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

10/13/09Follow @bbuderi

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app sales, where oneforty gets a cut of the sale price, Fitton says, is “one of the features we’ll be rolling out pretty soon.” There will also be a gig board for developers.

And yes, oneforty plans to sell paid premium placements, or advertisements. In fact, it has already fielded several offers, though it hasn’t accepted any. “That is definitely something we will do, but it is not something we are willing to rush into because the user experience is really important to us,” says Fitton. Content and app rankings will always be independent of ads, she says.

Oneforty will not be developing its own apps, however. Not only would that be a distraction for her team, says Fitton, ”We don’t want to compete with our user base.”

Crazy Idealistic About the Future

This is early days, of course. I wonder how much people will use the profile pages and social networking aspects of the site—that’s not usually why you go to a store. There’s also the larger question of whether people will pay for Twitter apps the way they do for apps for mobile devices like the iPhone.

But for the time being, at least, “It’s going fantastic,” says Fitton. Growth, she says, is beyond expectations—and she is fielding lots of inquiries about possible deals and new revenue streams, including one yesterday from a big venture firm she won’t name that asked for a call today (a call she plans to take). Her big challenge is how best to keep that momentum going without taking on too much. “The best way for a startup to kill itself is to go out there and try to be everything from day one,” she says.

And (no surprise) Fitton herself has no doubts on the potential of Twitter apps. She notes how ordinary people “armed with a hash tag” used Twitter to spread the news of what was happening in Iran’s election, and how a man jailed in Egypt managed to tweet “arrested” as he was being taken away, sparking a movement to get him out.

Oneforty one day will likely be collecting and sharing such stories, highlighting all the interesting or important things people accomplish with Twitter—and the tools they used to do it. “I get crazy idealistic about what things like Twitter can do for peoples’ lives,” Fitton says. “The best uses of Twitter, we don’t even know yet.”

So where does all this lead in Fitton’s mind? “I’m trying to focus on building a company. Buzz is great, but it’s almost unfortunate, because I don’t want to get distracted,” she says. Right now, she has enough on her plate just making oneforty the best Twitter app store it can be—and she says she has enough money to last until June.

But at some point she will need to raise additional funds—and it sounds like she might well want to eventually expand beyond Twitter. “I think mobile social commerce is a really, really interesting space,” she says. When she does go to attract more money, Fitton wants to find investors who have a lot of experience in scaling a company. That, she says, means finding people who understand platforms, who understand that “building a place for other people to build their business—that’s what we’re after.”

While this starts with Twitter apps, it almost assuredly doesn’t end there. “I think we can build a really, really big company,” Fitton says. She won’t say how big. But, she notes, “Amazon came out of the gate selling books to learn to build a marketplace. We came out of the gate selling apps because that’s what we need to do to learn how to build a big marketplace.”

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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