Merchant Spotlight: How L. Fitton Tried to Quit Her Startup and Failed

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This is part of the Merchant Spotlight series, where we interview our merchants to glean insight into how they run their businesses. We hope this series will be a great resource to entrepreneurs who are just getting started!

This week, we're catching up with Laura Fitton of oneforty, a community that helps you discover thousands of tools that help you do more with your business, career or life using Twitter. Laura "@Pistachio" Fitton is the CEO and founder of oneforty, co-author of Twitter for Dummies, founder of the first-ever Twitter for Business consultancy Pistachio Consulting and a highly sought-after speaker on the topic of Twitter for Business.

How did oneforty get started?

When I was working with clients at Pistachio Consulting, a common question I was asked by clients was "what tools should we use?" It occured to me that there was a lot of confusion about this exploding ecosystem with the Twitter API and that there was a need to make sense of it all. I didn't want to do a startup, and it took me four months to recruit myself to do this. I often tell people as advice to try and "quit your startup" - and if you can't, you know you have the passion and momentum to get through the ups and downs of being an entreprenuer. Well, I couldn't sleep because of this idea that I had. So in March 2009, two days before the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, TX, I decided to fly out and start looking for angel investors and start building this business.

oneforty has two major elements to its business: a directory of Twitter tools, and a community of users who write reviews. How did you gain marketing momentum in the early days? How do you attract developers to list their Twitter apps with you now?

It's always tough to build a two-sided marketplace. You need listings to get people to come read them and you need people coming to the site to get more and better listings created. We started by gathering tons of information so that we could launch with ~1300 apps already on the site. From there it was a matter of showing developers that we were serious, open and listening to their needs as best we could. It takes time to earn that kind of trust and confidence.

It sounds like the key there is to get one side of the marketplace started before you launch, so you can provide enough value to attract the other side. What were some of the turning points in the company that led to big growth?

We were fortunate to have a lot of blog and media coverage when our product launched, so that's helped a lot. We grew fast right out of the gate. But it's always a challenge to make sure people are engaged, coming back, telling friends and adding content. Recently we are seeing a lot more of that because of our activity streams (http://oneforty.com/me - login required) and Toolkits (http://oneforty.com/i/toolkits), both of which let you learn to get great stuff out of Twitter from trusted friends you already follow.

What is some advice you ignored, and how did it make your company more successful?

For a while it felt like every potential angel investor had 3-5 things we had to change before they would invest. I learned quickly to consider all suggestions, but ignore most of them if they were not truly the right thing for the company. Otherwise you'd spend all your energy trying to court investors at the expense of not moving forward on execution of the company. It's a fine line every entrepreneur must walk.

What is the biggest mistake you've made with the company? How did you overcome it?

Not taking enough risks and not changing the product fast enough. We're doing much better at this now.

Are there any principles that your company lives and dies by?

Usability, although we're not where we want to be yet. We want the experience to be effortless and the value to become self-evident. We need people on the site to become part of the site, and since we're a platform, we need to make them thrive in order to thrive ourselves.

What else is interesting about your company?

People think we're an appstore, but we're really a community of people helping each other achieve more by finding the right tools for the job.

We have one last question for anyone reading this who is considering working with Braintree. What are the top 3 reasons you chose Braintree over other payment providers?

We really looked at the technical functionality of it. So, our three reasons are: 1) It allowed for flexible subscription billing 2) Braintree has a simple & powerful API with a Ruby library that made integration easy and 3) The Braintree Vault is great for data portability and secure storage.

To find useful apps to help you manage your Twitter accounts, visit oneforty at http://oneforty.com

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Braintree We enable beautiful commerce experiences so that people and ideas can flourish. More posts by this author

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