At Foundry Group, one of our investment themes is Glue. We’ve done a handful of investments in this area, including Gnip. Since Gnip’s launch last month, it’s been put into production in a number of cases – some obvious, some subtle. Part of the fun is watching the adoption of it evolve rapidly as we continue to build out the core capabilities of the what Gnip can do.
I had a long conversation with a VC I work closely with about the value Gnip ultimately provides to its various constituencies (data providers, data consumers, and end users) and how / where it expects to get paid in the long term. During the conversation, we covered a number of different potential areas, but I realized that my thinking could be much crisper. That’s normal for this stage of a startup as Gnip is still very early stage (we’ve done one seed round of investment and are gearing up for the next financing) but the exercise of defining a clear business endgame (vs. just a technology endgame) is extremely helpful and self referential, as it creates more focus on what we should actually be building.
There is nothing quite like an example. Yesterday, we had the TechStars 2008 Investor and Demo Day. EventVue – one of the TechStars 2007 companies – provided the online community infrastructure for the event. They automatically extracted all the data from the registration system and build an online community. As part of this, members of the community could add their twitter account and – if they had already been a member of another EventVue conference community – like me – would automatically have all their information already in EventVue and wouldn’t have to do anything.
The then created a techstars08 twitter account. This rebroadcast all the tweets from anyone at the event that had a twitter account set up in their EventVue profile. However, rather than writing the polling software to Twitter to continually check for updates in the twitter stream, the used Gnip for this.
EventVue had a data set (I don’t know the number – but lets say it was 100 userids) of twitters at the conference. They wrote a tiny piece of code that monitored Gnip’s twitter notification stream. Whenever someone in the set of 100 usersids appeared in the twitter notification stream, EventVue’s handler then queried twitter for that one discrete piece of data and then rebroadcast it on techstars08.
This took a huge load off of Twitter. It was much easier code to write for EventVue. It created a virtually real time twitter rebroadcast stream. I’m sure I’m missing at least one of the technical nuances – hopefully the guys at EventVue will write up a deeper post on what they did, how they did it, and why it was valuable to them.
Update: Josh Fraser, the co-founder and CTO of EventVue, has posted How Gnip rescued us from our twitter nightmare.
Look for plenty of more thinking out loud from me on our Glue theme as we bring some of the investments we’ve made into sharper focus.