Will the Mug Outlive the Start-up?

Call it yet another sign that start-ups have too much money: The once-ubiquitous branded coffee mug is coming back to life, at companies who haven’t yet seen their second cuppa funding.

By plopping one on my doorstep Tuesday, hyperlocal search/opinion Web play Smalltown has officially entered itself in a contest I call “will your mug outlive your start-up?” This is no small competition, and my cupboard has more than one relic from the great mug era known as boom 1.0 (alternatively referred to as the bubble 1.0.)

The Smalltown offering, which is of a shape and consistency that is pleasing (big enough handle to grip, good diner-ceramic feel), is right now favored to outlast the company, which is treading into the uncertain waters of user-developed local reviews, an area with a crowd of competitors, like Intuit’s Zipingo. Some of them, like Insider Pages and Judy’s Book, have already run into trouble.

Back to the mugs: My favorite of late is a sturdy plain white job with the logo of Spyglass, the old Mosaic firm that licensed its technology to Microsoft for early versions of IE.

Spyglass then became probably one of the last first-bubble victors, getting consumed by OpenTV for $2.5 billion in stock in March 2000.

While the OpenTV stock isn’t worth as much these days, the mug still functions as it was meant to on day one. Anyone out there with mugs that have outlived their corporate origins? Drop a link to a photo in the comments and we’ll compile a diner hall o’ shame while we get the Major Dickason’s brewing.

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