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Paid Search Inventor Bill Gross Moves to Monetize Tweets With TweetUp–And Without Twitter (Plus Screenshots)

Just as Twitter finally prepares to announce its plans to make money–after what has seemed an eternity–the man responsible for the invention of paid search is beating the microblogging site to the potentially profitable punch, and without its involvement.

Armed with $3.5 million in venture funding from a group of leading investors, well-known entrepreneur Bill Gross is launching a public beta of TweetUp, a keyword-based bidding marketplace akin to Overture/Goto.com, the first paid search system he created a decade ago.

Gross will be the CEO of TweetUp, which will also offer an organic search service to surface the best tweets, a move that seems to put it in competition with Twitter’s own search service.

This comes just as Twitter is aggressively moving to take over key parts of its ecosystem, which has largely been left to third-party developers.

TweetUp could now give these developers a chance to make money on Twitter without relying on Twitter.

TweetUp is backed by Index Ventures, betaworks, Revolution LLC, First Round Capital and other investors, including Mahalo’s Jason Calacanis and BuzzMachine’s Jeff Jarvis.

And TweetUp has struck a number of distribution deals with well-known Twitter search clients and Web sites–such as Seesmic, Answers.com and others–and will pay them half its revenue.

Gross has been working on the service since February at his Idealab start-up incubator in Pasadena, Calif.

He said he got the idea after he was struck by how hard it was to sort through good tweets from the TED conference, as well as how quickly a substantive tweet he posted, which was related to the global climate change event, disappeared as more recent ones replaced it in real time.

Said TweetUp in a press release about its system:

“In addition to an algorithm that combines a variety of factors to determine relevance, tweeters can bid on keywords in a competitive marketplace very similar to what now occurs at Internet search engines. This sophisticated combination of factors pushes the best tweets to the top of the results of users’ searches, allowing them to find the most compelling tweeters, and it enables serious tweeters to expand their following quickly and cost-effectively. TweetUp search will work alongside Twitter’s traditional search to provide a richer array of results.”

Twitter is also making several moves to monetize itself of late, with most observers expecting an advertising system to be announced soon.

The company has also been adding tools, which puts it in direct conflict with outside developers. On Friday, for example, Twitter announced it was purchasing Tweetie, maker of a popular Apple (AAPL) iPhone client for the messaging service.

The start-up has traditionally relied on third-party developers to build apps for the service, much as Facebook did at its start.

But Twitter management and key investors have recently been signaling that the company would be taking over key aspects of its business. This has caused tensions, obviously, in the wider Twitter ecosystem.

Thus, it will be interesting to watch how Twitter reacts to what Gross is doing with TweetUp.

(BoomTown also did an exclusive video with Gross about it all, which is posted here, as well as a tour of Idealab.)

Here are a few screenshots of TweetUp (click on images to make larger):

TweetUp Client

Answers.com

Business Insider

Business Insider Search #1

Business Insider Search #2

And here’s the official press release from TweetUp:

TweetUp Establishes Twitter Marketplace Where the Best Tweeters Rise to the Top

Unique Combination of a Relevance Algorithm and Bidding System Increases Number of Followers and Improves the Quality of Twitter Searches

PASADENA, CA–APRIL 12, 2010–TweetUp, Inc., announced today a new Twitter marketplace designed to showcase the world’s best tweeters and enable them to grow a highly targeted following. TweetUp is a new patent-pending platform that combines the popularity, relevance and influence of tweets and tweeters with a bid-based marketplace. Major partners, including leading Twitter search clients and top web sites, will display the results, enabling users to easily find the best tweets and tweeters in the world.

TweetUp was founded by Bill Gross at Idealab, where he also devised the first model for paid internet search, Overture/Goto.com, over a decade ago. TweetUp is backed by Index Ventures (investor in Skype, last.fm, Myheritage and Playfish), betaworks (investor in Twitter, TweetDeck, Bit.ly), Revolution LLC (founded by Steve Case, investor in Zipcar, LivingSocial, Everyday Health), First Round Capital (investor in Mint.com, StumbleUpon, CoTweet), Jason Calacanis (founder of Mahalo) and Jeff Jarvis (founder of BuzzMachine).

“Twitter has such tremendous potential as a real-time information network far beyond what has been realized to date,” said Bill Gross, Founder and CEO of TweetUp. “For most people, though, 80% or more of the tweets that fly by them when they’re searching for something are useless noise. For serious tweeters, the task of attracting interested and relevant followers is equally daunting. TweetUp will change all of that.”

TweetUp has addressed the needs of both users and tweeters in a single search mechanism. In addition to an algorithm that combines a variety of factors to determine relevance, tweeters can bid on keywords in a competitive marketplace very similar to what now occurs at Internet search engines. This sophisticated combination of factors pushes the best tweets to the top of the results of users’ searches, allowing them to find the most compelling tweeters, and it enables serious tweeters to expand their following quickly and cost-effectively. TweetUp search will work alongside Twitter’s traditional search to provide a richer array of results.

Danny Rimer, a partner with Index Ventures, TweetUp’s lead investor, said, “TweetUp is an opportunity to bring real-time information to the entire Web, and to do it in a way that creates value for everyone concerned. We feel that TweetUp can dramatically improve both the utility and ubiquity of Twitter, and in doing so build a monetization mechanism for real-time search that rivals that of traditional Internet search.”

TweetUp’s search results will be available to hundreds of millions of individuals through revenue-sharing distribution agreements with leading Twitter clients, including one of the leading multi-platform clients, Seesmic, one of the leading Android clients, Twidroid, the leading source of tweets, TwitterFeed, and the leading social media authority and influence ranking system, Klout, as well as popular web sites including BusinessInsider.com, Answers.com, and PopURLs.

Together, these clients and web sites will bring TweetUp search results to more than 40 million unique users per month and serve more than half a billion impressions per month.

“Increasingly, people looking for answers want more than just black and white facts, but also real-time insights relating to the issues surrounding their questions,” said
Bob Rosenschein, Answers.com CEO. “We are at the forefront of meeting that demand, and partnering with TweetUp is an exciting new way to add value to the
Answers.com user community.”

“I have been sharing in social networks and blogs for ten years and realized the power of having a true community,” said Loic Le Meur, CEO of Seesmic. “This is why
I was immediately attracted to working with Tweetup. People who are serious about sharing and having a community around themselves are also often those who have the most interesting ideas to contribute.”

“We believe that the impact of the real-time web, and of Twitter in particular, has only just begun,” explains John Borthwick of betaworks, a major investor in TweetUp, as well as in TweetDeck and Bit.ly. “Because TweetUp will be accessed on mainstream websites across the world, Twitter will be introduced to hundreds of millions of new people. Furthermore, these new users will experience thoughtful tweets, in context, targeted to them according to their areas of interest, and delivered from serious tweeters who care about building a passionate audience.”

“When we created AOL 25 years ago, we believed in the power of community and built a significant company around it,” said Steve Case, AOL co-founder and founder
of Revolution LLC. “Twitter is proving the power of community continues to thrive, and I am excited to be backing Bill Gross and TweetUp as they innovate in the social
media space by making Twitter more useful to a mainstream audience.”

With today’s announcement, TweetUp launches a public beta period in which tweeters can open an account and begin adding search keywords to their profile. For the first 1000 who sign up, the company is providing a $100 in credits to allow tweeters to see how TweetUp’s network can improve their standing in search resultsand attract more followers.


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