Today’s announcement of our investment in oneforty is a useful prompt to talk about why I’m a big believer (and now investor) in the real-time Web.
The real-time Web (i.e., the overwhelming stream of instant, free flowing information available digitally) is clearly hitting the mainstream. One can declare this confidently when even CNN calls it a “top 10 trend” for 2010.
The recent debate over Twitter’s traffic volume (as played out in TechCrunch and betaworks’ John Borthwick’s blog, “Charting the Real-Time Web“), suggests that the real-time Web is continuing to explode, even though the standard tracking measurements are unable to accurately capture the data.
Interestingly, the reason there is a debate is that the real-time Web, and Twitter activity in particular, is by and large invisible to the standard Web methods of traffic monitoring, information search and discovery. When I fire up TweetDeck to track real-time news and information (I almost never go to websites anymore to read the news – it is curated and linked for me via Twitter) as well as the changing status of my friends and family via Facebook (also tracked conveniently in TweetDeck), these information streams are invisible to compete and other web measurement services. Google and Bing are scrambling to catch up and paying Twitter good money to access the data stream (which, Spencer Ante of BusinessWeek reports, enabled Twitter to become profitable in 2009). All of this, and the more robust Twitter API, is transforming Twitter into a platform company rather than simply an engaging consumer service.
If you want to build a platform, you need to attract developers. Ryan Saver, Twitter’s platform chief, reported recently that there were 50,000 Twitter applications to date and that the first-ever Twitter developer conference (whimsically named, “Chirp”) will be held this year.
Which leads me to being an investor in oneforty. If you believe the real-time Web is an exploding environment that allows the distribution of content and identity like never before, and if you believe Twitter is taking a fundamentally open, platform-driven strategy that transcends the Web, then you conclude that there is a new economy forming around the Twitterverse. And a new economy needs a marketplace. That’s where oneforty comes in.
The 50,000 applications available on Twitter – and the tens of thousands coming – need to be discovered, rated and reviewed, and ultimately be available for purchase. These developers need services to get their apps discovered and a back-end platform to take payment.
Founded by Laura Fitton, oneforty has established itself as the leading application store and marketplace for Twitter. Laura, known as @pistachio, is a great entrepreneur and her story is an amazing one. As the single mother of two kids, Laura loves to refer herself as “the Accidental Entrepreneur” and a Cinderella story. But with only a few hundred thousand dollars of seed money and a bit of help fromTechStars, Laura was able to build a strong team and launch the service and establish it as an early leader.
We’ll see how it plays out. Is the real-time Web as large an evolution as the Web itself or simply an embedded feature? Will Twitter become a big, successful platform or will it remain simply an entertaining service? Will oneforty become a major on ramp for Twitter and the evolve into a community-defining marketplace? Those are the questions that will play out in the coming months and years. It should be fun.
Jeff is a partner with Boston-based VC firm Flybridge Capital Partners. Read his past peHUB posts, or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bussgang.