Gnip's New CEO

Jud and Chris – US Embassy in Tokyo, Japan

With pleasure, I announce Chris Moody as Gnip’s new CEO. I am now Gnip’s CTO.

Two years ago we hired Chris as our COO and President. I spent many months searching for him. After getting to know each other for several weeks, I extended my final offer to try and get him on board. I vividly remember calling our lead investor, Brad Feld, up to tell him the final offer was out, and that I was fifty-fifty at best as to whether or not we’d get him; the prospect of landing someone of Chris’ caliber just felt out of reach. I also vividly remember calling Feld up to tell him that he’d signed!

As a business, Gnip caught the tiger by the tail about three years ago, and ever since then we’ve been ratcheting up the team and service to ensure the social data industry has everything it needs. Chris is a great, early, example of scaling up the team.

Since joining, Chris has done nothing but illustrate his undying passion, dedication, and expertise in the context of Gnip. I often talk about how “discretionary energy” applies in the context of entrepreneurship, execution, and making a business actually work. The true measure of someone’s commitment to a challenge is whether or not their discretionary energy goes into it. Since even before his start date, I’ve watched Chris put every ounce of his discretionary energy into Gnip. We’re a huge, thriving business as a result.

This moment is a powerful one for our company. It catches Chris at a moment in time where his understanding of what we need to do next, coupled with years of direct experience executing at Gnip, aligns extremely well with how the business is growing and scaling. Gnip is at seventy employees and growing. Chris has first-hand experience scaling organizations well into the hundreds of people. Similarly on the revenue side, he helped lead his previous company to hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time as CEO at Gnip. When I stepped into the CEO role, I wanted to do three things: one, build a serious software company that met global needs in my favorite town; Boulder, CO. Two, build a team that met, or surpassed, my experience at Netscape when I started my professional career many years ago (we’ve surpassed). Three, build tremendous value and an intense revenue stream. Done, done, and done.

Onward. Together, let’s watch and work with Chris to take this up yet another level.

Commercial Evolution of Social Networks

Over the past four years Gnip has seen many social services come and go. Not surprisingly, a pattern has emerged in how they evolve, and the degree to which our customers need their public data. There are generally three distinct phases a social service goes through, and how the service does in each phase impacts how it ultimately participates in the broader public social data ecosystem which can complete a full commercial cycle. This cycle being one combining consumer use (often buying intent, or expression) with commercial engagement (identifying need in time of natural disaster, or ad buying).

Phase 1: Consumer Engagement
​A social service must engage us; the end-users/consumers. Whether via a homegrown social graph, or leveraging someone else’s (e.g. Facebook Connect), in order for a social service to become useful, it needs users. From there, those users need to participate in self-expression (from posting a comment, to retweeting a tweet) and generate activity on the service. There are a variety of ways to compel us users to engage in a social service, but the social service itself is solely responsible for the first experience. The vision of the services’ founders yields a web-app or mobile interface that allows us to take action, leveraging the expressions laid out by the app itself (e.g. sharing a photo). If users like the expressions, discovery methods, and sense of “connectedness,” you’ve got a relevant social service on your hands.

Phase 2: APIs; Outsourcing Engagement
At some point a successful social service realizes the potential for outsourcing the expression metaphors that make the service successful & useful, and they construct an API that allows others to RESTfully engage with the service. In some instances the API is read-only. In some instances the API is write-only; sometimes both. What is key is that nine times out of ten, the API is meant to drive core service engagement via other user-facing applications. A classic example of this would the zillions of non-Twitter Inc clients that “Tweet” on our behalves everyday. One look at the endless number of Tweet “sources” that flow through the Firehose and you’ll realize this engagement potential.

The exceptional API is one that has broader social data engagement ecosystem consumption in its DNA. Typical social services consider themselves the center of the universe, and that not only will they capture all consumer engagement, they will be the root of all broader ecosystem engagement as well. However, success with Consumer Engagement does not guarantee commercial engagement; not by a long-shot.

Some services execute phase 1 and 2 simultaneously these days.

Phase 3: Activity Transparency; Commercial Engagement
Allowing other applications & developers to inject activities into the core service is obviously valuable, however it is only part of the picture. Social services with broad social and commercial impact have achieved this by addressing commercial needs for complete, raw, activity availability. For example, in order for someone to deploy resources in a disaster relief scenario effectively, they need to make their own determination as to what victims need, where they are located, and general conditions surrounding the event. The social service limiting access to the activities taking place on the service, by definition, yields an incomplete picture to downstream commercial consumers of the content. The result is a fragmented & hobbled experience for commerce engagement.

