Q&A With Twitturly CEO Joel Strellner

Last month, when Nielsen Online research analyst David Martin reported that a majority of people who sign up for Twitter abandon the site after a month, the Twitter universe got its dander up.

After all, Twitter, they say, thrives due to its third-party sites—such as TweetDeck, TwitPic, Twitstat, Hootsuite, EasyTweets, Tumblr, etc. Because of that, the users may not necessarily “return” to Twitter after a month, but they still “use” Twitter. Nielsen updated the study to include the third-party sites and came up with the same result.

No matter. I wanted to find out what was going on with these companies tied to Twitter, so I contacted Joel Strellner, founder and CEO of Twitturly, a URL aggregator that tracks the links posted in the “Twitterverse” and provides a real-time report of what people are talking about on the microblogging service.Each time someone tweets a URL, Twitturly counts it as a vote for that URL. The more votes a URL has in the previous 24 hours, the higher it ranks on Twitturly’s Top100. It’s that simple, says Strellner. Currently, the hot topic as I write this is KFC, and that is painful for my vegetarian bones to admit, but, hey, that’s what people are talking about on Twitter.

Strellner launched Twitturly as a side project. He says he was new to Twitter, wasn’t following too many people, and he didn’t seem to find a lot of interesting things from the people he was following. “I started thinking that there had to be a way to see what everyone was saying, not just the people that I followed,” he says. “I found a way, and coded it up in a weekend. I never expected others to use it, then TechCrunch wrote an article on us and we’ve been growing ever since.”

Strellner says in his LinkedIn profile and on his website that Twitturly, which was launched with personal finances, is currently looking for angel funding, so I emailed him some questions.

By the way, Joel Strellner and I (Alastair Goldfisher) are both on Twitter.

Q: Thanks to the Nielsen Online study, Ashton Kutcher’s push for 1 million followers, other celebs and athletes joining the ranks, and Jon Stewart interviewing Biz Stone, Twitter has gained a lot of media attention lately. How has that affected your fund-raising efforts?

A: I don’t think our fund-raising efforts have been affected positively or negatively due to the recent media attention. Well, OK, I guess it has been a little positive. Not so many people object to listening to a pitch for a Twitter related service as when we started.

Q: What are potential investors telling you?

A: I’d say the biggest challenge to raising capital for us has been the economy. I’m not sure if investors are just using it as a cop-out, but we have been told that the current economy prevents them from investing right now. And we’ve heard this from multiple investors, more so than any other reason for declining.

Q: Are you getting close to solid commitments?

A: We don’t have any solid commitments, but we are getting lots of interest. Raising investment is filled with lots of unknowns. You never know if the next person you meet is going to be willing to fund you, or just waste your time. I’d like to think that before this quarter ends, we’d have a solid commitment from someone, but you never know, it could be next quarter, too.

Q: Are you interested in eventually raising venture funding?

A: Whether we take VC funding or not depends on what kind of capital we are able to raise in an angel round. If VC money can offer any additional benefits, like further connections, potential partnerships, long-term financial security, etc., along with not too many attached strings, then we might try to get it. For now, we are likely to stick with angel investors.

Q: Why do you think athletes, celebs and so many others that are in the public view are interested in joined Twitter?

A: I think celebrities are attracted to being able to talk directly with their fans. They no longer need to go to the PR agency to get the word out. They can just send a tweet, and within minutes get feedback from all of their fans. Personally, I am attracted to Twitter because of the community. Unlike Ashton Kutcher, I don’t get hundreds of replies to my tweets, but I do get enough that lets me have conversations with the people that follow me, and similarly, I like being able to reply to those that I follow, and have a conversation.

Q: There are a lot of companies feeding off the Twitter phenomenon. For instance, you compete against other URL aggregators. Is the market becoming saturated?

A: There will come a day when the Twitter ecosystem is too saturated, but like all related services in the past, the end-users will pick the winners and constantly prune the ecosystem of the Twitter app saturation, which will keep things for the most part, unsaturated.

Q: Where do you think Twitter will be in a few years?

A: I think we’ll see Twitter continue to go into mainstream. Twitter will be the next Facebook or MySpace, but with a slight twist. it won’t be exclusive to a certain age group. I believe that Twitter will be the first social platform to show a relatively even number of users across all age groups. Because of this even distribution, and its simpleness and openness, I believe that we’ll see applications developed for Twitter to continue to increase, both on the input and output side of Twitter.