Adarsh Pallian calls himself a “full-time Twitterer”. That’s because the 28-year-old, Dubai-born Web developer makes Twitter applications for a living.
Early this year, Pallian got bored of designing WordPress themes for clients of his studio, Pallian Creative. In March, he launched Tweetizen, a Web-based tool that helps people filter tweets. Chart.ly, which allows users to share stock charts on Twitter, debuted the next month and was quickly acquired by StockTwits. On July 31, Pallian launched JustBought.it, a “social shopping” app.
JustBought.it is the first app to be released by Social Crowd Ventures, a joint venture between Pallian Creative and W Media Ventures, a Vancouver-based venture-capital firm run by Boris Wertz. A JustBought.it iPhone app is also on the way. Social Crowd plans to develop four more Twitter apps over the next year.
The Georgia Straight reached Pallian by phone at his office in Kitsilano.
How did you get into developing Twitter apps?
It was just one of those things where, you know, Twitter just came about. I saw HootSuite, and I saw TweetDeck. They all sort of came around the same time—last October, November. It was just one of those things. I’m like, “I need to get onto this bandwagon”, just because it was just flourishing at that point. I felt that anything I do could get some traction.
At that time, Twitter did not have the same search options. They had just bought Twitter Search from the Bit.ly guys. So, I looked at the API. It’s looks pretty straightforward. I said, “Why don’t we make an app that we can save searches?” So, that’s what we did pretty much. You know, I actually hired an Australian guy in Vancouver, who was here on a work visa and just happened to quit his job in Yaletown at the same time. So, we just got together and were like, “Hey, you know what? Why don’t we work on this? It’ll be a lot faster.” So, I did a lot of the front end. He did some of the heavy back end.
Then we launched that [Tweetizen] in, like, three or four weeks. It got a really good reception in the beginning. I did it just because, at that time, it served a purpose for what I wanted to do, which was saving searches. Then somebody on-line said, “Can I just embed this on my site?” So, we said, “Hey, why don’t we do that?” So, I call it the embed widget, and now there’s about 2,500 sites at last count that have the embedded widget on their site, including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tweetcast that he does every week.
What is JustBought.it?
JustBought.it is a social app. It’s a social-shopping app. It sort of aggregates tweets that have the keywords “just bought” on it. Right now, if you go to search.twitter.com/ and type in “just bought”, you’ll see tons of tweets coming in per minute from people saying they just bought this, they just bought that. What we’re going to do is, obviously, ramp up the marketing efforts pretty soon and get those people to start using the hashtag #justbought, so we can aggregate all these results. That’s one section. The other section is, obviously, they come to our site, they upload a photo of what they just bought, and they can share with their friends.
The third aspect is the iPhone app, which we are waiting on Apple to approve. It’s already coded. It’s already done. We’re just waiting on Apple to give us an okay on it before we can start giving it for free on the Apple store. The iPhone app—essentially, if you’re downtown, Robson Street, you saw a shirt you think you’re going to buy, take a picture, upload it, and the GPS will on the map show exactly where you are. You can ask a question to your community: “Should I buy it?” “Should I not buy it?” Or you can just say: “I want this.” So, either one of the three.
Then the fourth aspect is the biggest aspect, which is we’re working on a little plug-in. It’s not a plug-in; it’s like a little widget that any on-line store can plug in. So, if you’re an on-line retailer, it’s two lines of code—same as the Tweetizen widget. You put it on the on-line store, and at the checkout screen, you’ll see a button that says: “Do you want to share this purchase with your friends?” When you click on it, a pop-up comes up, and you have the option of either sending a tweet or updating your status on Facebook. It will pretty much say, “I just bought whatever the person just bought,” along with a link back to the store. Automatically, it will grab the image, if there’s an image of the product they just bought. So, on-line stores can build a social community around this purchase and hopefully get more people coming to the on-line store because one of their customers just told all of their friends what he just bought.