Another key component to commercial engagement is realizing that the ecosystem of data analytics and insights is well established, complex, and interwoven. Massive investments have been made in the market over the years, and brands want to leverage that fact. It is illogical for a social service to address the endless needs of the enterprise by building their own tools. Attempts to supplement this market comes at the potential expense of losing focus on building a great consumer experience.

The most impactful, useful, and valuable social services that Gnip customers leverage for their needs (ad buying, campaign running, stock trading, disaster relief), are those that acknowledge that they are not an island in the ecosystem. They complete the cycle by providing unfettered access to one of their most significant assets. In trade, the relevance of the social service itself is maximized because commerce can engage with it.

A good example of how impactful this transparency can be is Twitter. Consider how Twitter is used across new, as well as traditional, media. They’ve completed the cycle with a strong offering of Phase 3.

All three phases are not required for success, but all three are indeed required for success in the broader public commercial social data ecosystem.

Stocktoberfest: Social Finance Conversation on Tap

Last year, Gnip and StockTwits partnered in order to bring this incredible social finance conversation to market – in both real-time and historical products. Given that relationship, we’ve worked closely with StockTwits and have been consistently impressed with how the trading community platform they’ve been building has progressed.

So this last week it was incredibly exciting to attend Stocktoberfest on Coronado Island, and to watch other attendees get a look into just how far this awesome product has come. What really sunk in for me personally was the extent to which the platform has evolved and how leveraged it now is.

In order to get a platform to actually work, you need a few things: community critical mass (check!), producers (check!), and consumers (check!). StockTwits has done an incredible job engaging the community directly on-site, and the latest API allows app developers to weave highly focused (by equity or currency) conversations, bi-directionally, into their apps in real-time.

From a community standpoint, checkout what StockTwits has pulled together:

  • 50+ activities (messages) posted per minute during market hours
  • 70+% of platform activities are “native” to the StockTwits platform
  • 600+ charts shared each day
  • 3000+ symbols covered each day
  • 6 million+ investors and traders read StockTwits content each month across distribution network and API partners
  • average stocktwits.com user spends 26 minutes on-site per visit
  • 200K+ Registered users
  • 400K+ Messages a month
  • 70+ Million API requests per month
  • 26% of StockTwits user access via mobile

The Financial charting and equity analysis ecosystem is vast, and because of the work StockTwits has done, that ecosystem can incorporate relevant social conversation directly into platforms and products. By doing so, players in this space can take advantage of the community StockTwits has already built, which lifts their tools, products, and platforms into social. Building community, whether focused or broad, is obviously a hard nut to crack. The more integrations you have, the more the overall community benefits; everybody wins. ChartIQ is one beautiful example of a product leveraging the StockTwits platform that proves this point.

I left Stocktoberfest giddy over where this stream is now. Seeing, and talking to, so many of the StockTwits platform partners was just awesome!

The impact “social” is having across the Finance space is tremendous; as is StockTwits’ role in it. We’re excited for the next few months and what our continuing work with them will bring.

Stage for Stocktoberfest

Working at Gnip Benefits

Just had a fun moment. In an internal email thread from Elaine (on our marketing team) about rallying employees to take a survey about how they feel about working at Gnip, Seth flung this list of benefits into the mix. I hadn’t sat down to think about “the list” in awhile. It was fun to see someone else build and communicate it. Of course it’s partial (e.g. it doesn’t mention how great it is to be a part of such a significant piece in the public social media ecosystem), but…

The list copied from the email…

Or our daily breakfasts.
Or our lunch meat in the fridge.
Or our kegerator.
Or our fridge stocked full of drinks.
Or our office manager.
Or our cabinet full of snacks.
Or our Boulder Valley Rec Center membership.
Or our 401(k).
Or our insurance.
Or our ski passes.
Or our ‘no vacation days, take what you need policy.
Or management’s open door policy.

We Believe

We believe social data has unlimited value and near limitless application. We begin almost every conversation with potential customers and partners with this simple statement because it best exemplifies why we exist as a company. More importantly, this refrain helps keep us focused on our ultimate goal: to be the source of record for all public social conversation.

While the majority of the world thinks about the amazing problems that can be solved with social data and the cool stuff that can be built upon this data, Gnip’s focus is on fueling innovation by providing the most reliable and fully scalable social data set in the world. We spend our time focusing on providing full coverage of the public social conversations that matter for our customers with the highest level of data integrity possible. The service we provide isn’t sexy, but it is mission critical if the application builders of the world are going to fulfill their promise.

Part of this promise is already being realized. Disaster response organizations are turning to social data to save lives in time of need. Health researchers are using social data to better predict and track disease outbreaks. Consumer product companies are engaging with potential and existing customers to ensure the right products are being built at the right times for the right audience.

