When she came up with the idea for Oneforty, the Twitter app store, Laura Fitton thought she was “thoroughly unqualified for the idea.” She didn’t know how to code up a site. She never raised money for a startup before. And she didn’t even live in Silicon Valley. But she launched it anyway because she felt that a good idea is a gift and she owed it to herself to pursue it.
As she got going, she found ways to make up for the traditional qualifications that she lacked. I jotted down some of those ways during the interview (see below), but if you listen to it yourself, I bet you’ll pick up even more useful ideas from her experience. As I kept saying during the conversation, she did a lot of work before she even launched her company. My goal with in interview was to learn from that hard work.
Please note: the company name is spelled Oneforty
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Andrew: Alright, the mistake that I made is this: I assumed that she raised her money within, you know, within no time at all. It took her a lot longer and it was a lot harder, which means that there’s a lot more for you to learn along the way. So listen to the full interview, check out my sponsors, here’s the interview.
Andrew: Hey everyone its Andrew Warner, founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart, and I’ve got with me today Laura Fitton. She is the founder of Oneforty, an app store for Twitter. The business reportedly raised over two million dollars n funding, and now has about two thousand Twitter apps listed on the site. But that’s not why I invited you here, Laura. I love Oneforty, and I’m going to be asking you about Oneforty, what it is and understanding the business behind it, but what I want to know is, what got you here? Because Laura isn’t somebody, you’re not somebody who just had an idea one day for a website around Twitter, and boom people showered you with money. No, you spent a long time building this reputation for yourself, building an audience for yourself so that people like me when you launch your business on day one were excited to see what did she create, what did Pistachio make, and then you established contacts and relationships that helped you get fundng, that helped you get advisors like I-Kawasaki, I want to know what you did to get here, because a lot of people would like to have this kind of launch, the kind that you had. So, we’re going to dig into that, we’re also going to understand more about what Oneforty is. I want to, why don’t we start off with a little more understanding what it is before we get to understand how we got here. So, I explained that Oneforty is a Twitter app, an app store for Twitter, let me ask you what the business model is behind the business.
Interviewee: Well, we’re an open applications marketplace, and a platform for developers to build their businesses on, so the most obvious one, and I’m sort of sassy sometimes with investors when they’re like “what’s you business model?” I’m like, we’re a store, we take money and we keep some of it. You know, thats the really simplistic one, and there is obviously affiliate. We hope to be able to offer a services tier, so if we can bundle business solutions that make it super-easy to run the business end of running an app, we’re going to offer most of those for free but some of them will probably be upsell if they are a cost to us. One thing that is not part of our business model is donations, we actually see donations as a cost center. We subsidize donations because we’ve seen too many great apps come and go in the last three years. People don’t necessarily know enough to donate to support an app they like that is maybe just a hobby for the developer, but we at least try and encourage that and to do it we do a 100% pass-through any donations that a developer gets. To the extent that we literally will pay the PayPal fee, to make sure that what little does come in goes straight to the people that are innovating.
Andrew: Wow. Ok, so let’s see if we understand this. I do a search, say I want to have a new app that I will Tweet through. I want to find Hoot Suite. I do a search on the site, I find Hoot Suite, I link over, no money gets, no money exchanges hands. If I do a search for an app that I love, I get to tell all of my friends that I love it, I get to add a comment underneath it so that strangers who are curious about it get to find out what makes this app so exciting, and if I want to donate to the app creator I can, through you, donate to the app creator. You guys will not take a cut, never will take a cut of that donation, if anything you’ll actually pay the PayPal processing fees.
Andrew: And if I want an app that is like Zobny or Social 2 I think is on the homepage right now, those are paid apps, you guys will get a cut of that revenue.
Interviewee: Yeah, and it is totally up to the developer if they sell, where they sell, when they sell, how they sell. You’re not tied to exclusivity selling through us, you don’t pay for being listed on the site, you don’t even pay for editorial control of your listing. Which really makes us an advertising platform. That’s all free. Things that you might pay for are if you choose to sell through us, then obviously we take a cut.
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Interviewee: If you choose to sell through us, then obviously, we take a cut. If you choose to, you know, eventually, we don’t offer it now, but eventually we will offer premium placement on the site, so you can buy advertising inventory on the site, or better positioning, or top of search results clearly demarcated. We haven’t ruled that out. We just think, from a customer development standpoint, it’s more important to get people in, see how they want to use an applications marketplace in Twitter’s context. There’s a lot about Twitter that’s so different from the Apps Store, and the Apple Ecosystem. We’re really more in the learning phase with that, and we don’t want to rush out. Even though developers have wanted, since we launched, to be able to buy that premium placement, we don’t want to confuse the end-user. We want to discover. One of the things you and I search when we go to One-Forty, I almost always search when I go there, only five percent of visitors search. Most visitors browse, click, go through tags, go through categories. So we’re just, we’re watching the public. We thought at this point we’d have about 5,000 people still in a closed beta, and be testing everything out. And just the way things went, and as lucky as we’ve been, we just blew it wide open and let everybody come in. So we’re catching up, you know. The money we raised will be used to catch up with demand, and roll out the services we can see people want, or we heard that people want.
Andrew: OK. All right. You said that you’ve got 5,000 people in the beta. I was one of those.
Interviewee: Well, that was our goal. That was our intention.
Interviewee: We have tens of thousands of users at this point. And that’s…
Andrew: All right, and how long have you been in business?
Interviewee: I’m sorry.
Andrew: How long have you been in business?
Interviewee: Well, we launched this site September 23rd. We launched a very, very, very early developer-only prototype alpha July 17th. The first line of code was written May 11th. And the company was established March 31st. So this has all happened in, like nine months.
Andrew: OK. All right. People would kill to, in nine months, have this kind of excitement around their product,
Andrew: …to have this many people be engaged in it. This didn’t happen, as I said, overnight, true?
Interviewee: True, true.
Interviewee: And you made me sound so planful and strategic in your pre-roll. Thank you. The things that have happened in my life since, like May 2007, when I first started playing with Twitter, have been entirely surreal. You know, Guy Kawasaki was someone who slammed Twitter onstage during Chris Perullo’s conference. And I was watching the live stream, and heard him say it, and literally was finishing up the last editing on a blog post called “Ode to Twitter”. So I was like, well you know, he’s wrong. Let me email him my blog post. And I pretty much thought that would be the end of it. To his credit, he not only engaged in back and forth emails, but did he really mean, was it valuable? But then, I thought it was like three, four weeks later, that he finally started Tweeting. He wrote a blog post, and said, “All right, fine. Dave Winer and Laura Fitton have convinced me. I’m going to start Tweeting.” You know, someone at his level does not have to give credit to somebody nobody’s ever heard of. And he’s done it ever since. He’s mentored me. He’s an advisor to One-Forty. He’s really gone to bat for me. He’s been a great guy. And just crazy stuff like that happened over the course of two years. I had no idea I was going to be in Seth Gordon’s book, Tribes, until the book came out. And people started DMing me, and saying, “Wow! Congratulations on being in Seth Gordon’s book.” I’m like, Seth Gordon’s aware I’m alive. You know, like it’s been surreal. And it really wasn’t as planned out. You know, I don’t know how to explain for someone else to do the same thing. I…
Andrew: No, I don’t mean to say that it, I don’t mean to imply that it was planned out. I don’t mean to say that a few years ago, when you discovered Twitter, you said, “Ah, one day I will create a directory that people will have to pay to be a part of. Ha ha ha ha.” What I do mean is, that you built a foundation on top of which many different buildings could have come. So maybe it wouldn’t have been this. Maybe it would have been something else. But you built a solid, solid foundation that allowed you to have conversation with investors that didn’t make you feel needy. That you didn’t have to go in and say, “Come on, I have this good idea.” Conversations with Guy Kawasaki about being an advisor that didn’t have to start with, “Hey, my name is… I love you, and I’ve been fan for a long time.” And that’s what I want for my audience. Frankly, that’s what I want for myself. I think that’s the way we all want to live. So let’s go back to understand this evolution.
