Qype, a Lullaby
Today, Qype, Europe’s largest and most successful local review website, will be shut down. We saw this coming; Qype was bought by its biggest rival from across the Atlantic, Yelp, which had far more money than Qype but were having trouble breaking into the European market. Qype’s database of places, reviews and users is being migrated over to Yelp, and today, October 30th the light at Qype will be switched off.
The tech world is full of such takeover stories, especially European companies being bought by their larger North American rivals. For many company heads and investors, this is an exit strategy which is aimed towards from day one. Being sentimental about Qype’s demise makes little sense; Qype is, after all, a product which can be bought or sold. But for me, the night sky of the tech world will be one star less bright on October 30th.
It’s a story not about what Qype was, but what Qype could have been.
I joined Qype in August of 2007 as their first full-time designer. We were a small bunch: about 20 people in a small office in the heart of Hamburg’s posh shopping district. It was my first full-time job after moving to Germany and I was thrilled to go back to doing what I did best. My first task was to redesign the website completely, which seemed like a daunting task. The two year-old website had already seen a major redesign, and it was already looking outdated. After months of design and testing, we launched the new design in Mid-2008. Most users took the learning curve in stride. It was a great time to be a part of Qype. The development team was rapidly expanding, product was in focus and we were doing great work. We were working Agile, learning about User Behavior, launching features with beer and pizza and felt like we had a stake in a product we were developing with friends.
Beer and pizza don’t fuel a website, of course – money does. Qype had just started gaining traction with its local business offering, over the next year, Qype would hire several key people up top – including a COO and a new CEO to replace Founder Stephan Uhrenbacher (who stayed on Qype’s board but moved on to support Avocadostore and found 9flats) as Qype stepped up its efforts to expand in Europe. We launched a a somewhat controversial redesign to appeal to a younger European market with a UK branding agency (labeled internally at the time as “Qype 3.0 Augenkrebs“) and I would go on to conceptualize and design Qype’s complex self-serve local business advertising solutions.
In the end, Qype was just a tool – but a fantastic one which brought people together and made being a tourist or a local anywhere in Europe’s major cities really fun and easy. But with popularity comes scale, and with scale come shifts in priorities.
It became harder for us, the design and development teams, to push through fixes and features which improve and focus on product. Our focus, as a company, shifted towards user-generation and features which support monetization. Bugs would collect dust, users would complain. But Qype was still our baby, and we did our best with what we had. I left Qype for greener pastures in early 2011.
My job as Art Director was my first full-time position in Germany and where I did what I still consider to be some of my best work. I’m sad to see it go.
Here are some photos from my favorite memories at Qype. Goodbye, little website! You’ll forever be in my heart.