Twitter Update from Chirp

Twitter held their annual developer conference called Chirp on April 14-15th, and it gathered quite a crowd. I recently came across a great summary of Twitter’s latest stats, collected and published by Ben Lorica, a Senior Analyst in the Research Group at O’Reilly Media. Thanks Ben!

Here are some of the key take-aways:

1. Number of registered users: 105,779,710 (1,500% growth over the last three years.)

2. Number of new sign-ups per day: ~ 300,000 (More recently, 60% of new accounts were from outside the U.S.)

3. Number of new tweets per day: 55 million

4. Number of unique daily visitors to the site ~ 180 million. (That’s actually dwarfed by the traffic that flows through twitter’s API — 75% of traffic is through the API.)

5. Number of API requests per day: 3 billion

6. Number of registered apps: 100,000 (from 50,000 in Dec/2009)

7. Number of search queries per day: 600 milion

8. Twitter’s instance, of their recently open-sourced graph database (FlockDB), has 13 billion edges and handles 100,000 reads per second.

9. Number of servers: “… in the hundreds”

10. BlackBerry’s just released twitter app accounted for 7% of new sign-ups over the last few days

11. A NY Times story gets tweeted every 4 seconds.

Social Media Revolution

Socialnomics put together a great video that demonstrates the growing marketing power for companies that use and learn to master social media tools, social networks and content optimized for mobile devices.

The video has a ton of very powerful stats on targeting and communicating effectively and honestly with consumers and show consumer trends that have only continued to accelerate in the direction indicated by the video.

“Over 96% of Generation Y-ers have joined a social network.”

“Social media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the web.”

“1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. last year met via social media.”

“Facebook added over 100 million users in less than 9 months”

“iPod application downloads hit 1 billion in 9 months”

“If Facebook were a country, it would be the 4th largest.”

“80% of companies use LinkedIn as their primary tool to find employees.”

“The fastest growing segment on Facebook is 55-65 year-old females.”

“>80% of Twitter usage is on mobile devices — people update anytime, anywhere.”

“YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.”

“Wikipedia has over 13 million articles – studies show it’s more accurate than Encyclopedia Britannica.”

“There are over 200,000,000 blogs. 54% of bloggers post content or Tweet daily.”

“25% of search results for the world’s top 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content.”

“34% of bloggers post opinions of products & brands.”

“People care more about how their social graph ranks products and services than how Google ranks them.”

“78% of consumers trust peer recommendations. Only 14% trust advertisements.”

“Only 18% of traditional TV campaigns generate a positive ROI.”

“25% of Americans in the past month said they watched a short video … on their phone.”

“35% of book sales on Amazon are for the Kindle.”

“24 of the 25 largest newspapers are experiencing record declines in circulation.”

“More than 1.5 million pieces of content are shared on Facebook daily.”

Still think social media is a fad?

DemoCamp 25 Toronto Roundup

DemoCamp is a concept that started 4 years ago in the Bubbleshare office boardroom. It is a forum for startups to share ideas, code and development tips at a “safe” venue within the community. Now at DemoCamp 25, audiences topped 450 people as they filled up an entire auditorium-style classroom at Ryerson University – pretty impressive. Check out the Flickr photos.

The theme of this DemoCamp was social gaming, with a few other social applications thrown into the mix. All the presentations were very interesting, but I have selected a few that stood out in my mind:

Gurbaksh Chahal (gWallet)

Gurbaksh gave an inspirational talk on entrepreneurship to the crowd, basing the majority on his life story and how he sold his first two companies for $40 million and then $300 million respectively. CEOs, take a look at his 9 entrepreneurship lessons. His new venture, gWallet, provides the next generation virtual currency platform for social media including social gaming, virtual worlds, mobile platforms, abandoned shopping carts and microtransaction environments. Essentially, it is another offer network that is looking to diversify itself from the realms of OfferPal and the like. It was great to see gWallet in action in one of the subsequent demos during the evening.

Albert Lai (Kontagent)

It’s always good to see Albert. I’ve had a beat on Kontagent for a while now, and I still love what they are doing. If you’re developing a social Facebook app, there is no excuse for not using Kontagent, unless of course you have no desire to really know what your users are doing and how best to improve the growth and distribution of your application across the social network. Kontagent really drives down to better understanding the Life-Time Value (“LTV”) of a user based on your Average Revenue Per User (“ARPU”) less the cost of acquiring an individual user – and Kontagent gets very granular so that you, the developer, can determine which sources of traffic tend to monetize well across your social application. If you haven’t heard of Kontagent, check it out.

