From Hacker to Co-Founder: The Story Behind Simply Measured
Today is Twitter’s 8-year anniversary. It’s also just a few months past Simply Measured’s 4-year anniversary.
Many of you know the story of Untitled Startup, the original name and first iteration of Simply Measured. But 2 years before that, I was poking and prodding around the Twitter API trying to get some insights.
Getting Hooked on Social Data
It was November 2007, I was doing a long-term consulting gig in Germany, and I found myself tweeting like crazy. My average Tweet volume had quadrupled to more than 700 tweets per month and I found myself just a few tweets away from 2,000. Wondering who the heck I had been talking to, I started planning something special for my 2,000th Tweet:
for ((i=1;i<=100;i+=1));do curl –silent http://u:firstname.lastname@example.org/account/archive?page=$i |sed -n ‘/entry-content/,/<\/span>/ p’ …
— Damon Cortesi (@dacort) November 30, 2007
The First Twitter Analysis Ever?
Because Twitter didn’t have much of an API at that point, I started putting together a set of scripts to scrape all of my tweets from Twitter.com, download them into a csv file, import them into Microsoft Excel (of course) and finally create some charts in Apple’s Numbers, as Numbers looked much better than what I could do in Excel (at the time). What came out of all that hackery was some of the very first Tweet Statistics on the then nascent Twitter: From that point on, I was hooked. I whipped up a Perl script that I shared with the community and people around the globe ran their “Twitter Stats” and posted the results online. A few months later, I even made a website called TweetStats that would make the graphs for you (blog post).
You Were Always on My Mind…
The next couple of years were a bit of a blur as I quit my job to start an Information Security Consulting company…but there was one constant through that entire time: I couldn’t stop thinking about Twitter, and I couldn’t stop building apps on top of Twitter. Everything from a Twitter bio search engine, to a Startup Weekend project that would rank people based on a special algorithm, to a Twitter-based “Safe and Well” system that I tried to pitch to the Red Cross, to a Twitter bot that would tweet rooster noises every morning at sunrise (yes…really), I simply could not stop building apps on top of the Twitter platform. Finally, in 2009, I realized that I needed to embrace my non-stop weekend projects. After seeing the Startup Weekend app we built, Madrona Venture Group in Seattle asked the team (including Aviel) to come into their office and pitch them on the app. While they weren’t looking to invest, they did want to learn more about the space and they asked me to join them for summer and help evaluate the Social Media space in hopes of finding (or building) something to invest in. After not too much deliberation, I parted ways with the co-founder of the security company we had started and joined Madrona. It was a glorious summer – working with their portfolio companies to figure out what they were using social for…prototyping all sorts of different apps every week trying to figure out what the magic combination was in order to build a big company based on social media. Ultimately, though, nothing panned out and I had to go on a trip to North Korea. When I returned, Aviel was working with a local VC on some Twitter apps.
And You Know the Rest…
With no job, no money, and no plans…I decided that now was the perfect time to take the risk of starting a company. Aviel and I agreed to join forces and work together to try to build something amazing. 4 years, 100+ employees, and many happy customers later, I think we’re on the right path.
For the sake of nostalgia, and for Twitter’s #FirstTweet campaign to celebrate their birthday, I put together a list of the Simply Measured team’s first Tweets. A lot of us go back tens of thousands of Tweets, and several years. Happy birthday Twitter, it’s been fun so far. SimplyFirsts
Co-founder and CTO of Simply Measured. I used to break stuff. Now I build it.