Two years ago, Lalani, a native of Montreal, set foot in the Silicon Valley to pitch an innovative file-sharing technology he developed with business partner Mohammad Al Adham.
Upon arriving, Lalani and Adham looked within their community for help before looking outside. “We’d search online and search local Pakistani, Indian, and Arab community entrepreneurial events. We felt people in our community would be more receptive to listening to our idea and at the very least, would give us an honest answer.”
Lalani and Mohammand channeled their file-sharing technology into a video sharing website called Eatlime.com. Investors were receptive to the website but, in 2007, the recession was already in full-swing. Much of the Valley capital had dried up. When it was time for Lalani to return to Canada’s University of Waterloo for his next term of college, he decided to take a chance and stay in the Silicon Valley instead.
“You can imagine how not having a degree doesn’t fly in a house with Indian parents,” shares Lalani. “My parents have made it clear that they want me to get my degree eventually.”
Most twenty-two-year-olds have a college degree, but few have Lalani’s sharp, entrepreneurial knack for developing innovative, web-based products. In 2004, before terms like “Web 2.0” and “social media” were coined, Lalani developed an online network surfyourwork.com where students, teachers, and parents could connect with each other. The website was an instant success. More than 400 schools were using surfyourwork.com within a few months of its launch. He sold the company in 2005.
Eatlime was popular, but the video-sharing website didn’t generate enough money to sustain the company long-term. So, while bouncing around ideas, Lalani and his colleagues came up with TwitVid, a fast, easy-to-use video sharing application for uploading video on Twitter.
“This idea was something we could conquer because we had perfect technology for it,” says Lalani. “Twitpic (a Twitter picture upload application) had taken off like crazy. We knew that it was a natural progression from users who were sharing photos on Twitter to want to share video as well.”
TwitVid launched on May 22, 2009 and became an instant sensation, partially due to its integration into Twitterfone, a widely used iPhone Twitter application. The user base has grown exponentially. On average, 3 to 4 new videos are uploaded every minute using Twitvid.
What services like TwitVid do is allow individuals to share intimate, behind-the-scenes footage of their lives with people who “follow” their Twitter account. This technology has particularly resonated with celebrities because traditionally, their public communication with fans has always been controlled by publicists. Celebrities like Coldplay, Dane Cook, and Nine Inch Nails have all used TwitVid to instantaneously upload self-shot videos for their fans to watch.
“Most people are tweeting videos from their mobile devise mainly because video tweeting should be fast and easy and taken at the moment whenever you are,” explains Lalani.
Right now, TwitVid is focused on building traction, raising another round of funding, and improving the functionality and quality of their service.
The irony is that Lalani doesn’t “tweet” much because he’s so busy working on TwitVid. “Over here in the Silicon Valley, people are very transparent and open online. Usually when I tweet, it’s related to our product or company.”
While others’ might doubt the longevity of Twitter, Lalani thinks Twitter has far-reaching potential. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube will be with us for the rest of our lives, theorizes Lalani. “Social media is the fastest way to connect and communicate with people across the world.”