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Sharing, Privately
With Pownce, think Twitter meets Napster.
By Lissa Harris

Company: Pownce

Founding date: 2007

Funding amount: Undisclosed

You’ve got mail. You’ve also got Twitter feeds, Facebook groups, blogrolls, and instant-­messaging clients. Why do you need Pownce? Launched in June 2007, Pownce joins the likes of Twitter, Jaiku, Seesmic, and Kadoink in the rapidly expanding world of microblogging. But it’s really a file-sharing platform disguised as a micro­blogging service–and possibly the next big thing to inflict insomnia on entertainment industry lawyers.

Pownce allows users to send and receive large multimedia files, and to precisely control who receives those files and updates–something you can’t do with Twitter. The file-sharing capabilities have been critical to Pownce’s growth so far, says Leah Culver (see our cover), the 25-year-old who cofounded it with Digg.com cofounder Kevin Rose and Digg’s creative director, Daniel Burka. “File sharing is kind of difficult online,” she says. “There’s not a good way to do it on IM. We did an embed feature, so you can watch videos and photos right in line, and that really took off.”

Pownce has been a work in progress. Allowable file sizes were initially too small; recently they got a big upgrade, from 10 to 100 megabytes (250 for the “pro” account, for which users pay $20 a year). Users complained about the lack of a mobile-phone-friendly site; Pownce built one. Last October, the company rolled out a public API (application programming interface) enabling features such as rePownce, which publishes Pownce to your Facebook page. One thing that hasn’t changed is the business model. From the start, Pownce has embedded ads in its message feeds. Culver thinks ­the service could give people a reason to jump on the Web 2.0 bandwagon: “We have people who say, ‘This is the first social network I’ve ever used.’”

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Credits: Howard Cao, Jordan Hollender

Tagged: Business, Internet, Twitter, startups, social media, cellphone, semantic, Pownce

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