Private Social Network Nextt Has Shut Down, CEO Confirms

Less than a year after launching its social planning app, Madison, WI-based Nextt has shut down.

The closure had been rumored for several months, but co-founder and CEO Mark McGuire had declined to confirm it until Wednesday, when he published a blog post performing a post-mortem on the startup.

McGuire is a Madison serial entrepreneur who has co-founded two companies that got acquired—NameProtect and Jellyfish—and two companies that failed—Alice.com and now Nextt. McGuire co-founded Nextt with Emmanuel Buah in 2012 with the idea that people can’t feasibly cut social networks out of their lives, but technology should facilitate face-to-face interaction in a better way. Their company’s app aimed to do that by helping friends more easily make plans together, with a product that they hoped would be superior to e-mail, online chats, text messaging, and calendar invites.

“We saw an opportunity to create a big brand that managed your social future and helped you to stay connected with your face-to-face friends,” McGuire wrote in Wednesday’s blog post. “And by helping people do more together in the real world, we hoped to be an antidote to the fluffy social media friendships we maintain, but that don’t really make us very happy.”

Nextt wasn’t the first to create a private social network, and it’s not the only one that has flopped. Plancast had a goal similar to Nextt, but it went kaput in 2012. One of the more high-profile private social networks, Path, has since pivoted from its original concept.

One of the biggest hurdles, at least for Nextt and Plancast, was getting past the early adopter stage and winning a massive base of users. Nextt tried to pivot slightly by adding curated information about local happenings to its app, but the move came too late, and the company wasn’t able to gain enough traction before running out of money, McGuire wrote. (Nextt had raised a seed round of $700,000 from lead investors Venture Investors and Great Oaks Venture Capital, he told Xconomy.)

In hindsight, other missteps included wasting time debating future product design elements, hiring consultants to build the initial iOS app, launching on multiple platforms on day one, and over-complicating the app, McGuire wrote.

“We always knew that our opportunity was a bit of a ‘get big fast’ moon shot, and we worked really hard to be completely transparent about this with our investors,” McGuire wrote. “If we could launch and achieve a solid weekly growth rate, we had the opportunity for a company with a ‘B’ in its market valuation. If we didn’t, we weren’t going to continue to plow more of our money or time into a free service that had to get huge in order to generate any revenue.”

Nextt employed seven people at its peak, and it began cutting staff earlier this year. The company officially called it quits in July, McGuire told Xconomy in an e-mail message.

When asked if he would consider teaming up again with fellow Madison serial entrepreneur Brian Wiegand—the pair previously co-founded NameProtect, Jellyfish, and Alice.com—McGuire didn’t directly respond. (Wiegand currently runs Middleton, WI-based Hopster.) McGuire said he is currently taking some time off to teach an entrepreneurship course at Madison’s Edgewood College and to consult for a few local startups. He’s got an eye out for new opportunities. “Just waiting for the right one,” he added.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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