Voyager Leads $1.3M Round in Chirpify, Turning Tweets Into Sales

4/24/12Follow @curtwoodward

Twitter has become a revolutionary way for celebrities and brands to communicate with fans and customers. Now, investors are hoping to pump up the messaging platform’s potential as a sales channel.

That’s the thinking behind today’s Voyager Capital-led $1.3 million investment in Chirpify, a Portland, OR-based startup that can turn tweets into miniature digital storefronts. Also investing in the round are angels Geoff Entress, BuddyTV CEO Andy Liu, HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes, former Facebook executive Rudy Gadre, and the TiE Oregon Angels. It’s the startup’s first round of financing, according to a release.

Chirpify also is offering a new version of its service aimed at musicians, who can sell concert tickets or digital downloads of their songs via Twitter. Chirpify also is available for retailers and other businesses who want to sell things online, including non-digital goods that have to be shipped.

Users have to be signed up for Chirpify to pay via Twitter, but once they’re registered, the payments can happen extremely easily. A seller simply puts together a tweet listing whatever is for sale, and a buyer replies to that message by tweeting “buy.” The transaction is automatically processed over PayPal, and the buyer gets a receipt (for physical merchandise) or private Web link (for digital content or items).

It’s free for consumers to use. Sellers either pay a 4 percent transaction fee for the free level of service or pay a monthly fee with no per-transaction charges. Payments are handled through PayPal, which also charges service fees.

The involvement of HootSuite’s CEO is pretty interesting here. HootSuite is a leading “dashboard” service that amps up the bare-bones Twitter Web interface into a more robust system. Twitter has been pretty slow to add its own features—search on the service is still famously bad—but it has shown willingness to purchase partners, as it did last year with HootSuite competitor TweetDeck. Of course, the danger for any startup building features on another platform is that the bigger fish will simply add its own version of the service, leaving you out in the cold.

While most consumer-oriented businesses probably feel they have to be involved in social media in some way, many have questioned their return on investment. Entress, who’s also an investor in HootSuite, says Chirpify offers an interesting way to translate Twitter’s reach of some 140 million users into some actual sales.

“I think this is a novel way of doing it, and it seems to be an effective way. Some of the early customers of it and users of it have shown that it works and it can be done,” Entress says.

Chirpify pointed to Rhymesayers Entertainment, a highly regarded Minneapolis-based independent music label, as a successful test customer.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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