These examples are just the beginning. A recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute values the potential impact of social technologies at more that $1 trillion per year in the United States alone. The chart below shows that this value will be captured not just by technology companies, but by industries across the entire economy.

McKinsey Social Value Matrix

We believe social data will one day weave into the backbone of every enterprise business application. These future applications will depend upon full coverage of social data that is delivered in a consistent, accurate, scalable, fully supported, and ultra low latency manner. We are currently delivering over 100 billion social data activities per month. At that scale, the challenges are enormous. What happens when we go to a trillion per month? One thing is for sure, to continue to excel at this level we will have to remain focused.

We believe social data has unlimited value and near limitless application. We can’t wait to see what you build with this data next!

Every Activity Matters

One of Gnip’s founding principles is that every activity matters. We’ve spent years building redundant, reliable, infrastructure with a feature set that minimizes loss. While most SaaS companies today view their platform in common web infrastructure light (lossy, stateless, nascent connections), we do not. Losslessly delivering public social activities in real-time with sub-second latency is hard to do, but our infrastructure is guided by those principles, because our customers demand it.

Gnip could significantly reduce its costs by relaxing the requirements in this area. Our lives would be so much easier if we could tell a customer that we tolerate inconsistent, lossy, data delivery. “You might not get every activity that you asked for” is an unacceptable statement to make to a customer or prospect who is building an application that is rooted in business-critical, timely activity receipt. Nearly all of our customers have built these kinds of applications. Multi-million dollar marketing campaigns can hinge on a single user-generated public social activity. If that activity does not get to the right place at the right time, our customers business is put at significant risk.

Of course, after more than four years in this space, we learned this the hard way. Issues still arise, and we’re not foolish enough to use the “100% reliability” phrase. However, Gnip is dedicated to staying as close to that figure as humanly & technically possible. If you think you missed data with Gnip, we have processes and systems in place to do root-cause analysis to get to the bottom of any delivery issue that may arise. We will turn a feature iteration on a dime to dig into a customer issue, and dedicate our most senior/experienced staff to ferret out a single “lost” activity. You will never hear us say “sorry, you shouldn’t expect to see everything.”

Each Monday we sit down to start a new iteration, and each Monday the plan is prioritized such that Quality of Service related stories sit at the top of the list. With a finite amount of time and energy, it can be hard to watch sexier feature work get pushed down the stack, but our deliberate focus providing a bullet proof service is hard to debate. As a side note, we’re hiring in order to increase overall feature velocity; join us.

Gnip knows high quality of service is a critical piece in your business, and we treat you, and our software to ensure it. We’re not just another web-app. We are the business-end of social media, and we treat our software/infrastructure investment that way.

What's In The [Social] Data?

I was reading about Higgs Boson this morning and came across this cartoon explanation of matter, particle acceleration, and Higgs Boson. The very last pic in the cartoon (below) reminded me of the cartoon that’s been in my head for years; the one that pops into my head when I go to work. It drives what we do at Gnip. All of our energy is focused on helping our customers answer that question; “What’s in the data?” We do this by reliably collecting, filtering, enriching, and delivering billions of public social activities (social data) to our customers with business critical data needs, everyday.

What's In the Data

What's In The Data slide from PHD Comics - http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php?f=1489

Ecosystem Milestones

Our recent Big Boulder conference was a milestone in the growth and evolution of the commercial social media industry. Data publishers and data consumers alike came together to discuss what the continued onslaught of public social data means to commerce, and public services. While there is plenty more to do, it was great seeing some consistency in approach, vocabulary, needs, and wants emerge. The ecosystem was nothing but a hodge-podge of interests and firms just a few years ago.

I just had another moment that felt like another milestone. While evaluating resumes for our Product Manager position, I was telling someone who had submitted their resume that we were looking for someone with more domain expertise. The industry has matured to the point that such a thing actually exists! Domain expertise in commercial social data is actually a tangible thing now.

Fun moment.

Syncing Up: Product & Engineering

Gnip has a very strong foundation under our belts now and we’re pushing our product roadmap harder than we ever have before. I’m always in awe when I consider the business we’ve built to date with the resources we have. That said, we’re growing at a rate that demands more from the company; much more. As I talked about previously in this “Big Software, Big Jobs, Big Impact” post, we have big needs for great people to join our team.

We’ve been hiring in many areas for a while now, and we now need more Product Management capacity.

We challenge ourselves every day in order to strike the right balance between Product Management vs Engineering. Too much on the Product requirements front and the Product team gets frustrated because what they design and build requirements for isn’t getting built. Too much on the Engineering side and you’re over paying for construction resources because a coherent Product story isn’t being defined and prioritized.

