How Twitter Got an App Store: The Oneforty Story (Part 1)

10/6/09Follow @bbuderi

“Ohh, Twitter needs an app store.” It was coming up on Christmas of 2008. Laura Fitton was writing a chapter on the top 10 applications for Twitter for her book Twitter for Dummies when the thought struck her like a tweet out of the blue.

She jumped up from her office in Brighton, MA, and ran to share the news with a friend. When she couldn’t find him, she went back to her desk and tried to forget the whole idea. She had a ton of things on her plate. Besides the book, she was a single mom with two little kids. And she had worked for a startup before and found them “really scary.” Launching her own startup to sell Twitter apps seemed even more scary. “I tried to shut my brain off,” Fitton says, but it was no use. “It just lodged in my head, and I couldn’t get rid of it, and I couldn’t sleep.”

[Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a two-part story about oneforty. Part 2 will run on Tuesday, October 13.]

And that’s pretty much how Fitton, aka @pistachio (her Twitter user name), gave birth to her third child: oneforty. The startup, which indeed is an app store for Twitter and a bit more, is named of course for the 140-character maximum allowed in a tweet. The company, which now has four employees, three developers and Fitton, officially closed its long-extended angel round yesterday. Fitton isn’t saying how much she has raised—only that the extension builds on $250,000 she took in earlier in the year—but I’m guessing it is somewhere in the $750,000-$1 million arena. That was only a few days after oneforty dropped its beta status (under which an invitation was required in order to access the site) and opened up to the world. “oneforty is your Twitter outfitter, with tons of resources for all things Twitter. Currently tracking 1719 apps that make Twitter even better,” the home page read as of last night.

LauraFittonTo say oneforty is the new darling of the Boston tech startup scene is hardly doing it justice. Fitton’s presentation was the highlight of the TechStars Boston (it’s actually here in Cambridge, MA) investor day in early September (she was part of the group’s inaugural class). Last week, she shined again at TechStars’ Bay Area investor day. Hubspot co-founder Dharmesh Shah, John Landry of Lead Dog Ventures, and Laura Rippy, former CEO of Handango, are three prominent Boston-area angels who have made their investments in oneforty public. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Fitton has been deluged by would-be investors from all over. Her funding round was vastly oversubscribed; she says she simply couldn’t take any more capital for fear of extreme dilution. She has a stack of invitations from the media and VCs requesting meetings, invitations for event appearances, and more. Her inbox is “unparsable,” she says. “It’s a great problem to have.”

And one more thing. Given that Twitter and a whole bunch of cool Web 2.0 folks are out in San Francisco, a lot of people who hear about oneforty suggest that Fitton should relocate out west. But great developers are everywhere—New York, London, Canada, and so on, she points out. “They’re in San Francisco, too, but they’re not only there.” Bottom line: oneforty is staying put in its Brighton HQ, at least for now. “Maybe oneforty will be the case that proves New England can do it,” Fitton says.

This, then, is the oneforty story. It’s not containable in 140 characters. It’s the story of a wild ride from motherhood and (relatively) peaceful consulting to mayhem, with a bit of altruism thrown in (Fitton says she is just not solely motivated by making money—read on). When I first interviewed her, Fitton was just coming off an East Coast-West Coast run where she hadn’t slept for 35 hours. So the story’s got insomnia and workaholism, too.

Smart People are Using Twitter?

You can without hesitation call Fitton an unlikely Internet entrepreneur. She puts March 2007 as the beginning of her awakening to the powers of the Web, and ultimately, Twitter, to promote … Next Page »

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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