Andrew: A large part of it was Twitter, but what happened to you before? How did you even discover Twitter? And then we’ll find out what happened that led to Twitter.
Interviewee: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So here’s another one that kind of makes people cringe in an amusing way. May 2007, I was aware of blogging. I was aware of feed readers. I had been pretty much full time for about two years, at that point. I had done some internet stuff before then. May 2007, I turned to my then husband, and I said, “All right, fine. I keep hearing about Web 2.0. Where do I upgrade Firefox to get it?”
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Interviewee: I was that ignorant.
That’s when I really started blogging to rebuild my consulting business. I was a presentations consultant. I helped people communicate more effectively. I had moved to Boston between having my two kids, so I’m here in this city, basically a home-bound mom, trying to work from home. I hadn’t really even been out with adults much in two years, trying to rebuild my network in a totally new city.
I start blogging about Pistachio Consulting, which at the time was the presentations gig, and I start reading a ton of blogs. I read a ton of VC blogs really early on because presentations consulting is often working on helping someone refine their pitch. So I was always fascinated by VC blogs.
One of the most touching moments for me in the last month was both Brad Feld and Jeff Nolan, who were some of my very, very early on heroes in the blogs I read, DMing me and saying, “I’m really proud of you.” It’s sort of like your Dad being… It was neat.
Andrew: First of all, I want to say something about what you said earlier. It’s going to make some people cringe. I hope it doesn’t and I don’t think it will. I think what it’s going to do for my audience is get them excited. Make them think, “All right. If she didn’t know what this was, just recently , and she was that clueless, I may not know what video blogging is right now, I may not know what Andrew’s doing right here, but I see that there’s some potential.” Maybe they’ll see there’s a business going on on Twitter, like you’re building, and say, “I see there’s some potential. It’s OK that I’m far behind. I can still jump in the game.”
When you were doing this presentations consulting and you saw these venture capitalists blogging, did you reach out to them and offer to teach them? What was your interaction beyond just being a reader? Why is it that Brad Feld,…
Interviewee: I don’t know. That’s a good question.
Andrew: …the famous investor, is now part of your life so much that he’s proud of you?
Interviewee: How that evolved over time. To give him credit, Seth Levine, who works with Brad Feld in Boulder, was the first VC blogger ever to reference my material. I didn’t even have a blog at the time. I had e-mailed him a tip sheet of “Top Ten Tips for Entrepreneurs Pitching to VCs,” and “Top Ten Rules to Break About Pitching,” so I always love to give him a shout out being the first human being to ever blog about me in any form. So I’m reading these blogs.
Twitter makes its big splash April 2007. Literally, I’m one month into this. People are all writing about Twitter. “Oh, it’s so great. It’s so great. It’s so great.” I write the obligatory “Twitter’s Really Stupid,” blog post and it’s really a month before I start to see the value in it.
My first use case was Ben Casnocha, who wrote “My Start Up Life,” really young guy in the Valley who had done a couple start ups. I was seeing him tweet that he had taken a networking meeting, he had taken a mentoring meeting, he had reached out to so and so to have coffee. That’s incredibly inspiring stuff. That’s one of the oldest business success rules. “Surround yourself with successful people.” So that was my first, “Oh, Twitter makes sense.”
From there I bridged into Twitter-following the bloggers I loved and realizing I could talk to them more. Just over time having a lot of, I think Tara Hunt uses the term, accelerated serendipity. It’s a great one for what happens on Twitter. Just kind of hanging out and running into people. I ran into Lalik Glimour [??] at a video conference called PNME, the New Media, it’s now merged with Blog World, and because of Twitter was able to stay in touch with him after just running into him in the hallway at a conference.
I started seeing this incredible “Oh, wow! This generates a lot of dialogue.” Even then, all I really did was just be really enthusiastic and kind of out there and earnest with what I felt and what I saw and what I thought. It never occurred to me that I was building a list or building a community or an audience or anything like that.
Andrew: Not necessarily at that stage did you know that you were building a list and an audience, but you were methodical about something. You were trying to, if I’m understanding you right, be surrounded by smart people and engage with smart people who are doing interesting things.
Interviewee: Yeah, because I was starving. A mom who’s home with her kids, it was awesome, I loved my kids, but I was starving for intellectual stimulus. So it fed on itself. I got a little taste of it and I jumped in more. One of the reasons I got so addicted to Twitter in the first place, frankly, was I was still nursing. I had to sit still for six hours a day. That’s really, really hard when you’re as hyper as I am.
Andrew: I see. So this gave you something you could do with just one hand. Reach out for the cell phone…
Interviewee: Way too much information, right? No, the laptop’s sitting in front of you, you’re bored, you know.
Andrew: Got you. OK. All right. So you’re starting…
Interviewee: I bet I’m the first entrepreneur on Mixergy to admit to that.
Andrew: No, this is what’s going to make this stuff special. I’ve been asking personal questions lately and now I don’t even have to ask the questions. People like you are volunteering them.
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Andrew: You were volunteering them. So, alright, so let’s see, you were talking to these people online, you were starting to go into conferences so that you can get to meet them. What I’ve noticed as, when I was living in Los Angeles, I can’t remember what it was, there was several twitter conferences, and you were at one and you walked down the hall. It was like a celebrity had walked down the hall, and people had insisted that I go and say hi to you, and I think we just said hi really quickly. I think I took a card or something, I don’t even know if we took the chance to say hi, so don’t feel bad if you don’t remember, I don’t even know if we did. What I do definitely remember is that there was a celebrity buzz about you, this was before, maybe just as Oneforty was building. It came from, from building connections offline too. So, you were going to these conferences and you’de see people who were interesting to you would do, you would do what? You’d go over and say hi?
Interviewee: No, that’s the funny thing is that I actually had incredible, almost to the extent of social phobias, about the in person stuff. When it started to go from the online to the in person I worked up gradually. I went to a few local events and I was befriended very, very early on by Chris Brogan, who obviously is a master at this game and he taught me a ton. I was, I started to be asked to speak at conferences about Twitter’s value. The very first talk was October 2007. That’s another thing guy did for me, was actually get me speaking gig, because he appreciated what I had explained to him and he turned around an introduced me to conference organizers, he pulled me up on stage at South by Southwest, like I found out the night before beyond this panel that I was totally unqualified to be on. He just gave me a chance to kind of air my opinions and that made a lot of people followed me and can up to talk to me so I just learned how to, you know, try and be friendly back, but that first South by Southwest, again, honest truth, I was overwhelmed, I don’t naturally have the kind of, like, I think Robert Scobel has a real gift at talking to many people at once, politicians have this gift, I really had
Andrew: You were a presentation consultant. You were teaching people how to give presentations.
