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

10/6/09Follow @bbuderi

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after that, clients stopped asking about PowerPoint presentations pretty much altogether. “All anyone wanted to know about was Twitter,” she says. So last September, she relaunched Pistachio Consulting as a Twitter-for-business consultancy. “People thought it was crazy, but now there’s hundreds of companies saying, ‘We’re a Twitter marketing firm,’” Fitton says.

The next month, she signed a contract to write Twitter For Dummies. Both in writing the book and in her consulting, the question of what were the best Twitter apps kept coming up. “It’s a totally unanswerable question,” Fitton says. It depends on who the person is, what they are trying to do, and so on. But her mind was primed, so to speak.

So one day she was sitting at her desk—she rents her Brighton space from Shift Communications, a high-tech PR firm—working on her Top 10 Twitter Apps chapter, when the lightbulb went off. She went on her unfruitful search to share the news with a friend, and then came back and tried to forget it—but as you already know, that was like trying to take back a tweet.

It would take at least two other key events to bring Fitton to where she is now, a startup CEO, a hot commodity on both coasts, closing a funding round for her new company.

First, she got a taste of e-commerce on Twitter. More accurately, she helped pioneer e-commerce on Twitter. This all happened in part because Fitton has always had what she calls a love-hate relationship with the sliver of fame Twitter has brought her (she calls it “femto fame,” with femto being “nine orders of magnitude smaller than micro.”) At the time, she had about 12,000 followers, and was already quite well known in social media circles. This was good for her career, of course. At the same time, she says, “I’m not a big, ‘Let me go be a celebrity’ type of personality.”

Christmas was approaching. It was a kind of slow time. She and her husband had separated earlier in the year, her parents had gone to Florida for the holidays, her business (a lot of it with New York advertising media) was feeling the effects of the economy. Fitton decided that she should do something to put her femto fame to good use. “What is the point of having all these followers if I can’t accomplish anything with it?” is how she explains her reasoning.

She zeroed in on the problem of fresh water in emerging countries. Some 5,000 children die each day because they don’t have clean drinking water, Fitton says. “It’s like a human rights issue as far as I’m concerned.” She was an admirer of a group called Charity: water that works to bring clean water to people in developing countries. So Fitton decided to create her own movement called Well Wishes (@wellwishes) to raise money for Charity: water. She set the goal of raising $25,000—an average of roughly $2 from each of her followers.

She started her Well Wishes campaign last December 19. She got a boost when Ariana Huffington pointed to it on Christmas Day in the Huffington Post. And on January 21, Fitton’s birthday, she hit her $25,000 target. “It was awesome,” says Fitton.

More to the point for oneforty, the Well Wishes campaign involved what Fitton calls the “first large-scale exchange of currency right on Twitter.” She used the now-defunct Tipjoy, a Y Combinator company based in Arlington, MA, to allow people to tweet money to Well Wishes. Some $5,000 came in through PayPal, she says, but the remaining $20,000 came in through Twitter. And that was really important. It helped her to realize, Fitton says: “Transactions and a real economy are definitely coming to Twitter.”

End Part 1: Part 2, covering the formation and funding of oneforty, and its plans for the future, will run next Tuesday.

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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