Omnidrive: Not dead yet, thanks

I noticed a post by Mashable writer Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins on his personal blog about Omnidrive — the troubled “cloud storage” company founded and run by Aussie entrepeneur Nik Cubrilovic — that seemed to have been jump-started by a post at Duncan Riley’s Inquisitr, after someone at TechCrunch put Omnidrive into the CrunchBase deadpool. After some back and forth between Duncan and Nik in the comments at the Inquisitr post, the deadpool reference was removed; Nik, who has been writing for TechCrunch for awhile now (and who counts Mike Arrington as an investor in Omnidrive) said it was a mistake by an intern.

For anyone who is just joining this story, Omnidrive was a highly touted “Internet hard drive” service that launched in 2007, but late last year it started having some serious problems — users reported that they couldn’t access their files on the service for days at a time, that support requests went unanswered, and so on. In December, a post at Read/Write Web said that the chief technology officer had left the company; in a comment on the post, Nik said that everything was fine, but a subsequent comment from the CTO said that the company had run out of money and laid its entire staff.

From there, the story quickly descended into soap-opera territory: the company’s website, blog and user-support forums disappeared from the Web, then came back, then disappeared again. Finally, Omnidrive.com redirected to a static Network Solutions landing page and it appeared the company had in fact entered the deadpool. To add insult to injury, a prominent investor in the company said that he had been promised his money back, but that Nik had reneged on the deal. The Omnidrive founder then responded to an email from fellow Aussie Richard MacManus at Read/Write Web and said the company was still in good health and was over its problems, etc.

For what it’s worth, Omnidrive.com is back up and appears to be working — although when I tried to log in I got an error that said the site’s security certificate had expired, and I got a similar error when I tried to reach the support forums. I can’t vouch for the actual service itself because I don’t use it (I use Amazon’s S3). A couple of weeks ago, after I saw Nik’s byline start to show up on stories at TechCrunch, I wrote him and asked if he had any comment on the various allegations and the state of things at the company, and here is what he said:

“Hi Mathew, we are still working on it, back to a small team of us – we recently rolled out a new backend and we will be rolling new frontend stuff out over the next two months (starting this week). We shifted direction based on what we learnt over the past 2 years and we are focusing on the API and developer tools (authentication, storage and contacts).”

It sounds as though Nik is trying to incorporate some of the lessons he has learned over the past year and a half and turn Omnidrive into a functioning company again — but there are still some pretty big skeletons wandering around, to judge by posts like this one. For some extra insight into Nik’s viewpoint on the whole mess, and that of some of his critics, pay particular attention to the comments.

Tip: Don’t pull pin while holding grenade

The truth is stranger than fiction — and in some cases it happens to be stupider as well. For a recent example, check out the TechCrunch post on Mediascrape, a Montreal-based company founded by one Tyler Cavell. The CEO’s training at the London School of Economics apparently convinced him that it would be a good idea to a) threaten to sue TechCrunch for a mildly critical post a month or so ago, and then b) publicly denounce the CEO’s cousin as a delusional former cocaine addict and high-school dropout (Note: I am not making any of this up).

In case you want to follow this particular train wreck back to its point of origin, the first post came from Duncan Riley, and mentioned that the Mediascrape site looked a little cheesy for a company that had just done its second round of financing (although that was somewhat unclear). To make matters even stranger, Mr. Cavell commented on the post but made no mention of any of the things that he criticized in his letter to Mike Arrington a month later (namely, that is was “poorly written” and “ridiculous” and that the company wasn’t contacted).

As for the founder’s comment on TechCrunch’s latest post, it actually wasn’t that bad to begin with — a little self-aggrandizing and turgidly written, but other than that not too bad — right up until Cavell decides to do a little drive-by character assassination on his cousin. As Mike puts it in his update: “Your investors must be so proud.” Jevon has some thoughts over at StartupNorth and so does Heri at Montreal Techwatch.

Deadpool claims another victim: Edgeio

Mike Arrington is between a rock and a hard place this morning: He has some news about a failed Web 2.0 company joining the Deadpool, but it’s a company he co-founded and is on the board of, the classified-ad company Edgeio. Mike and the rest of the board decided to shut the company down — a decision that was probably relatively easy to make, since it had apparently run out of money.

Edgeio seemed like a good idea to me when it launched: A kind of distributed version of Craigslist, in which ads would be pulled from wherever they were — sitting on blogs or whatever, provided they had the right tags — and then aggregated at Edgeio’s site. But like Frederic at The Last Podcast, I never found much of value there, likely because not enough people decided to get on board and tag their posts properly.

It’s interesting to read the comments on Mike’s post, as he responds to some of the obvious questions about the failure of the company, including “What the hell did you spend $5-million on” (Mike says: “Parties, scotch, hookers, blow. You know, the usual) and “Isn’t it ironic that you, the king of Web 2.0, have a company fail because it can’t find a reason to exist?” (“That is indeed ironic,” Mike says).

The unfortunate part is that Mike no doubt has tons of inside info on what happened at Edgeio and where it went wrong, but he can’t talk about it. The only thing he says is:

“In general I’ll say this – it is unwise for a company to spend a lot of money building out infrastructure before a product proves itself.”

Good advice.