Interviewee: Yeah, but I didn’t. It’s different from you know, walking down the hallway and smiling and shaking everybody’s hand and feeling somehow like people should know who you are, I was really stunned to find anybody knowing who I was. I didn’t think that was going to happen.
Andrew: So why didn’t they know, why did they know who you were? By the way, this s is me pushing back on you.
Andrew: This is, a lot of people who are, who are great, also very modest, and my interviews are going to suck if I allow you to just stay modest, because people aren’t going to recognize what it is that’s great about you or learn from it. If I don’t push back and say no, you were a presentation
Andrew: consultant, you knew how to present yourself, my audience complains and at the end is going to say
Andrew: Why’d he do this, why did Andrew have this “ “(17:44) on, this woman’s great, I want you to understand why. So,
Interviewee: I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to connect to an audience in the context of presentations consulting, and that a lot of what makes a presentation good is turning your message inside out and making it more about the person listening, and I did do that from pretty early on, on Twitter, just trying not to be totally self indulgent when I noted something that I thought was noteworthy enough to remark on or remarkable enough or whatever to try not to do it in a one hundred percent self serving way, and one example that I give a lot in my talks is my daughter fell off a chair, right, and it just scared me, she wasn’t injured, you know, I didn’t like stop and tweet before calling the ER or anything. It was a very minor fall, I processed it for about half an hour, it startled me as a mom, and instead of coming out and saying oh my god my daughter fell, I was so scared I wrote what do you do when you have a sudden fear? And so that led to, I don’t know, twenty-five, fifty tweets back and forth with people talking about how they deal with fear, and so that tendency to turn it inside out just a tiny bit clearly led to a readership developing. I know, I didn’t watch my numbers very closely but I know because of a recording that I saw very recently that in October 2007 I had like four hundred followers on twitter and I had no why. Like, this is crazy, I got four hundred followers. I know because the day I met Ed Williams I crossed to a thousand, that I had a thousand two months later in December 2007. And so some of the effect we’re seeing is just I had a largish audience early, for no real reason other than I was goofy, I wasn’t afraid to be a dork, my twitter bio forever was I make presentations suck less, my twitter bio now for the longest time has been that I get, you know, much excitement and geekiness about where this all leads. I have very few filters and I’m not afraid to look like a dork and so people relate to that I guess, I don’t know.
Andrew: And, now I’ve had Guy Kowasaki here on Mixergy, I’ve seen you in conversations and in conferences with him, I don’t think that Guy could just pick me out of a line up and say here are ten dark skinned guys with big noses who are goofy on camera, pick out Andrew Warner
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Interviewee: I wrote to him kind of out of curiosity, and I actually had to blow him off for about two weeks because he wrote back to me the day one of my daughters hurt herself and did have to go to the hospital. So I’m like, “I’m sorry. I’m dealing with a family crisis. I’ll catch up with you when I can.” So I don’t know. I’m a chick. I was raving about Twitter. I play ice hockey.
Andrew: Because it was cutting edge.
Interviewee: That’s what you need to do.
Andrew: No, but it was also that you were onto something that was cutting edge, that you were going to teach him about it, that he was curious enough to then want to engage, and then he naturally learned from you. And I see Neil Patel do that. Somebody who will raise their hand and say that online marketing stinks. You should just build a business. And he’ll say, “No, no. Let me show you how.” Or search engine optimization is a big sham, and he’ll say, “No, let me take you in and do it.” And I think he did the same thing for Guy Kawasaki, and he stands out. And yeah. Somebody was asking, “Wow. She plays ice hockey. Did you mean that? Was that serious? You’re an ice hockey player?
Interviewee: Oh, God, yeah. Oh, I’m a huge hockey fan. In fact, I just got verified on Twitter, and they have a bug so it actually froze all my account settings. So my account settings say I’m still at the NHL Winter Classic at Fenway. And frankly, oh wow! That was a great memory, so I don’t mind leaving that. Huge hockey fan, hugely grateful to the NHL for giving me those tickets for free and for letting me skate on the ice during the Old Timers Day. First time I…
Andrew: I saw that, by the way. Sorry, we’ve got this lag. I’ve got to stop doing interviews on Skype. I’ve got to do them in person. I did see that, and I was a little worried that maybe you weren’t going to be here because it said that you were out enjoying hockey today.
Andrew: What is it? The National Hockey League, the NHL. Why did they give you these tickets? Why did they involve you so much?
Interviewee: Well, as soon as I heard about the game, and I grew up in Connecticut. Huge, huge hockey fan. I watched the Hartford Whalers from the time I was a kid. Gordie Howe lived in my hometown. And huge fan of the Red Sox, so tremendous passion for Fenway. When I first heard there was going to be a hockey game at Fenway, my head just kind of exploded and I Tweeted a bunch about it. Then just the random luck I happened to be running a panel that Mike DiLorenzo from the NHL was on at Twitter Fun in D. C. And I said, “ Mike, I am sure everybody and their brother are hitting you up for tickets, and I’ve been working angles trying to find them.” And my dad, when the college game tickets were released, spent three hours online trying to get me tickets. And I said, “You know, Mike, I would totally love this, but I get it if you can’t make it happen.” And then shortly before Christmas he and Gary B.[?] emailed me and said, “How would you like to go to the game?” And again, my head exploded. I was so grateful. I was especially grateful because they came up with a second pair of tickets that I was able to give away to support charity because I felt a little awkward about, “OK, now I have all this privilege and I’m going to this special game and, nah nah nah nah, you’re not.” So it was cool that they did it in a way that was very fitting with my kind of general tone on Twitter, that I could not make it entirely about “Oh, look at me. I have this privilege.” Although I was really grateful for the privilege.
Andrew: OK. Then let’s move on to September 2008. You launched Pistachio Consulting. Pistachio I should say–I think we brought it up a couple of times–that’s your Twitter handle, and the name Pistachio comes from the color of your wall when you signed up for Twitter if I’m right.
Interviewee: The color of my wall. I made myself a home office like 15 years ago in Pennsylvania in the attic of the house my boyfriend rented, grabbed a can of paint in the basement to paint the ceiling which was also the walls, and it was that horrible pistachio ice cream color. So when I suddenly needed a name for my company, I went, “Oh, Pistachio Studios,” and it’s been ever since. So in September 2008 I took an existing communications consultancy called Pistachio Consulting and I relaunched it and said, “We’re Twitter for Business Consulting.” And all my social media consultant friends thought I was nuts because it was so niche. But we had some really clear ideas. Marsha Conner and I wrote a white paper about Enterprise Twitter Products. Before Yammer even won Tech Crunch 50 that year, I spent 10 days in July going around Silicon Valley taking to people, talking to Twitter themselves and saying, “Guys, I really think there’s a need for an enterprise version of this.” Social text at the time: I saw Ross Mayfield, and he gave me a sneak preview of Signals. And I was ecstatic because this thing that I had been talking about–since August 2007 I had been saying there should be an internal version–was finally happening. So the Pistachio Consulting was going to focus on the enterprise stuff, but there was tremendous demand for the market engagement stuff as well. So yeah. I took the step and relaunched, and that first quarter was horrible because all my leads were marketing companies, advertising companies, and media companies in New York City, you know. What? Six, seven days after I launched in the market tanked. It was exciting times. But…
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Interviewee: It was exciting times. But that…Wiley had by then come to me and asked me to write Twitter for Dummies. Pistachio Consulting and just kind of being Pistachio on twitter and having a lot of people ask me how to use twitter, led to this realization that there’s tons of apps. Apps are really crucial to getting over the “twitter is stupid” moment and there’s not central place to find them, understand them, rate and review them, share them. So it hit me like a lightning bolt just a couple months after launching Pistachio. It was December. I was sitting in this seat, in this office and I went, “Oh my God! An app store for twitter!” And then I ran to tell my friend in another office. He wasn’t there. I came back to my seat and said, “No, that’s a stupid idea. Try and forget it.” And then I never managed to forget it.