Greg Thomson (Tall Tree Games)

Greg seemed to be in fine form last night. He demoed their latest game called FishWorld, which was a stellar rip of Zynga’s (and other) aquarium-based games. It was stellar not because Zynga does it to everyone else, but because it went above and beyond other aquarium-style games. Greg and the company really thought through the game mechanics and the game player’s psychology to maximize revenue-making opportunities. One of the best quotes that he said during his presentation was to “Create a problem for your users and sell them back a solution.” For example, in FishWorld the tanks constantly get dirty, but the game offers a suckerfish for $2 that will keep your tank clean and will prevent you from having to do maintenance on the fish tank to keep it clean. Another very smart move was to sell a shark, a premium and monetizable fish that people think are “cool” to have in their tank, but the shark eats other fish that users will then have to replace through coins or credits. In short, great game mechanics. Check it out! You will learn a lot by studying this game.

Greg Balajewicz (Realm of Empires)

Realm of Empires looks like a pretty engaging game where users can build relationships with each other, strategize, and plan their schemes of “virtual world domination”. They have build the company without many game mechanics for increasing monetization, as that did not seem to be their motivating force; these nice guys actually created a “fair” game where users can genuinely compete on skill and strategy – you are not able to buy your way to the top. While very refreshing from a user game-play point of view, it will be interesting to see how this pans out from a business operations standpoint. I think there is lots of potential for growing revenues in this company and that a great business mind could join this team and together they can really cash-in.

There were a few other demos by Oz Solomon (Social Gaming Studios), Joel Auge (HitGrab), Mark Zohar (Scenecaster) and Roy Pereira (, and while interesting, they weren’t inherently social games, which I set out to cover in this post. Feel free to check out my reviews from DemoCamp 21 (July 2009).

If you’d like a more in-depth review of your game or game mechanics, flip me a note and I’d be glad to take the time chat, understand your game / mechanics and review it in a subsequent post.

ExtremeU Pitch Day

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend ExtremeU Pitch Day, put on by Extreme Venture Partners (EVP). The attendance was filled with VCs, Angels, media and members of the EVP team to listen to pitches from the 3 graduates of their first class at Extreme University. Those graduates were Assetize, Uken Games and Locationary.

ExtremeU was a summer technology start-up program that focuses on industry networking, technology mentoring and delivering a product to potential investors after only 12 weeks. The intensive program was led by Farhan Thawar (Dean of ExtremeU), who is also the VP Engineering at Xtreme Labs.


Assetize helps Twitter users monetize their content stream by displaying ads from Google AdSense and other ad networks into your Twitter stream. They are hoping to be the AdSense of blogs, but on Twitter. Assetize will share revenue with content publishers (content publishers receive 60%). The company has a content analysis and targeting algorithm as well as an ad-matching algorithm that helps advertisers reach targeted audiences. Since they began coding 3 months ago, Assetize already publishes 15,000 messages per day across all channels and has published approximately 56 million ads to-date. Some early competitors in this space include Sponsored Tweets, and Magpie.

Uken Games

Uken Games, founded by Chris Ye and Mark Lampert, creates social games. Their first game is called SuperHeroes Alliance and is based on the Facebook platform, they have also recently launched an iPhone version of the application (with data synced on the server-side so that you can play the same game across platforms). Since their launch in March 2009, they have amassed 130,000 total users and over 50,000 monthly active users (MAUs). Even in their early days, they have found that people will pay for virtual goods for a whole host of reasons, and that a couple of users even spent over $2,000 to compete against others in the system. So far, they have been working hard to build their “Adaptive Game Engine” and they plan to use this the churn out more game in more verticals (that will remain nameless due to confidentiality). Look out for some more interesting games from Uken.


Locationary is an interesting and massive undertaking, taken-on by Grant Ritchie, to create “The World’s Place Database … Created by You.” Essentially, the company is trying to create the Wikipedia of the YellowPages by crowdsourcing the information and subsequent updates and generating incentive through game mechanics and point-scoring systems.  So far the company has cataloged over 100,000 places. Locationary has ambitious goals (I like to see that) of having 15 million placed indexed within the next 12 months and 100 million places indexed within 2 years. This is a very difficult space and I wish the company good luck in getting the public to be their puppeteer!

