AddToAny is a universal sharing platform. Its sharing buttons send content to Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Tumblr, Pinterest, Drupal, Reddit, e-mail, and other sources. Publishers install the share buttons on their sites to promote social sharing and receive analytics on their own dashboards. The plugins have been downloaded millions of times and reach hundreds of millions of unique visitors a month. Diven claims it is the most distributed self-funded web widget in the world.
Lockerz is a social commerce startup that offers rewards to its users for sharing content and driving other people to make purchases on the site. It has raised a total of $66 million in funding from DAG Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Liberty Media, and Live Nation Entertainment. Lockerz purchased AddToAny for an undisclosed amount in 2011 in order to expand its own sharing platform, which focused more on photographs. AddToAny makes money by selling anonymous aggregate sharing data to advertisers and the company was profitable at the time of the acquisition.
Diven first started working on AddToAny in 2005 as a side project when he was 21. It became his full-time project two years later and he worked for Lockerz for about a year after the acquisition. Lockerz began downsizing in January 2013 by closing its San Diego office and laying off about 30 percent of its staff. CMO Leilani Augstine said in a statement that Lockerz was “realigning our organizational structure” and continued to be “bullish on the opportunities surrounding social commerce.”
Diven said he is now committed full-time to building AddToAny and “work is under way on the brighter future I’ve long envisioned for web publishers.”
What became Lockerz Share is now AddToAny again, and the company is rolling out a major update to its sharing widgets as well as introducing mobile-first touch support for mobile devices. Diven also said that later this week, AddToAny will refresh its RSS feed “subscribe” widget following “Google Reader’s demise” and array of new feeders like Feedly and Digg Reader.
“We’re seeing and anticipating significantly more demand from web publishers for a modern universal subscription widget,” he said. “AddToAny’s focus remains on universal sharing, but we consider the subscription widget a very worthy side project within AddToAny.”
Yesterday, VentureBeat covered Michael Birch’s repurchase of Bebo for $1 million, a social network he sold to AOL for $850 million in 2008. StumbleUpon’s founders and investors bought the site back from eBay in 2009, and earlier this year About.me’s founders bought it back from AOL.
Getting acquired is usually considered a victory for startups. There are multiple motivations for buying a smaller company — acquiring talent, acquiring technology, consolidation, quashing the competition, entering new markets, and/or strategic partnerships where the smaller company can use the larger company’s resources to scale, and the larger company can use the smaller company’s ability to innovate. However, sometimes these transactions don’t achieve what they were meant to and the larger company struggles to make use of its purchase. In this case, Diven thought he could grow AddToAny more effectively as a “boomerang” company.