Andrew: Wow. So you’ve been sitting on this idea for that long?
Interviewee: I started…I only sat on it over the holiday season and then in January I started making phone calls to people that I thought could do it for me and I could be an advisor. Because I was really dead set on not being an entrepreneur. I mean, I’m turning 38 this week. I’m a single mom. I have no technology management background. I’ve never built software before in my life. I’ve never built a web site outside of Word Press blog before in my life. I felt so thoroughly unqualified to pursue the opportunity that I spent from that moment thinking about it until, really until South by Southwest; trying to quit the idea. Trying to get someone else to do it. Trying not to do it myself. So one of the few things I give for advice to other start uppers is you have to be so stuck on your idea that you literally can’t even quit. Because there’s going to be a thousand times in the process that you’re going to want to quit. So I think that first three, four months of trying really hard not to do 140 was actually really valuable to me because it made it so clear why I was doing it that I had to do it, etc.
Andrew: Okay, before we get back into the app store I know that through Pistachio Consulting you had clients, according to your website, like Johnson & Johnson, Ford Motor Company, People Browser, the Sister Project, Transplant 1. I don’t know what that is but you had a list of clients. What kind of work were you doing for them?
Interviewee: The same…so for a year and a half, from the time I reached out to Guy to the time I relaunched Pistachio Consulting, an increasing part of my everyday routine was to explain twitter to people. I literally defaulted into a position as the “twisperer”. The first day I met Ed Williams, the one question he asked me was, “We find new users have a really hard time figuring who to follow. How do we solve that problem?” What are you seeing new users get stuck on? So for a year and a half I’m explaining it to executives. I’m speaking at conferences. I’m blogging about it. My poor presentations consulting readers were so completely over run by blog posts about twitter for a year. So that’s exactly what I do when I’m finally getting paid for it. Is I say, “Look. Here’s what I can offer. Here’s what I can do.” And of course I was about 6 months too early on that; so a ton of time was spent just explaining to agencies. I remember sitting at one really large advertising agency in New York and they’re like, “Well, what the heck is the point?” And I pulled up, at the time it was still Sumise, right, I pulled up Sumise and I searched a couple of their brand names so they could see how people all over the world are interacting with their brand. And I say this phrase all the time, again, their head kind of exploded. Like, “Oh. There’s all this consumer sentiment. There’s this fire hose, everybody calls it now, of information about what people actually want. What they actually think. So just continuing to explain that over and over for more sophisticated audiences who realize they should actually be paying for that. And that work goes on. Marcia Connor who co-wrote the white paper with me, still runs Pistachio Consulting for me. I still get requests all the time to help a small business, a large business, an executive kind of coaching one-on-one. I don’t get that tactical with it but I had speaking engagements in the last year. This year I re
ally won’t be able to do them because the start up takes up too much time but the way I survived on almost no salary for months was one or two speaking engagements here, one or two advisory consulting positions here.
Andrew: I’m trying to think of what to…what of the list of questions that I wrote here while we were talking I should go into next. But why don’t I start with this? What I’m noticing is a lot of people in the early days of twitter were really just writing about nonsense. They were writing about the little things that happened in their lives. At the time, the top of twitter said…I think it’s “what’s happening”. Or what’s going on now? They were asking for more…
Interviewee: “What are you doing?”
Andrew: “What are you doing?” And that’s what people answered. What are you doing? And a handful of people like you were going to take it towards the business, towards businesses. How’d you know which businesses to take it…and by the way…I’ve got to focus here. By taking it towards businesses, you’re able to make money from it. You’re able to make profitable contacts, you’re able to make it a little more meaningful than what’s for lunch? How did you know who to contact in these companies? How’d you build those relationships with them that you were then able to convert into paying customers?
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Interviewee: Yeah. I didn’t. I wasn’t very good at that. I had a really hard time. You know, well with Johnson & Johnson they had a thing where Motrin trended because a bunch of moms were really ticked off about an advertising campaign. So obviously the competent thing to do was follow up and offer help. You know, Ford I didn’t do…
Andrew: You followed up and asked for help? Offered help?
Interviewee: No, I…yeah I followed up and wrote to them and said, you know…And by then I had a business manager who’s actually watching this…Hi Linda! Linda Ziffren works with consultants and analysts to help large companies understand just what they do. She was Charlene Lee’s agent and Charlene Lee was mentoring me and said, “Oh…” So she did some of the outreach for me. Sometimes it was direct. Sometimes it was through my network. A lot of the meetings in New York were just people I had happened to get to know. So the reason I looked at business was I knew Pistachio Consulting was getting all of its leads, hands down, off twitter. And I wasn’t even trying to use it as a lead gen tool, it just was. And I was getting to meet people…I remember watching the editor-in-chief of Redbook speak on stage at Blogher and she mentioned somebody and she’s describing how much she loves this guy Mike at her company and I’m like, “Wait! Wait! I’m connected to Mike on twitter!” So I dm him, said, “Love an introduction to the woman who’s on stage right now. Stacey Morrison. She really gets new media. She gets social media. She gets where this is going.” And he was in an Apple store, got my message 45 minutes later, emailed her and I had the meeting an hour and a half later. Right? So twitter itself put me where I got and created all this opportunity to even knock on those doors.
Andrew: Wow. All right but again, that takes some kind of though too. To say, “I’m not just listening. I’m not just going to tweet at them Hey great presentation, but I’m going to ask for an introduction.” I think there’s value in understanding how people like you work because I think…I wouldn’t think to do that. We’re all living in our own little worlds with our own way of doing things and I like to see how others do it. All right. What about this? You mentioned earlier you said you were, quote ‘thoroughly unqualified for the idea’. And Cool Presting who’s watching us live says there’s no such thing as unqualified. Maybe. But what I’d like to know is once you decided that this was an idea, Oneforty, an idea that you were going to pursue and you didn’t have the technical skills to build it yourself, what’s the first thing that you did.
Interviewee: Begged for money.