Virtual Goods: Market, Types, User Psychology

Virtual Goods have begun to penetrate social networks like Facebook and mobile applications like Tap Tap Revenge (by Tapulous) and I Am T-Pain (by Smule). They have spread like wildfire, with game developers itching to better understand the economics of virtual goods and the psychology of gamers. This post will explore the rapid market growth, types of virtual goods, user psychology and steps to launching virtual goods in your application or game.

Market Growth

The estimated market size has gone from a nascent space in 2008 to approximately $500 million (Aug. 2009; Source: Viximo) to over $1 billion by end 2009 (Oct. 2009; VentureBeat) only 2 months later. If you are at all surprised by this vast market size, you should know that the Asian virtual goods market is seven times bigger than US (estimated at $7 billion for 2009).

Zynga, one of the leading social games companies, launched a game called Farmville in June 2009, and has already become the most popular game application on Facebook with 62.4 million active users as of October 29, 2009 and will easily break through $150 million in 2009 revenue.

Types of Virtual Goods

Developers are very creative. So far, the types of virtual goods can largely be placed into 2 buckets:

  1. Decorative Goods: Do not affect game statistics / game play (e.g. avatars)
  2. Functional Goods: Affect game statistics / game play (e.g. Farmville tractors — did you know users bought 800,000 of them yesterday)

Since functional goods affect game play activities, game developers should give users the ability to either earn these items/goods through game play or provide a shortcut in acquiring them with a virtual currency. Functional goods can be managed to have low or high value price points; generally, the value of these functional goods can be set by carefully managing and understanding scarcity. Ensure to have some items that are very common (Developers: ensure to “prime the pump” by getting users familiar with using some free and low-cost items), and some that are very rare and expensive.

While A/B testing how much users will pay for items, understand that as the aggregate number of social interactions per user increases within an application, each rare item’s value will proportionately increase for those users. Another consideration while establishing demand for your virtual goods is whether or not you need a secondary market where users can sell, trade or profit from their virtual goods (See more from Bill Grosso’s presentation on Managing a Virtual Economy).

There are many reasons why a user would pay more for certain items. Let’s try to better understand game user psychology.

Psychology of Purchasing Virtual Goods

Users will buy virtual goods for many different reasons. Buying decisions will be based on a number of factors including user motivation, several forms of influence, boredom and competitiveness. If you’re a developer, think carefully about users of your applications: Why would they want to buy a virtual good within your application? What added value would they receive? Which other people would see they bought this good, and could they benefit as well? Below, I outline a number of different reasons why users choose to purchase virtual goods:

  • People are impatient (time = money) and want to advance through game play more quickly
  • People are competitive and want to get ahead (of friends, peers, the world)
  • People want to express themselves in unique ways (akin to the culture of decorating cell phones in Japan)
  • People want to feel good about themselves (donating to charity and publicizing)
  • Gifting allows people to foster and maintain existing relationships with others in an increasingly electronic world
  • Gifting allows people to create new relationships
  • People will return gifts due to the rule of reciprocation (influence), which prompts us to repay what someone has given us
  • Provenance (e.g. did a famous user own this item in the past?)
  • Branding (virtual goods branded by real-world companies)
  • Rarity (scarcity)

5 Key Steps for Launching Virtual Goods

In a presentation by Amy Jo Kim, CEO of Shufflebrain, about why and how virtual goods work, she outlined 5 steps for launching virtual goods.

  1. Create meaningful content
  2. Prime the pump with free goods or currency
  3. Create demand for premium content
  4. Offer fresh content at a range of price points
  5. Make it easy to purchase currency

There are many different companies that offer solutions to help with your virtual currency. If you’re looking for good vendors, try: PayPal, Gambit, boku, Zorg or $uperRewards.

Why are your users buying your goods? How did you generate interest or scarcity in your application? Please share your story and learnings about user psychology and buying decisions in the comments area below.

Geeks Love Halloween

The rumors are true. Technology geeks do have a thing for Halloween. Mashable scoured the web and found some great pumpkin carvings well representing the current state of web technology and social media. The Twitter Fail-Whale (below) is great and there’s a fantastic carving of Diggnation hosts Alex Albrecht and Kevin Rose.
See more at: 12 Awesome Social Media Halloween Pumpkin Carvings.


Source: Scott B. on Flickr via Mashable!

The iPhone App Store is also cashing-in on the Halloween frenzy. The App Store is promoting its “Halloween Apps & Games” section where you can carve virtual pumpkins with “iCarve” and play Halloween-themed games.


