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2010 is "Revenue Year" as Twitter Targets Business


This year's Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford had the usual high-energy buzz that comes with being in the same room as entrepreneurs and investors from Joe DiNucci, a high-tech veteran currently developing Coulomb Technologies to Biz Stone, whose journey from start-up to $1bn business has taken just three years.

Stone had a lot to impart to the MBA students in attendance at Said Business School, and often seemed more intent upon Twitter's impact on society than on its potential to make money.

The company wanted to create value for users before looking to for profit. But he's named 2010 "the revenue year" and has not ruled out making another acquisition. Deals with Google and Bing will create an "innovative ad strategy", while it's also creating commercial accounts for business that feature analytics dashboards.

Like eBay, Twitter has also spawned a number of smaller businesses, something that Stone's delighted about and actively encourages. Twitter companies will learn about platform features and new developments first.

Far from guarding 'tweets' ferociously, he's more interested in being seen as an "information network" and there's a sense that Twitter's evolving away from a status update tool and putting distance between itself and 'social' networking.

Stone's still surprised by the speed at which Twitter's taken off (a Reuters article claims June visitor figures hit 44.5 million, according to comScore). If he was surprised by its impact on global socio-political events has been -- "Mr Stone, what is your role in the Moldavian revolt?" -- he was even more so by its commercial uptake.

Stone clearly likes to see the way smaller companies use it so creatively to communicate with customers at local level -- he relates the story of one bakery that tweets about a pie of the day, and has lifted sales by 20 percent.

Twitter's also putting a "lot of resources" into mobile, where "growth potential is huge", says Stone. This also fulfills a more idealistic aim that crops up often when Stone talks about the company: mobile Twitter can reach parts of the globe that cannot access the Web and "do more good".

Because you have to ask yourself, Stone told Oxford's would-be entrepreneurs, what it means to start a business today. For Twitter founders, part of that is "to have a crack at global issues" by supporting or setting up charities. It's about "building a culture at the company that is meaningful", but there's a happy payback for a Valley business on the fast-track to growth: Twitter's global-local view and good works (look out for Twitter's own Pinot at fledglingwine.com) makes it more fun to work for -- a valuable edge when it comes to attracting talent.

For some of Stone's advice to start-ups, click here.

(Photo: Joi, CC2.0)

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