Go Behind The Scenes of FiftyThree

“For us, technology is there to help people create.”
–Georg Petschnigg, FiftyThree CEO

In September, our team made an episode of Small Empires with The Verge and reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. The episode debuted today and shows what it’s like to work at FiftyThree, shedding light on our culture and philosophy.

Meet Georg, Andrew, Julian, Tara, and Dave from our team and Brad Ovenell-Carter, an educator who uses Paper to engage students in creative thinking. See what motivates us to climb six (steep) flights of stairs every day to collaborate and create.

Watch the episode.

Small Empires: the art of ideation with Paper by FiftyThree

Tribeca, whose name derives from an abbreviation of “Triangle Below Canal Street,” is a neighborhood in downtown New York, most noted for its annual film festival and historic industrial constructions converted to lofted live / work spaces in the 60’s and 70’s.

One of those spaces is now the home of FiftyThree, a group of designers, developers and entrepreneurs founded by a group of Microsoft Research veterans that worked on the secretive Courier project. As Small Empires turns a new page and takes a look inside the colorful world that birthed the hit app, Paper, see how FiftyThree develops design-minded software that aims to help regular humans communicate their ideas effectively and beautifully. 

Coming soon: ‘Small Empires’ with Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian

We’re incredibly excited to announce that The Verge and Alexis Ohanian have teamed up to bring you a brand new video series called Small Empires. Ohanian — a Reddit co-founder and all-around delightful chap — will visit rising New York City startups, offering an inside look at how the people behind these companies are building amazing and disruptive products. As Alexis sees it, the show will be something akin to “Inside the Actor’s Studio meets Dirty Jobs for tech in New York.” And obviously, we liked the sound of that.

on the set of ‘small empires’ featuring fiftythree

A few weeks ago, FiftyThree was invited to star in an episode of ‘Small Empires’ with Alexis Ohanian for The Verge. Huge thanks to Brad Ovenell-Carter who flew in from Vancouver to be our featured creator and Ward III for having delicious cocktails, Negroni pie and for hosting us on a Monday afternoon.


WAÏF: Where architecture is too small

Inland Empire N13

Trapped” is a proyect by photographer Benny Lam commissioned by SoCO “Society for Community Organization” to denounce living conditions in some areas of Hong Kong. According to the SoCO, over 100,000 people live in tiny “cubicle apartments” in the city. These are 40-square-foot ( 3,7 square-meters) living spaces created by dividing already-small apartments into multiple units.



Indian Summers - 1x03 - “Do you wish to be free?”


The Tyranny of Christopher Columbus,

When Christopher Columbus returned from his first voyage from the New World, he spread wild exaggerations of exotic riches and wealth that were ripe for the picking.  Believing his wild boasts, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain granted Columbus a second voyage, one that was to be a mission of colonization rather than exploration.  Unlike Columbus’ first voyage, the second voyage would be massive, comprising of 17 ships and over 1,200 men.   During his second voyage in 1493, Columbus explored Hispaniola and Cuba.  As per agreement with the Spanish crown, Columbus became viceroy of the lands he discovered, and was granted a healthy share of any riches that were found.  

Columbus planted his flag on the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), making it the center of his small Caribbean empire.  Once situated in the New World, the expedition began their search for the gold that Columbus had boasted off.  The only problem was that there really was no gold on Hispaniola, or the rest of the Caribbean.  All of the gold jewelry worn by the native Caribbean people was made from rare nuggets and bits of gold dust occasionally found in small rivers and streams, gathered over a period of years.  This was quite the problem for Columbus, whose mandate was to find enough wealth to turn a profit of the expedition, not to mention he wanted his own share of the riches as well.

At first, Columbus attempted to make money through the slave trade.  Slaving parties would capture local natives and ship them 500 at a time to slave merchants in Spain.  However Columbus’ slaving program proved fruitless as over half the slaves would typically die before reaching Europe.  Then Columbus set upon a new plan, an even crueler plan to squeeze Hispaniola of all wealth that could be had.

Columbus made a decree that all of the Taino people 14 years and older in Hispaniola had to provide a tax of 1 hawksbell (thimble) of gold every three months.  Those who paid the tax were given a copper token to wear around their necks.  Those found without a copper token after three months time had their hands cut off.  The greed and cruelty of Columbus put the Taino in a no win situation, as in a very short amount of time the islands supply of gold was exhausted.  Faced with the prospect of mutilation, many Taino committed suicide.  Others fled to the inland mountains where they were hunted down by Spanish soldiers with dogs.  

After two years with Columbus as governor of Hispaniola, almost half of Hispanoila’s 250,000 Taino natives had died, either being murdered by the Spanish, or dying of disease, starvation, and exhaustion.  As for the Spanish themselves, Columbus spared little of his cruelty.  Minor infractions were brutally punished with floggings, mutilation, or even death.  Due to mismanagement on Columbus’ part, the Spanish were constantly short of food and supplies.  Any talk of mutiny or rebellion against Columbus was met with immediate punishment as Columbus took the role of an all powerful dictator who was beyond reproach.  

When Columbus returned to Hispaniola from his third voyage, he found that many of the colonists were in open rebellion against him.  He quickly quashed the rebellion and hanged the conspirators, but word of his tyranny reached the Spanish court.  After an investigation of Columbus’ governorship, the Spanish king ordered Columbus stripped of his titles and brought back to Europe in chains.

Columbus would spend six weeks in prison before friends in King Ferdinand’s court convinced him to order Columbus’ release.  Columbus would conduct one more voyage to the New World, one that would end in disaster.  After his exploring days Columbus grew wealthy writing books in which he prophesied the future.  In fact, he made more money as a seer than as the ruthless tyrant of the Caribbean.  He died in 1506 at the age of 54.

Fact: Although the Pansexual Pantheon was once a small empire (after the fall of Pangea, our population decreased significantly), after the invention of Panago Pizza, it became the go-to secret headquarters for pansexual gatherings, and the Pansexual Pantheon’s power skyrocketed.