Here’s a strange piece of gossip we heard from a plugged-in industry source last week: Bill Gross spent the summer asking venture capitalists for enough money to launch a consumer-facing rival to Twitter itself.You’ve heard of Bill because he’s the guy who basically invented search engine advertising – the way Google generates $25 billion a year. This year, he launched a startup designed to finally monetise Twitter, TweetUp. For brevity’s sake, let’s call TweetUp a Twitter ad network.
The idea we heard was that Bill plans to acquire a bunch of Twitter apps – starting with Twidroid – and use them as a springboard to launch the new service. We heard he was looking for $25 million.
We reached out to Bill and asked him about it. Here’s what he wrote us in an email:
TweetUp is growing rapidly, we are now at nearly ½ billion monthly impressions of member bios per month across our network. We are not a Twitter competitor but rather a company working to monetise the real-time communications ecosystem, including Twitter. We are also in the early stages of discussing a Series B round of financing, but I trust you understand why we can’t comment on the size or the potential investors.
Then we wrote back:
The idea I heard was that you planned to buy some Twitter clients, e.g. Twidroid, and use that as a springboard for launching the service. Is that not true?
Bill didn’t respond to the second email.
Classic non-denial, right?
OK, maybe that’s a stretch.
But still. Note that Bill admits he’s raising money. Also, the way he describes TweetUp – as “a company working to monetise the real-time communications ecosystem, including Twitter”– doesn’t seem to shut the door on all the gossip, either.
So what do we think is going on here?
We’d speculate that part of Bill’s pitch to potential investors includes a scenario in which TweetUp raises enough cash to acquire some Twitter apps as a way of turbocharging growth.
Since one threat to TweetUp is that Twitter will ban it, Bill probably mentioned that the apps in this network could make it so status updates don’t go to Twitter by default – that users could write status updates that just go to other people using the network of Twitter apps.
Since such a plan would involve creating an independent service where users do all the stuff they used to do on Twitter, you can imagine why someone hearing the pitch (or hearing about it) would describe it to us as a plan to launch a Twitter-killer.