Interviewee: To people who didn’t want to listen. Another thing you said in your pre-roll is like, “Yeah. You never had to beg for money from people who didn’t want to listen.” Oh yeah. I did. You know, the feedback that came back was, “This is great but you’re really more the CMO who’s going to run it, who will be the CEO.” One of the first co-founders I reached out to was really more of an operations guy, really more of a COO than anything else because I was really freaked out by the idea of running a company. I didn’t feel I was running Pistachio Consulting that well. I was struggling there. Luckily he didn’t work out because what I needed the most was a CTO type. I needed developers so I shifted my focus and started looking for developers. Couldn’t find them, couldn’t find them, couldn’t find them. What eventually saved it for us was getting…at the…so I started raising on my own in earnest at South By last year. So that’s mid-March. My first actual pitches…I think it was right around tax day, April 16th. So it was a couple of days after South by…No, no. The first actual pitch was around April 1st and the first actual meetings out in the valley were around April 16th. And it took me about 10 weeks to raise the angel round. And it was raised on enthusiasm, a Power Point deck, no demo, no product, nothing. I was trying to talk somebody into being my co-founder. I was trying to talk a developer into hacking together some kind of prototype. I just kept pushing on many fronts all at once. And for ten weeks all I did was ask for help, ask for money, ask for advice. Again, I was coming into this with a pretty privileged network where I could sit down with VC’s in the valley and ask for their advice. But as much as I love those guys, most of them still haven’t invested in the company at this stage. They’ve just been there for me. The old thing about ask for advice when you need money and ask for money when you need advice. I was asking fo
r money, I got lots of good advice. The two things that finally moved the momentum in the right direction were getting into Tech Stars back in Boston and convincing Pivotal Labs to start coding. Even though they knew I didn’t have very much of my angel money in yet. So I guess before that was convincing a couple angels to start investing. But when you’re doing a start up – and this is why you have to be so hell bent that you’re not going to quit, people all line up along a starting line. And you can feel them coming together, you can feel that they’re starting to believe in you and they’re going to move at some point but they’re all waiting for somebody else to take that first step.
You were able to make money from, profitable contacts, you were able to make it a little more meaningful than what’s for lunch. How did you how did you know who to contact in these companies? How’d you build all those contacts and relationships with them that you were then able to convert them into paying customers.
yeah, yeah i wasn’t good at that. i had a hard time. well, you know with johnson and johnson, they had a thing where motrin trended because a bunch of mom’s were really ticked off as an advertising campaign so obviously the prominent thing to do was follow up and offer help, you know, Ford, I didn’t..
You followed up and asked for help.
No, yea, I followed up and wrote to them, and said, and by then I had a business manager who was actually watching this, hi Linda, Linda works with different consultants and analysts to help large companies understand just what they do. She was Charlee Lee’s agent, and Charlee Lee was mentoring me and said oh her. So she did some of the outreach for me, sometimes it was direct, sometimes it was through my network. A lot of the meetings in New York were just people I had happen just to know…So the reason I looked at business was I knew the statue of consulting was getting its leads all off Twitter, handsdown, and i wasn’t even using it as a leetjet tool, it just was. and i was getting to meet people. i remember watching the editor in chief of Redbook speak on stage at blog her, and she mentioned somebody, she’s describing how much she loves this guy Mike at her company, and I’m like wait, I’m connected with Mike on Twitter, so I damned him, and I’d love an introduction to the woman who’s on stage right now Stacy because she really gets new media, she gets social media, she gets, and he was in an Apple Store, got my message 45 minutes later and emailed her and I had the meeting an hour and a half later. Right, so Twitter itself, put me where I got and created all these opportunity to even knock on those doors.
Wow, wow, alright, but again, that takes some thought to say, I’m not just listening I’m not just going to Tweet at them, “Hey, great Presentation,” but I’m going to ask for an introduction. I think there’s value in understanding how people like you work because I wouldn’t think like that to do that because we are all living in a world with our own ways of doing things and I like to see how others do it. Alright, what about this, you mentioned earlier, you said you were thoroughly unqualified for the idea and coolprint who is watching us live
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But when you’re doing a start up and this is why you have to be so hell bent that you’re not going to quit. People all line up along a starting line and you can feel them coming together and you can feel that they are starting to believe in you and they are going to move at some point, but they are all waiting for somebody else to take that first step, to break the plane of that starting line. And I could feel that so tangibly and it drove me so nuts. And finally when people started to, it’s dominoes start to fall and it makes a huge difference. So over the course of mid-April through mid May, was trying to get that momentum. Like I said by May 11, I had begged Rob Mea at Pivotal Labs, “ya know look, I will give you this initial upfront payment, will you please start developing”, he said “look, wait till you have the money in the bank because I may have to stop your project if you don’t get the money”, I’m like, I don’t care, go, go, go. I have, ya know, daycare needs, I have family travel plan needs, I have speaking engagement needs. If we don’t start now, I’m going to be in a bad position”. Ya know, so I begged and he started and that made more investors came in and the investors coming in made other investors coming in and finally it got to critical mass around the end of May and we closed around June 10th.
Andrew: How did you get in front of the Angel Investors? Was there somebody who shepherd you through the process. Somebody that made the introductions?
Interviewee: So I just started, I was very aware that it was easier to get to Angels in the Valley than Boston. And I had again, a base line really solid network in both cities. More of a network out West, than in Boston, just because my network had been gotten through social networking and there is more people doing that out West. Even then it was, sort of, I would see an Angel type of event was going on on Twitter and reach out to some of my friends that I saw were in attendance and I would say, hey by the way, remember I’m looking for Angel. I had one advisor, Dan Martel, God love him, he has been with me throughout this whole process, he was an advisor of mine at Pistachio Consulting, because his start up for Eric, in Canada had done some enterprise micro-blogging type stuff. He was one of the first people I told the idea to and he would introduce me to other Angels, because he was an Angel investor. He committed. The funny thing about Angels, ya know, they commit, they disappear, they come back.
It’s definitely hurting cats, my first day out in California when the build started, because Pivotal requires that you come and stay there, on-site with your engineers. I remember Rob Meade saying to me the first day, like “Yeah, you know, you have these Angels, they’re all committed, you have five lined up, ready to go for X amount of money, but, you know, they’re going to act like dudes, some of them aren’t going to call you in the morning, right, some of them aren’t going to follow up, some of them are going to back out, some of them are going to come back in later, and being able to just keep plugging away at it, when the tide shifted, my lead Angel, Matt Combes of New Wave Adventures, he happens to be Charlene Lee’s husband, and she, as I mentioned before, had been mentoring me for quite a while. She was one of the people I saw was at investors and networking kind of an event, and I said, “Hey, I’m in town next week, I need to meet some Angels, please keep an eye out for me today at that event. She e-mailed me and said, “Oh, you know, you should really meet this guy”, and he had this funny name and I didn’t make any connection, it’s actually her husband, right? So all I knew was I was having coffee with some guy named “Combes”, and that was all I knew and as I got into town I was on the phone with Charlene and she said, “yeah, that’s actually my husband.” And I was like, “Oh!”. He turned out to be our lead, he’s active with the Harvard Angels Group in San Francisco, so once he was aboard, he did definitedly go to other Angels and bring them in. But in the beginning it was a mix of…
Andrew: What was it about you that convinced them? What was it about you or about your story that convinced them to invest?
Interviewee: I think it was, honestly, I know what it is, because the relationships helped me get the meetings but it wasn’t helping me get the results. The fact that I just kept going. The fact that no matter how much I got turned down, no matter how much they weren’t really sure I was still moving the company ahead, and this is one of the few things, again, that I think it’s useful to hear about my story if you’re working on your own start-up, because most of my story you can’t replicate, right? But don’t lose sight of spending so much time raising, that you’re not spending any time moving the company forward, right? So while I was spending all this time trying to get these meetings, I was also pushing on getting a developer in place, getting a CTO in place, getting the coding started, and I kept pushing on different things, so an investor would see me over the course of a few weeks and there’d always be progress, right? It was always closer to happening, and they need to know you’re going to do this with or without them, because people want to invest, they want to put their money where it’s not actually needed, in a way
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Interviewee: Right? So if they feel your desperation and then you know there’s no way…I mean, I would sit in Rob Meade’s office and say, “If Twitter for Dummies ever makes any money I’ll give it all to Hoodle and we would start coding based on that.” And he’s like, “Ssss.” You know, you’re just always pushing on something to see what will move forward.