One notable oddity, a game called Attack Of The Zombie Bikini Babes From Outer Space was launched in the App Store two days ago. Smort (rumored to be Smule’s Evil-Twin by Techcrunch) launched the game. As TechCrunch puts it, Smort looked at common themes popular within App Store games, and generated a list: Bikini Babes, Zombies, Bombs, and Bloodshed. This game is the result of that (innovative? smart? creative?) thinking. What are your thoughts? (see video below)

Personally, I think this is really smart. Now, although this game doesn’t necessarily look that compelling, I think that Smort has the right thesis: Research. Build. Launch. Iterate. Repeat. App Store trends are constantly changing. Therefore, monitoring user behavior and download trends can lead to new learnings about your target audience.

My advice: If you’re a startup/entrepreneur, go research your market (do a quick market survey if you wish), build your app and launch it! Review your analytics/metrics, iterate and launch again quickly. There are some app-hungry consumers out there.

Facebook 3.0 on iPhone Review

After waiting for the Apple App Store to load … and it took a while … I finally updated my Facebook application for my iPhone. I’m sure Apple was getting slammed by everyone itching for the Facebook 3.0 upgrade.
I am tough on companies when it comes to developing a sexy UI/UX and I am super-impressed with the new Facebook 3.0 application for iPhone. I heard the hype and it was all right. Facebook has gone Twitter-esque, boasting a very easy to use and navigate news feed that drops pictures, videos, links, comments and basically anything else, right into view. Shown below is a screenshot of the first page you see when logged into the application. very easy and intuitive to navigate downward, flip to the main menu (by clicking the top-left icon), update your status or even click the camera button to upload (or take) a picture or VIDEO!

Here is the new MENU screen (below). Simplicity is king and Facebook nailed it. Each feature seems to work well and I didn’t encounter any errors or bugs in my testing thus far.
A while ago Facebook added the functionality of adding your own phone numbers to your contact information. Here you can really see that “phonebook” feature paying off. Facebook leverages this information by allowing you to simply tap a contact and choose a phone number that you’d like to dial. Simple as that. Enjoy your new phonebook, everyone.
I’m really looking forward to push notifications. That’ll really jazz up this rich(er) iPhone app.

Viral Marketing Whitepaper

Viral marketing can be a huge asset to the launch and sustained growth and success of any product or business.

I am in the process of creating a whitepaper that brings in proven strategies as well as specific case studies of successful viral marketing efforts. The whitepaper will also cover more specific strategies centered around mobile App Stores and effective utilization of Facebook Connect and Facebook application pages. Lastly, it will contain a bible of social media strategies.

I kindly ask all of you to share any viral strategies that you have used to-date, along with key dates and timelines, screenshots, verbiage used in messaging, and key metrics (user growth, #downloads, etc…) achieved from the strategy.

Please leave comments below, or DM/@ me on Twitter with links to your story, my username is @jsookman. I will be tracking posts with the #UbiquitousVC hashtag, so please use it!

Google Wave

Google announced “Google Wave” at the Google I/O conference last week. Google says that their technology is a new tool for communication and collaboration on the web, coming later this year.

After watching the video and speaking to a friend at the event, I think this product is going to be hugely successful for a few reasons.

1. VERY Open API
2. Widget architecture to allow plug-ins like Firefox allows for dynamic functionality
3. Multi-faceted use cases (consumer, prosumer, enterprise)
4. Google already has a massive reach
5. The technology allows real-time updates to multiple locations (i.e. edits or updates to a wave will be shown in real-time to friends, colleagues, and places that the wave may be embedded such as blogs or a website)
6. Drag and drop from desktop to web
7. Ease of adding and removing(??) Wave participants
8. Playback functionality of Waves (I am excited to see how this gets further developed)

If you are reading this, and are from Google, I would love an invite to the Wave sandbox to give it a trial pre-launch!

Watch the video at

Top Social Networks for Entrepreneurs

I subscribe to this outstanding weekly email from The Policy Dialogue on Entrepreneurship. This week’s email discussed a recent post on Mashable, that highlighted the top 10 social networks for entrepreneurs.

In summary, these sites will help businesses/entrepreneurs to find other entrepreneurs, potential customers, or partners.

Here is the top 10 social networks for entrepreneurs:

1. Entrepreneur Connect
2. Partner Up
3. Startup Nation
4. Linked In
5. Biznik
6. Perfect Business
7. Go BIG Network
8. Cofoundr
9. The Funded
10. Young Entrepreneur

I’m doing my best to get connected, and maintain profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter. As time permits, I am going to explore each of these sites. Feel free to extend an invite to link up.