Facebook Sues Teachbook – Blast from my Past

By August 25, 2010

Today Wired magazine is running the story “Facebook Lawsuit Throws the -book at Social Networking Site for Teachers” (Its also here on Newser: “Facebook Sues Small Teacher Community Site

Here’s the deal: There is a social network named Teachbook that is a resource for teachers online where they can share lesson plans and apparently plot the destruction of Facebook.

The reason I am posting about it today is twofold- one, it turns out that Teachbook is based in Northbrook, IL which qualifies as Flyover Geeks territory and two: I created Teachbook a few years ago and sold it to its current owners in a case of, “There but for the Grace of God go I”.

Back in 2007 I was living in San Francisco working for an ad agency and, if you’ll recall, the whole world hadn’t quite yet jumped on the Facebook bandwagon. I used Facebook mostly for professional contacts in the Bay Area as my Midwestern friends still hadn’t realized what a train wreck MySpace had turned into and were actually still using it. (shudder)

Being the entrepreneurial sort, I had a lot of family and friends that were teachers and I was an Army veteran. I had the brilliant idea that I could start a social network for the military and one for Teachers. Then I would create a vertical ad network around each site- on the teacher side I would recruit teacher/bloggers until I had enough sites in the network worth millions of pageviews a month and sell it to ad agencies. On the military side I’d do the same thing- recruit milbloggers until I reached critical mass and then do a rev share on all advertising earned with the network.

Thus TroopSpace and TeachBook were born. I built both social networks on the Ning platform and had some great email exchanges with Gina Bianchini who was endlessly helpful with setting up a social network when I needed a little assistance.

Things started to take off- I appeared on TV a few times “Social Networking site for Troops is a Military MySpace” and was interviewed on radio stations and newspapers across the country.

It was a heady time and I even secured a verbal commitment of seed capital for $300K. TroopSpace was growing fast and so I turned my attention to Teachbook. I had a friend in Kenosha, WI that was a teacher and he agreed to run it. Things were getting exciting- according to my business plan, both sites would serve as an anchor to their respective verticals and I would create two ad networks with millions of page views a month.

And then the crash really took off. It had already swept through the Bay Area where I lost my job at the startup I was at but really picked up speed once I was back in IL and I had an office in Naperville. The company started showing cracks- and that is a story for another time- and then the investors pulled out.

I had no income and explaining to teachers and milbloggers how vertical ad networks worked was not the easiest thing to do at the time when I was worrying about paying the rent on the office and eating.

As Teachbook languished with some 50 or 60 members, I received an anonymous offer from a third party to buy the site on behalf of what turned out to be the current owners of Teachbook. I jumped at the chance as I really never had the time to put into growing the site and my investment capital, once so close to being a done deal I could smell it, was now gone.

I sold the url to Teachbook and eventually exited TroopSpace as well. TroopSpace now lives on owned by a non-profit run by a Marine Corps veteran and Teachbook is being sued by Facebook???

I realize I am not involved in either of the sites but when I read about the bullying on display by Facebook it was like I relived that entire journey all over again.

I hope Teachbook hires a P.R. firm and backs Facebook down in the court of public opinion- I cannot imagine the public is going to be rooting for Facebook to beat up on a free social network for Teachers. TEACHERS. I mean, is Facebook worried that Teachbook will tell their members to warn their students about what to put on their Facebook pages so Facebook can’t then turn around and sell these students’ private information all over the Internet to the highest bidder?

Hey, Facebook, stop taking cues on how to be cool from Satan and take a page from Pink Floyd: “Hey- Facebook- leave them teachers alone!”