Four days after Milk launched its very first app called Oink, the San Francisco-based start-up lab has attracted and landed a new investor in Google Ventures.
We started talking to Google after we closed our round, but decided to open it up for them as they've been adding a ton of value right away, said Kevin Rose, the founder of Milk and co-founder of Digg.
Milk has raised a total of $1.7 million in seed funding to date from investors including Evan Williams, Dave Morin, Joshua Schachter, Ron Conway, First Round Capital, True Ventures and TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington. Despite having no real product at the time, Milk secured the majority of this funding simply because Kevin Rose was the man in charge.
A TechCrunch survey in August asked readers the question: If you could work for a start-up, any start-up, which one would it be? The majority of respondents said they would rather launch their own start-up, but No. 2 on that list, only 17 votes away from the top spot, was Milk. But with no products available at the time, why so much love for Milk?
Experts cite the Kevin Rose effect, a term used to characterize the power and influence of the young entrepreneur. Rose has 1.2 million Twitter followers, and studies have shown that Rose's tweets are more powerful than Ashton Kutcher's, even though Kutcher has about six million more followers. People appreciate that Rose takes the time to respond to tweets and messages directed at him, but Google must appreciate the fact that he has a following everywhere he goes.
Kevin Rose's celebrity isn't the reason people are drawn to Milk, however; it's Rose's unique vision. After Rose resigned from Digg in March, he immediately began working on Milk in San Francisco, building an elite team of fewer than 10 people comprised of coders, designers and thinkers. Rose wanted Milk to be an incubator not for start-ups, but for ideas. Milk sought to tackle a small number of the biggest and oldest industry problems by using the mobile Internet.
We've been up front with investors that the lab's companies are going after big ideas, not launching continuous small projects, Rose said. There is so much opportunity to disrupt old media and old business.
Now that Milk has a product under its belt in Oink, expect more investors and money to start flooding into the start-up. Oink, which launched in the App Store on Nov. 3, is a social app that blends review sites like Yelp with location-based rewards systems like Foursquare: Simply put, users visit places and rate them. The app's content is completely user-generated, but instead of ranking the place as a whole, Oink allows its users to rate and rank individual items. In this way, users can rank the best roller coasters at Six Flags or the best dishes at any given restaurant.
We're going after a more granular experience, Rose said. Our main goal is just to prove out the concept that people just want to rank and rank the things around them.
Oink already leverages Google Maps so users can discover new places based on ranked items, but now that Google has officially invested in Milk, Rose hopes to build in more Google technology in future updates.
Probably some time next year we'll start looking at what we want to do next, Rose said.