Andrew: And Pivotal’s one of these shops that they…Pivotal is one of these shops that essentially create start ups. What they do is, I guess there are different shops like that throughout the country. Like in Los Angeles there’s Citrus Bite that a lot of people use. They take an idea, they build a site for you, they train your people on how to manage it and then your people go off and they run the business. And that’s why they wanted you to have a tech person in place. And that’s why they wanted that person to be in their office with the idea that eventually that person would be responsible for the work that Pivotal gets going. And somebody in our chat room –
Interviewee: And they literally –
Andrew: Sorry. No, you go ahead please.
Interviewee: They provide…they provide help hiring your tech people. The CEO, Rob Meade, sits down and pair codes with any developer you think you’re going to hire. They had product management expertise. They provide essentially free office space as long as you need it. If I ever wanted to hire an employee in San Francisco I could just set them at Pivotal until it makes sense to set up an office out there. So it really is profoundly an incubator, less so than shops that say, “All right. Well, give us your specs and we’ll deliver code in three months.” So a lot of the push back I got from investors was, “You’re choosing the most expensive possible shop to get this developed.” But for me being totally non-technical and having no technical team, if I had gone to a more out-sourcey dev shop the product would have been a disaster. I needed a vendor that could teach me how to build a website. And that’s what Pivotal did. And same thing with Tech Start.
Andrew: What did it cost, they’re asking in the chat room?
Interviewee: I’m sorry, what?
Andrew: What did it cost? What was the cost, they’re asking in the chat room?
Interviewee: So ended up…Pivotal’s about…it’s really expensive! It’s about $15,000 a week for a pair. And so what we came up with was, “Look. You don’t have much money.” Generally there start ups are more seed funded than angel funded. But we came up with this idea that if we do a six week run, and he gave me a very slight bit discount, so like a six week was going to be $84,000 we could get a minimum viable product up and launched. We could get move the development offshore if we had to or maybe I would have a technical team by then. So that was the approximate budget. Over time they got more and more faith in me and they kind of sent favors my way here and there. Like, “Oh, we have a new hire. We don’t normally charge clients for our new hires so we’ll have them work on your project.” And so we ended up with a 12 week run for the price of a six week run. So again, your mileage will vary but…well, the most satisfying thing was by October, Pivotal had so believed in what we were doing that they came on board as investors and so the very last amount of fee that we would have owed them in cash they took in paper. Every start up comes to them and asks them to take paper up front. They can’t do it because everybody’s asking. But if you work hard and you prove yourself and you show them that you’re going to really do it, and that’s true no matter who you’re trying to get. Employees, vendors, investors. Just prove them that no matter whether they’re involved or not you’re going to do it. That was the single one thing that brought people in alignment and brought them on board with doing it.
Andrew: And when you said 15000 a week per pair that’s because they have two developers work on one screen. They do pairings, it’s called…I’m learning more and more about…
Interviewee: They do pair coding, agile extreme coding and roo [????].
Andrew: Okay. How did the Tech Stars figure into all this?
Interviewee: Oh man, they…again, my luck had been ridiculous. Very early on, December 2007, my friend invited some of her friends over to my house. Halley Soot, who’s a blogger from the original cohort of bloggers and one of the guys she invited was Dan Brickland who literally invented the spread sheet. Right? And she told me this. “Oh the guy who invented the spread sheet’s coming over this afternoon.” I didn’t really believe her because that seemed a little absurd. I hadn’t lived in Boston long enough to get that, yeah, Boston’s full of people like this. So Dan…let’s see, Bill Werner who founded Avid Technologies – again you may have heard of non-linear video editing, the guy created it – I had gotten to know those guys over time on the local Boston scene. Diane Hassey who’s the CEO of a company here called CommuniSpace; I’d gotten to be friends with them. They were all going to bat for me trying to get me angel meetings. And I still couldn’t get a single angel meeting in Boston. Boston’s angel community is getting there but it wasn’t there when I needed it. And I remember coming back to the Tech Star guys… I was formally rejected because they don’t take sole founders and I was a sole founder. I came back to them and I said, “Look. I’m getting all this traction out in the Valley.”
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Interviewee: …and I was a sole founder. I came back to them and I said, “hey, look, I’m getting all this attraction out in the Valley, I’m getting actual angel investors, I think I have a shopline net to start coding it, but I’m getting no love in Boston. Can you please help introduce me to angels, because I don’t know what I’m doing wrong”. And it just happened that slots had opened up at TextStars. A company that had been accepted and take it, and they saw that Pivotal was actually developing, they saw that some angels were actually coming in, and they said, “all right, we’ll throw our chit in, too. We’ll believe in you.” And that was incredibly important, because it’s literally a classroom format where they’re telling you all the stuff you don’t know. You have a huge problem as an entrepreneur, especially if you’re as inexperienced as I was, where you don’t even know what you don’t even know. You don’t know what you haven’t thought of yet, and so that structure was important. That vote of confidence was important to the starting line effect I was talking about earlier. I could then go back to investors and say, “hey, I’m a TextStars company. Hey, Pivotal Labs is building the prototype. I’m real. People believe in me. I’m real. This is happening.” And of course, it is “us” now, after so many months of being a sole founder, I say “me” and “I” too much.
Andrew: I’m maybe hearing in this conversation, but on the website, it’s much more than “me” and “I”. I see lots of names on there, and lots of Twitter handles. And you know what, a lot of them, …
Interviewee: Thousands. And if you really list everybody who had something to do with the startup, it’s easily 3, 4, 500 people.
Andrew: What about this? A lot of people on the website and a lot of times in this conversation, a lot of people on the website are listed as advisors. A lot of times in this conversation, we talked about your advisors. You mentioned the word “mentor” a couple of times. It seems like you got a nice support system. And it’s pretty formal. You ask people to just be your mentor, and how do you do it? How do you get a mentor?
Interviewee: Every single one has come in differently, right? How do you get Guy Kawasaki to be your mentor? We sort of talked about how that just sort of happened. I asked him formally at South by Southwest. We already had the relationship. I asked him formally to invest. He turned me down, but said, “I’ll be an advisor.” Right. So that was one little bit of social proof. Hey, Guy Kawasaki is my advisor. Other ones, one of my absolute best mentors, I’ve often described him as being my “entrepreneur’s shrink”, is a guy named John Prendergast. Who I literally just walked into an open coffee one week, and met him completely by chance. He has given me at least an hour of phone support every week since when I met him. And is now on our board as “the Independent”, which is awesome, because he’s so aligned and helpful and who knows my strengths and weaknesses and can yell at me when I need to be yelled at. So, everything from, reaching out to a rock star, like I did with Guy, to just running in to the exact right person at open coffee, and everything in between. The TextStars program is heavy on mentoring. I’m unafraid to ask for help. I’m unafraid to admit when I’m clueless. I think that helps people feel like, well, my mentoring would go somewhere if I spent some energy talking to her about what she needs to know, because she’s actually listening. One of the people I’ve talked to very, very early on and kind of outsource the startup, I went back to him later in June, and I said, “you know, I could sort of see the point when you were talking, where you really lost faith in me as a CEO. So, give me some brutal feedback as to what your reservations were, what my weaknesses are, and what I should be working on.” And he’s like, “Laura, honestly, the fact that you can even ask me that question means you’re fine”. He’s like, most entrepreneurs are these hot-headed, 25 year-olds, where “I know the world, I have no weaknesses.” He’s like, “I’m totally imp
ressed with what you’ve done, you’re going to do fine.” Yeah, but it took some courage to go up to somebody you know had lost faith in you, and say, “why did you lose faith?” And that’s one of my goofy talents.
