In June 2008 we launched a nice little experiment built on the Twitter API. We called it TwitterCounter. At first people thought it was a stupid idea: Twitter was still relatively small, nobody has any need to show off their follower numbers and more like that. Fellow entrepreneurs told me “Yeah, it is funny but stop wasting your time on that because it won’t ever make you money”.
Within weeks however someone emailed me if he could be featured on the front page of TwitterCounter, so he would get extra followers, for a small fee. I sold him a week for $50. People started noticing that and I sold another two weeks. Then we doubled prices, and doubled them again and then we decided to start selling views instead of weeks.
We now do close to USD 50k a month and plan to double that before the end of the year. Not bad for a funny little side-project.
Last week I read a blogpost here about Quora, a new Search Engine or Q&A start-up. I signed up and looked around. Within minutes I started receiving notifications that people were following me. Then I checked out my profile at Quora and noticed a bunch of statistics there. It shows Follower counts, Following counts, amount of edits and topics you are following.
Yep, it all looked very familiar.
The very first version of TwitterCounter was built in less than a week, mostly by me, and we launched it after 7 days. Since then we’ve grown to a serious start-up with real developers who work on the service full time.
I don’t think there is a line of code left that I originally wrote. That is a good thing. I’m not a very good developer.
But I am a very good ‘quick and dirty prototype’ developer. So today, after one week of hacking away in PHP, I’m giving you QuoraStats.com. Visit the website, enter your Quora username and it will start tracking your stats at Quora.
Sure, Quora is still small. It might fail miserably. It might be nothing more than a blip and long forgotten 6 months from now. But all that is not too important at this moment. For a small investment of one week of coding I can find out if there is a demand for such a service. If there is and Quora is going places I will happily trail along in its footsteps.
The service is very much a work in progress, in early beta and in no way sanctioned by Quora. In fact, one of the first things I asked on Quora is if they would allow the service. The answer: not really. :-)
I feel very privileged that I’m in a position to just drop everything I’m doing, code for a week and launch something. No business plans, no investors to persuade and no funding needed.