Backfence buys Bayosphere in move west

bayo backfence logoIt’s not without some sadness that i switch “CEO of Grassroots Media/Bayosphere” from the “Now” to the “Before” category of my bio.

Of course, I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome: Backfence, the leading hyperlocal community startup has acquired Bayosphere to lead it’s move into the Bay Area and to provide an ongoing home for the community.

And, I’m pleased to be an equity holder, and am even more optimistic about its success with today’s announcement that Merril Brown has joined the Backfence board. Merril ran MSNBC when i ran programming at MSN, and was always available for dinner and good counsel. He’s also a current friend, and constant inspiration to everyone looking at the future of news.

But I will miss being Dan Gillmor’s partner with the daily opportunities for meeting the most interesting people in the world, for challenging even my basic ideas about how things work, and for inspiring better-considered decisions on one hand, and the importance of knowing something is right or wrong even without the math on the other. Dan’s seriousness of purpose and his rigorous conventional training somehow don’t hold back his, at times, wind-power-combine tilting quest to make things work “right”.

We would certainly do things differently if we had it to do again. We catalogued them in Dan’s surprisingly widely-distributed blog entry. The response to that post has been amazing, and many have remarked at how rare it is for entrepreneurs to share the detailed lessons of what hasn’t worked.
While we saw great value in what Bayosphere might become, it was clear last September that it wasn’t going to happen on the rapid timeline we needed for it to work financially. At that point we stopped taking salaries and haven’t spent investor funds over the past six months. (We returned the not insignificant investment capital that remained, covered our own expenses, and Dan covered the cut-back operating expenses. I don’t know many entrepreneurs who have done that.)

Those journalists deserve a great deal of the credit for building the site and bringing in the audience that eventually attracted the eye of Backfence management as they looked west.

I will continue to work with Dan on the advisory board of his non-profit Center for Citizen Media attached to Berkeley and Harvard and will be doing anything i can to help Backfence management with the transitions. And, i hope at some point to write a more detailed version of the year including my deep appreciation to Dan and our supportive investors, Mitch Kapor and Rob Hayes for Omidyar Network, for the opportunity to be a partner in this venture. Commuting to San Francisco to work with these folks has been life affirming and life changing at a time when I really needed that.

I’ve never had a year as intellectually challenging and stimulating. And the side benefits included reconnecting with old colleagues who have naturally found their way to the center of this internet renaissance and meeting new and inspiring people. (Lisa Stone Blogher founder who offers Backfence some great advice today ; Jonathan Weber at NewWest; the Downhill Battle creators, not just because they have the best name for a social activist group ever; and Craig Newmark, yeah, Craig with the lists, come to mind as just the tip of that iceberg.)

I’ll be doing more hybrid/user-generated/citizen/unfiltere

ADDITION: A great round up of some of the more interesting coverage.

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