Note: See all my notes from Internet Summit 2011 by clicking here.
Notes from Internet Summit 2011 in Raleigh, 2011-11-16.
An Interactive Fireside Chat with Noah Everett, Founder, Twitpic
Q: Let’s talk about TwitPic. How did it start, where did you go?
Noah Everett: It was 2008. It seemed like a good shortcut to share pictures, I stayed late at work with some Red Bull and wrote it over a weekend, and launched it. Then it got picked up by blogs and media, and went from there.
Q: When did you realize it could be a business?
NE: In 2009, one of our users took a picture of the plane in the Hudson and TwitPic’d it and it exploded. We had one server at the time, and it melted. I realized then that TwitPic wasn’t just a photo-sharing tool, it was for breaking news, etc. We’ve been running ads since 2008 and run at about a 70% profit margin, which has allowed us to not take any funding. We have 7 employees counting me and Mom & Dad.
Q: Where do you see the micro-blogging space going? What are some uses for microblogging that people maybe haven’t heard of?
NE: I separate it into Facebook (private) vs. Twitter (public). Twitter is just a great way to share openly what you’re doing without having to log into Facebook and have that network.
UNICED uses TwitPic a lot because they’ve found that their tweets get a lot more exposure if they include pictures of people they’re helping.
Q: How have you been impacted by Twitter’s own photosharing app?
NE: Twitter’s a great company. We were blindsided by it and we wish they’d communicated better with their outside developers there. But we haven’t really noticed a loss of traffic or growth, so we’re happy.
Q: Tell us about Heello.
NE: We really rushed to get it out. It’s very much a Twitter clone right now, but next year you’ll see it really change. We’re working to make it more location-based, so you’re seeing information based on your area.
Q: Any advice on how to get a new app noticed, other than waiting for another Hudson plane crash?
NE: First and foremost, build an app that solves an issue for people. For getting exposure, make sure your app can share to Twitter & Facebook, and let your users promote your app. Make the barrier to entry as low as possible for your user.
Q: You get some interesting pics through TwitPic. Any interesting ones?
NE: Ashton tweeted Demi’s Moore’s butt. The funniest are celebrity ones. We’re running a thing for Movember now.
Q: What’s your advice to other startups re: taking VC funding versus growing organically?
NE: You’ll get approached by VCs as soon as your app gets started. My rule is “If you don’t need it, don’t take it.” We’ve talked to a lot of them, but we can’t figure out what we’d use their money for, so we turn them down. That means we still control the direction of the company.
Q: Give us a sense of the metrics that pass through your servers.
NE: We process about 1 billion requests a day. We try to be really smart and lean with our servers - we have about 50 of them. Amazon S3 is our primary data storage. Somebody from Amazon told us we were accounting for 1% of all Amazon S3 data storage last year.
Q: 5 years from now, where do you think Twitter, Facebook, etc. will be?
NE: The biggest challenge now is curating the data you want to see. Making it more integrated into our daily lives so we can get past the “following too many people” problem.
Q: What problems or successes have you had with Amazon?
NE: There are cheaper solutions out there now, but overall their service is the best and we’re happy with them. That said, we built our system to failover in the case of downtime, but that’s kind of not a problem anymore.
Q: Are you looking to recreate the old Twitter Developer Love with Helo
NE: Definitely. We’re trying to be upfront about where we’re going. Our API is live but we haven’t launched it yet. Hopefully we’ve been clear about what areas we’re going into so our developers don’t get blindsided.