The Engineering team is steadily growing at Gnip, and we need more leadership on the Product Manager front as a result. We need to maintain that balance as we scale and feed the beast.

The tricky thing with scaling Product teams is getting the leadership balance right. Too many cooks in the kitchen isn’t healthy, but as the business and product scales, functional areas indeed require strong minds, strong direction, and a lot of prioritization skill.

In order to grow this thing further, we need even more strength in the Product arena. We need people who can help us crystallize the vision we have for this commercial data ecosystem. We need people who can help us build teams. We need people that can help us execute on the products we want our customers to have.

If you believe you have the skills to help us here, please check out our job openings and get in touch. We’re at a fascinating and unique time in our company as we build products that enable the next generation of what is possible with social data. If your imagination sparks when you think about what’s the things that could be built with access to the world’s public consciousness as represented by social conversation data, there’s no time like right now to get involved with what we’re doing at Gnip.

Big Software, Big Jobs, Big Impact

Gnip moves billions of real-time public social activities to its customers everyday. Doing that efficiently, accurately, and reliably is an awesome challenge. Gnip also has a lot of product roadmap to build-out. We’re hiring across the board, but I wanted to provide some insight into the software side of things to give any software construction minded readers of this post a sense of the interesting technical challenges you’d get to work on if you were on our development team.

Big Streams: Long-lived, Stateful, Variable Throughput TCP Connections
While our web-app (Rails) looks/feels much like a typical web-app, looks can be deceiving. Our core system (Java) has uncommon TCP (HTTP for the most part) connection challenges that we’re constantly applying operational and business logic creativity to. We often describe the connectivity scenario as akin to a video streaming system (Netflix for example). The load balancing, tuning, connection handling logic (often in code (Java and/or C)), restart, buffering, flushing games we get to play keep one’s brain thoroughly engaged. Imagine getting to write code that runs in a pipeline moving at several hundred Mbps (sustained).

Big CPU: Filtering
We’ve built a real-time equivalent parallel to age-old SQL. Something powerful and efficient, yet simple and intuitive to use. The world has grown up with SQL on their minds, yet it generally doesn’t apply to the world of high-volume real-time nature of public social data streams. We spend a lot of time and energy crafting the language, as well as building the infrastructure underneath to ensure it can operate on a message (from small Tweets, to large blog posts) in ones of milliseconds. Very powerful. Very fun. We’d love your help in evolving this part of the system with us.

Big Blending: Enrichments
As data moves through Gnip’s infrastructure we do a variety of things to it. As a couple examples, we will enrich it with Klout scores and typed language classification scores. We’ll also unwind all those opaque URLs (and allow you to filter against the result) for our customers, so they don’t have to stand up horizontally scaled/parallelized infrastructure to do so on their end. We have a long list of enrichments we’re in the process of adding, and we’d like to do so with as minimal latency impact as technically possible. Speed matters. There’s amazing opportunity in the industry to blend other datasets into “the stream.” Help us do this.

Big Data: Historical
There are three organizations on Earth that have the complete public Twitter corpus on their servers. Gnip, Twitter & the Library of Congress. Gnip has dipped our toes into the “historical” offering with our 30-day reply product. Doing so has allowed us to meet many of the business critical backfill requirements of our customers. That said, there is still a huge opportunity in the historical space. We leverage a variety of parallelizable data access, query, and filter technologies at Gnip, but want more horsepower here. We’d love to have more people on the team with practical experience around map-reduce based data access models. Gnip personifies “Big Data” challenges and solutions. Show us what you’ve got (beyond textbook and academic understanding of the latest trends in this space)!

Big Customers: Impact
We’ve been delivering public social data for four years and serve the biggest, most demanding customers in the space. From 8 of the 9 largest social media monitoring companies to some of the largest hedge funds in the world, Gnip is expected to provide a bulletproof solution. Through our customers, Gnip serves more than 90% of the Fortune 500. We’re not just about “Big Ideas,” we’re about “Big Impact.” Want to work in a place where what you do matters? This is it.

Our Approach
We take an “every message matters” approach to our products. As a result, our development team is tightly coupled (one-and-the-same for the most part) with the production operation of the system. We don’t have a wall between the software being built and that software being run. Gnippers who write code also operate that code throughout the local, review, staging, and production environments. We believe this approach yields a better service for our customers; higher quality, better reliability, better consciousness. There is a strong sense of collective code ownership, as opposed to folks siloing into “their area.” This results in everyone’s creative and talented mind having an opportunity to impact the entire system, and subsequently yields better, more consistent, product.

If you’re interested in Gnip engineering jobs, please email jobs@gnip.com.