One of the highlights of Boulder’s startup scene is the community aspect, what Micah Baldwin describes as competitive cooperation. In many areas, startups see success as a zero-sum game and the ecosystem feels pretty hostile. In other places I’ve lived (I’m looking at you, Bay Area), there’s a general feeling of goodwill amongst startups, but everyone is so freaking busy that true community fails to gel and what you get is a thin veneer of positivity. In Boulder, we genuinely care about our startup brethren.
Case in point, EventVue.
I met Rob when he was a member of the first TechStars class in Boulder. Ostensibly I was a mentor in the program, but I learned a ton from him from the very beginning. Over the next several years, Rob showed his skills in a number of ways — EventVue holds the record for fastest investment close after “graduating” from Techstars; the company counted as customers a number of top-tier companies including Cisco and IDG; he and Josh Frasier relentlessly tackled technical and business obstacles in pursuit of success. At one point EventVue was a Gnip customer and at a later point it was not (but Rob and Josh always offered great feedback).
Given the knowledge he gained, it’s not surprising that companies all over the country were competing to bring him on board. Rob is a tenacious entrepreneur with a wide variety of skills in product and sales. He’s one of the most personable cats I’ve ever known — he can strike up a conversation with anyone on the street and instantly develop a level of rapport that I envy. More importantly, he listens like no one I’ve ever known. For early stage companies, listening to your customers is one of the best ways to orient your product correctly.
If Rob had taken a job offer outside of Boulder, our entire tech scene would have been worse for it. Thus, I’m doubly excited to welcome Rob as Gnip’s new Director of Business and Strategy. In the last couple of months he has worked as a consultant for Gnip and he’s already left an indelible mark on the company. Rob is doing great things for us and I look forward to that continuing for a long, long time. Just as importantly, I’m confident that someday soon (but not too soon), Rob will start another company in Boulder and perhaps I’ll find our roles reversed. In the meantime, I’m happy that he’s a part of Gnip and that he remains a part of the Boulder entrepreneurial scene.
We have noticed that we are interacting with two distinct groups of companies; those who instantly understand what Gnip does and those that struggle with what we do, so we decided to provide a few detailed real-world examples of the companies we are actively working with to provide data integration and messaging services today.
First, we are not an end-user facing social aggregation application. (We repeat this often.) We see a lot of people wanting to put Gnip in that bucket along with social content aggregators like FriendFeed, Plaxo and many others. These content aggregators are destination web sites that provide utility to end users by giving them flexibility to bring their social graph or part of their graph together in one place. Also, many of these services are now providing web APIs that allow people to use an alternative client to interact with their core services around status updates and conversations as well other features specific to the service.
Gnip is an infrastructure service and specifically we provide an extensible messaging system that allows companies to more easily access, filter and integrate data from web based APIs. While someone could use Gnip as a way to bring content into a personal social media client they want to write for a specific social aggregator it is not something we are focused. Below are the company use cases we are focused:
Social content aggregators: One of the main reasons we started Gnip was to solve the problems being caused by the point-to-point integration issues that were springing up with the increase of user generated content and corresponding open web APIs. We believe that any developer who has written a poller once, twice, or to their nth API will tell you how unproductive it is to write and maintain this code. However, writing one-off pollers has become a necessary evil for many companies since the content aggregators need to provide access to as many external services as possible for their end users. Plaxo, who recently integrated to Gnip as a way to support their Plaxo Pulse feature is a perfect example, as are several other companies.
Business specific applications: Another main reason we started Gnip was that we believe more and more companies are seeing the value of integrating business and social data as a way to add additional compelling value to their own applications. There are a very wide set of examples, such as how Eventvue uses Gnip as a way to integrate Twitter streams into their online conference community solution, and the companies we have talked to about how they can use Gnip to integrate web-based data to power everything from sales dashboards to customer service portals.
Content producers: Today, Gnip offers value to content producers by providing developers an alternative tool that can be used to integrate to their web APIs. We are working with many producers, such as Digg, Delicious, Identi.ca, and Twitter, and plan to continue to grow the producers available aggressively. The benefits that producers see from working with Gnip include off-loading direct traffic to their web apis as well as providing another channel to make their content available. We are also working very hard to add new capabilities for producers, which includes plans to provide more detailed analytics on how their data is consumed and evaluating publishing features that could allow producers to define their own filters and target service endpoints and web sites where they want to push relevant data for their own business needs.
Market and brand research companies: We are working with several companies that provide market research and brand analysis. These companies see Gnip as an easy way to aggregate social media data to be included in their brand and market analysis client services.
Hopefully this set of company profiles helps provide more context on the areas we are focused and the typical companies we are working with everyday. If your company does something that does not fit in these four areas and is using our services please send me a note.