How Twitter Got an App Store: The Oneforty Story (Part 2)

10/13/09Follow @bbuderi

The second big thing in the genesis of Twitter app store oneforty (the first being proof that a real economy was possible on Twitter—see Part 1 of the oneforty story) was that Laura Fitton couldn’t find anyone besides herself to manage the company.

As readers of the initial installment of this story will remember, Fitton (Twitter handle: @pistachio) was a single mom with a consultancy to run and a book to write. She didn’t want to work full-time on a startup. “Entrepreneurs are nuts and out of touch with reality, and they have to be to survive the process of believing they can do what they need to do,” Fitton says. She really didn’t want to go there.

But at the same time, Fitton couldn’t sleep because this idea of creating an app store for Twitter—what is now Brighton, MA-based oneforty—would not go away. Her solution: find a dedicated team to run the business, and she would serve as an advisor.

Fitton spent the early part of this year trying to do just that. But by early March, Fitton accepted that if oneforty was going to get going, she would have to do it herself. She hadn’t intended to go to the annual South by Southwest music and media conference in Austin this year: it wasn’t a good place to market her Twitter consulting business, because everybody there already embraced social media. But now that social media awareness meant people would understand her idea. Two days before the event, she decided to fly to Austin after all and look for angel investors.

One of the first people she sought out was Guy Kawasaki of Garage Technology Ventures, an early-stage venture firm in Palo Alto, CA. Fitton had an in with Kawasaki. Back in August 2007, she had been watching the live stream of him speaking at the Gnomedex tech conference, where he remarked that Twitter was stupid. In response, Fitton had e-mailed him her Ode to Twitter post and said, “I think you’re wrong.” They had a short conversation—and about three weeks later Kawasaki posted: “God help me, I’m going to start Twittering. Dave Winer and Laura Fitton convinced me to take the leap, so it’s their fault.” (That’s Dave Winer, the RSS pioneer.)

oneforty teamSo Fitton met with Kawasaki in Austin and asked point black: would he invest in oneforty? Recalls Fitton: “He said, ‘No but I’ll advise. When I invest the company usually doesn’t do well, so advising is what you want anyway.’”

Having Kawasaki’s name to drop was nice (he’s still an advisor). Entrepreneurial strategist Dan Martell suggested she set up an angel pitch call, which allowed interested investors to dial in to hear her spiel, saving her one-on-one meetings. She did the call a few weeks after SXSW, and it proved extremely helpful. While no one invested directly from the initial call, everyone who was on it has “stayed involved in some way, shape, or form,” Fitton says. She learned a lot from the experience and the questions asked. And she put an edited recording of her pitch on a secure site that other potential angels listened to—and not only did several of them invest, she later learned it helped convince one of her first employees to sign on as well.

The buzz and momentum around Fitton built fast. Between mid-April and mid-July, Fitton … 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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