Andrew: It seems like that’s a talent. Also connecting with people, asking them for support, is a talent of yours.
Andrew: You don’t want to agree with me, but…
Interviewee: No, no…
Andrew: OK, all right. So, I was wrong in the beginning of the interview, when I assumed as an outsider, that the funding happened easily for you. As an outsider, somebody who’d even done research from the outside, I still didn’t get a picture of how hard and long a process it was.
Interviewee: Everything since June has been a cinch. We closed a second “trunch” of angel at the end of October, mainly because of people who mentored us through TextStars, who wanted to invest. One thing I learned, the week after the round closed, the June 10th round, which was convertible debt, I was trying to raise $140,000 to be acute. It ended up oversubscribing, I think we closed about 227. Like the very next day, a TextStars mentor said, “oh, I wish I’d been in the round, I didn’t realize you were raising.” I said, “Oh well, we’ve closed it. So, next time I do a round…” Closings are not that cut-and-dried, it turns out. So, I claimed like,…
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So I played it like, oh no, but it’s closed, we can’t do it, and we later did a tranche in October, again we thought, “well, we think we have fifty-thousand in interest so we’ll open up to about a hundred thousand, and we shut it down at one thirty five, because we were going to dilute. We planned to raise our series A this spring, perhaps March 20, 2010 was the objective, but I had a really outrageously lucky chance to go to a meeting on the Boston Innovation Scene that Steve Ballmer had come to town, and it was twelve people briefing him on what’s going on in Boston, so when one start-up ends up in a room as the only start-up with four BCs, that’s where you want to be, all four BCs essentially turned to me and said, “let’s have coffee and see what you’re up to” and it was less than a month between that random meeting and having a term sheet from Flightridge? Capital. They essentially just came in and pre-empted the round, and that saves us, fund-raising is so exhausting for a start-up. Going on a two-three month thorough road show is tremendously draining on the entrepreneur, it distracts you from the stuff you need to do to build the company, so we were insanely lucky to get a really solid BC, really good terms and have it all pre-empted and happen very fast. I think we signed the term sheet November 13th, we closed the round December 4th. That’s how to do it, right? It’s to not … but I don’t know how to tell you to replicate that.
Andrew: All right, let’s go into the audience and take some of their questions and see what they have to say. Globe Troppers are actually saying, quoting you and saying, “Everything since June has been a cinch?” And he’s saying, “it’s good to see that kind of frankness from an entrepreneur…”
Interviewee: Fund raising-wise, I mean the other stuff wasn’t easy, but yeah…
Andrew: Yeah, and leading up to that was definitely not a cinch from what we’re hearing. Andrew SG who’s always such a great participant here in the chat room is asking “Any examples of what you didn’t know that you learned at Textars?”
Interviewee: It would be hard to point to any one given thing, I learned a lot more about how… I mean remember, I knew nothing about software or websites going into this. Every moment of anything I’ve done I’ve been learning massive amounts. The other big help with Textars was breakin through that inaccessible Angel and start-up community in Boston, which at the time, even if though I had great instructions I wasn’t making headway with. But the end of Textars it was much more well known what all nine teams were doing and the Boston Angels knew who we were, and knew what we were up to. I also saw a question in the chat room about press. Again, not something you can replicate. Before I even had the one-forty idea, I had been in Forbes, I had been in USA Today, I had been quoted in the New York Times. Press were finding me on Twitter because of Twittering about what I was doing, and the same as when I said Pistaccio Consulting got all its new consulting leads from Twitter, all that press, the first outbound press I ever did was Brian Soley’s who was an adviser with the company and just an amazing publicist. The press he did around our launch, so everything else, that Entrepreneur Magazine thing, two years worth of about sixteen national publications, or people who heard about me, word of mouth, Clive wrote me up in the, quoted me in an article he did in the Sunday New York Times magazine, ages ago, August 2008, right? And so press begets press, the press opportunities have been crazy to explain, because it’s just, I don’t know, they just keep coming and they keep asking and Jenna Worthman called me in the middle of the whole eighty thing and said you did some early fund raising for charity on Twitter, I want to know what you think about the texting thing. So that’s another thing where my personality is not as good at self- ??? so if it hadn’t been happening on a gravity basis like that, where people were coming and finding me, there wouldn’t have been nearly as much
press, and clearly the press helps too, just from a credibility angle.
Andrew: It also helped that you were outspoken about a site that people were curious about and it was also growing and gaining popularity on its own and people needed an expert to go talk to.
Interviewee: Yeah, I mean, what if I had gotten addicted to, you know, no disrespect because I love the team behind Pownce, right, or what if I had been a total Pownce addict and advocate, right? I just got lucky. I staked my entire career on twittering, ???? so long before Oprah, long before Ashton, it was a gut feel, I could have been so wrong about it, I got lucky.
Andrew: A lot of people are asking after Pivotal, after the investors, what share of the company was left for you?
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Interviewee: More than I need, right? It’s one of the few upsides of being a sole [laughs] founder. But yeah. You get deluded. We’re already all pretty deluded. We’ve been pretty generous with our employees. No one else is technically a cofounder, but we try and give them cofounder level amounts of stock because we all should own part of something much bigger if we really want to win than owning more of something that doesn’t really go anywhere.
Andrew: So you’re minority shareholder at this point, right? Fair to say?
Interviewee: I’m under 50 percent.
Andrew: OK. All right. So what’s the future for oneforty? What’s the vision?
Interviewee: Well, we have a lot we still want to learn, just the stuff we thought we’d have the luxury of focusing on quietly about product market fit, about why would somebody come back, why would you go to an apps marketplace when you don’t actively need an app? So one example. You pointed out that if someone writes a review, they essentially get a comment bar on the apps page. And that’s good exposure for them. If you’re a social media consultant or a heavy user of Twitter and you’re always hearing from people, “I see someone in the chat room right now saying, ‘I want to know what app she uses,’” you can go to oneforty.com/pistachio and see what apps I use and see what I’ve written about those apps. So if you’re a social media consultant or people are asking you all the time, just your activity on our site–adding an app to your collection or writing a review or rating something–all gets pulled together at your profile page, which by the way, you can also use as a Twitter landing page. By that I mean the thing you’re going to use in your URL on Twitter itself. Because it’s really helpful to people deciding whether or not to follow you to land somewhere that’s not just the home page of your blog or the home page of your website, but somewhere that says, “Oh, hi! You just clicked my Twitter profile link. Here’s who I am. Here’s where my stuff is online. Here’s how I use Twitter. Here’s whether or not I follow back. Here’s some Twitters I think are great to follow.” So if you want to spend the time and dig into your oneforty.com/your Twitter username because we preserve the name space profile, you can dig in and say as much as you want to there and with one click of a button, you can make that your Twitter URL, and use that to send people to the places online that you are present, that you want them to know about. So we try and make it user friendly. We try and make it easy for developers to shine, to put up press mentions, to get their stuff found.
