). Nobody loves the Simmons fam as much as me, trust. I just need Russell to take a good look at who he has on his team, because right now, this looks sloppy and unprofessional. I hold Russell to a high standard, and I expect him to look like he knows what he’s doing–especially with $4.5M+ in hand.