How did you end up selling Chart.ly?
When Chart.ly was made, it was an idea that I had with one of my business partners, Timothy Sykes. We were looking at StockTwits—we were both investors on StockTwits—and we said, “What can we do to make StockTwits better?” Tim, who’s a penny trader himself, he said, “You know, I like looking at charts all day, and StockTwits doesn’t seem to have that.” So, we just decided to build it. We said, “This looks fairly simple. Let’s build an app that just uploads charts.”
It’s like a Twitpic, but instead of photos, you upload charts. We got that done in about three weeks’ time. It was a fairly easy application. It’s an exact copy of Twitpic, essentially.
While we were making it, we were talking to Howard Lindzon of StockTwits. “Howard, we’re making this app. We’d like to work with you.” Howard just said right off the bat he liked the app from the very beginning. As soon as we mentioned it, he said, “You know what? I’m going to buy you off.” I said, “You know what? I don’t think we want to sell it.” So, we went back and forth quite a bit.
Eventually, we came to an agreement, so we did sell it to them. We sold it to them. We sold it to them for very little cash, to be honest, but we got equity in the company, StockTwits, as well. So, if StockTwits or Chart.ly sells independently or together, we make some money. So, that’s how that came about. It was one of those things. It was sort of a fluke. We were just sitting around, thinking what we should do next, and we quickly built it.
The reception has been great for that one. That has huge traffic. People find out about StockTwits through Chart.ly these days. I think that’s awesome when people can find the parent company through the child, you know? I don’t manage any of that anymore. I’ve given it over to the StockTwits guys. So, they just handle everything. I’m just there to make sure everything works.
What makes a successful Twitter app then?
You know, it’s providing a niche or something that people want or people naturally do, and to fill it up with something that makes it easier. You look at HootSuite and TweetDeck—these apps all serve a purpose. That’s to make your life easier. With Chart.ly, it’s obviously sharing knowledge, sharing charts, and sort of adding on to your StockTwits community.
JustBought.it, it’s a little different, because JustBought.it is more like there are people already telling people what they just bought. There was nothing out there that sort of supplemented it and made it commercial, made it much more useful. They were all one-day conversations, I felt. With this one, I’m seeing a lot of people who have never met before and never know what they’re buying, and we’re keeping stats of everything. So, a month from now, we can give you trends. We can tell you, “Hey, you know what? From all the tweets, most people are talking about shoes. The next thing people are talking about are clothes.” We can have all the data aggregated, and I think that’s going to be useful.
So, what makes an app useful, I guess, at the end of the day is how you track data on Twitter. You know, how you can supplement, how you can monetize it. You know what I mean? It’s not one of those stupid apps—those apps that come out which are absolutely useless. They’re just waste-of-time apps. I don’t think that’s going to last long. They come, and they go. Whereas apps that can aggregate data and stats and can show trends, these kind of things, I think, can last a long time, because we have something valuable here that’s going to come down the road.
If Twitter disappeared tomorrow, what platform would you be designing apps for?
I guess Facebook. I don’t know. I don’t think Twitter’s going to disappear. But, if they do, it would be, I think, to some extent Facebook. The only reason I didn’t jump into Facebook is because it seems to be an already crowded market—at least when I desired to jump into the whole app scene. This was January of this year. If I had jumped into Facebook in January of last year, I would have been much ahead of it.
The other thing is the Twitter API is so much easier to work with, as opposed to Facebook Connect and all of that. So, if Twitter disappears, I don’t know—whatever is the next big app that people seem to use.
Any guesses? What do you think is the next Twitter?
Well, FriendFeed got bought by Facebook. I don’t know. I haven’t really seen an app out there that I’m actually using or I’m thinking of using anytime in the near future—just because nothing has come out yet, I think. People are trying, but nothing has come out yet. What app can make Twitter even easier, you know? I think it’s to be seen.
Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? Tell Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.