But understanding we put tons into search, and search still needs a lot of work. I’m not thrilled with our search results. That’s something you’re always, always trying to improve when you’re inside the app searching. But we’re learning just by watching users. They don’t really care that much about search, or a very small percentage of them do. They’d rather see the apps sorted in different ways.
So when we launched eCommerce last week, we relaunched our home page, de-emphasized the list of top ten apps because that was getting way, way too much attention–and it’s not even a really valid thing because Twitter apps are so diverse–changed how we present the idea of the essentials because we’re not saying, “This app is essential.” We’re saying, “Here are the ten categories of apps that most people find essential. Most people want to have a desktop, a mobile, a link shortener, a way to share graphics. And we eventually want those to circulate so you’re not seeing just the number one app in each category but the top six. More emphasis on searching by platform, searching by category, and we have a ton of different ways to sort and help people discover they’re in the pipeline that will be coming out.
I think at this point if you know Twitter really well and have some idea about Twitter apps, we’re pretty helpful. If you just flat out saw Twitter on Oprah and didn’t really use technology that much, I think you’d have a pretty hard time getting what we’re doing. Right? So we’re building towards that mainstream audience. We’re building towards the audience that reads Twitter for Dummies, for example, the book that we wrote and that. So that’s where we’re going with it. And also just understanding what developers need the most because if we are not a place that a developer can come and build their business and really have all upside, then we’re not doing our job. Like we’re never going to be Apple wrangling them in and tying them to restrictive clauses and trying to be mean about it. Right? We just generally have to offer something that’s useful to them or they’re not going to have any reason to want to build on our platform.
Andrew: All right. Well, actually you’re right. Several people in the chat did ask what your apps were, and I kept meaning to ask you. But of course we should do what Globetrooper did in the chat, which is link people to your list of apps on oneforty. So it’s oneforty.com/pistachio.
Interviewee: Yup. And that’s actually right on Twitter.com/pistachio. That’s my URL, too, so in case you forget that or you want to find it again. And the nice thing is if you want to see what apps Chris Brogan uses, you just type in oneforty.com/chrisbrogan. We’ve locked into…
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Interviewee: You just type oneforty.com/chrisbrogan. We’ve locked into the Twitter name space. But your name on Twitter is your name on Oneforty. You don’t have to worry about someone taking your screen name. It’s a little tricky, because Twitter lets you change screen names. So if you change screen names in between visits to Oneforty, you may need our help resetting your account, and getting you back in, if you do that.
Andrew: But most people don’t do that. And you’re right.
Andrew: What I appreciate is you didn’t do oneforty.com/user/andrewwarner. It’s just /andrewwarner. Make it easy for me.
Andrew: All right. We know how people can get a hold of you. They’re going to go over to oneforty.com/pistachio. Or they’re going to say hi to you on Twitter directly. A couple of things that I often ask people who I interview, and I sometimes do it after the interview, but we might as well do it during. First is…
Andrew: Several times here you said, “You guys can’t copy what I did necessarily.” And I don’t want to copy the people who’ve been here, but I want to learn from them.
Andrew: I want to find out from you, who else we should learn from? Who else out there would you want to copy, or would you learn from, that I should bring on here and interview about entrepreneurship?
Interviewee: Oh, well you’ve already interviewed most of the people who I find really inspiring. You know, for everybody, it’s very personal, isn’t it? Right? It’s who gets you fired up. Whose message really, really resonates with you. I mean…
Andrew: Is there someone for you who fires you up that people don’t know enough about?
Interviewee: Gee, you had to add, don’t know enough about, right? So I can’t say Gary Viagan. I can’t say Chris Brogan. I can’t say Seth Godin.
Andrew: I’m going to say then, Chris Brogan. I’ve been thinking of interviewing him, and I haven’t actually reached out. And I’m going to ask you for an introduction. All right, great. And the second thing is, now that you’ve been… Sorry.
Interviewee: Good luck. Now that guy is crazy busy. I emailed him the other day. I DM’d him to invite him to my birthday party here in Boston on Thursday. Anybody out there in Boston, come on out. I’ll be Tweeting the link. We’re going to Kingston Station. It’s a charity for well-wishes. You can support Haiti with it, if you want, or you can contribute towards building wells in the Third World. His travel’s, crazy, man. He’s in, like Bogota, right now, and then tomorrow he’s in Chicago, or you know.
Andrew: You know what? I never push. It took me, Guy Kawasaki, I think I’ve been emailing for two years. Somebody wants to know why I don’t have Guy Kawasaki yet. I’ve interviewed him. I think two years of back and forth, where I’ve invited him to speak at conferences…
Andrew: Where I’d invite him to do different things. Where I’d ask him for an interview. Where he finally just said, “Yeah, you know what? Let’s do it, Andrew.” So, I’ll email Chris, and if he’s not ready now, in two, three, four, ten years from now, I’ll be ready. Then we’ll talk to him then. The second thing is…
Interviewee: Well, some other…Let me give a shout out to the New England startup scene.
Interviewee: There’s some really some awesome people here. David Cancel just announced, you know, Performable. I don’t know if you’ve interviewed him before.
Interviewee: But they just got three million in funding. They’re here up on the North Shore of Boston. Angus Davis, after a very successful exit, has moved back to Providence, Rhode Island, and is a tremendous anchor for the Rhode Island and Boston venture communities.
Andrew: Sounds like a perfect person for me to interview.
Interviewee: Yeah, and there’s some great stuff happening here. And I don’t just say it because I want to see the Boston startup scene take off, so that Oneforty can always be here. But there are. There are some really great things going on. I’m excited what TechStars did. Of course, I love Brad Feltajab. He’s been so insanely generous with his time and advice. Just some cool people, yeah.
Andrew: I’ve been getting a lot of requests for an interview with Brad. I’ll have to email him, too. All right. Finally, you’ve now gone through the whole Mixergy treatment. What do you think?
Interviewee: You were kind. Thank you. [Laughs] I was nervous.
Andrew: Ah, you didn’t come across nervous, and I’m really glad that you were on here. I’ve been wanting to get to know you, and find out a little bit more about your background. So thanks for being here, and answering all these questions.
Interviewee: Yeah, no problem. No problem. One take away thing that I don’t think I ever said, and it’s important. One of the most important things that influences my life was a mistake I made when I was seventeen. I was sitting at home. My parents were away for the weekend. I had a passport. I had about $450 in my bank account. And it occurred to me, as I watched the Berlin Wall get torn down, yes, I am that old, that I really wanted to dance on top of the wall. Because that was such an emblem in my childhood of hate and oppression, and the fact that the Russians were going to nuke us at any minute. And people were being shot in No Man’s Land. Like, psychologically, that was huge, seeing that wall come down. I thought about going. I called the airline. I had the money. I could have gone, and ultimately, I didn’t. And about six months later, I told someone the story. And he’s like, “You are crazy, you.” That’s a gift that stuff like that occurs to you to do. He’s like, most people don’t have the idea, right? So, they don’t go because it never occurs to them to go. If you’re having ideas like that, you have to act on them. And that really, because I screwed up and didn’t go to the Berlin Wall, I have a very strong bias to action. When an idea does come to mind, and maybe it’s a little goofy, but it’s not going to hurt somebody, you never know what the result might be, but it will probably be interesting. I absolutely, I think nine times out of ten I do commit and say “yes” and do it.
And that one thing has definately opened a lot of what’s happened to me. Just being able to scan the horizon and see when the luck occurs. My superpower is that I’m lucky, but it does help that I’m probably looking for it more than most.