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Twist Takes the #OMW Tag Out of Real-World Meetings

Twist is about time,” says founder and CEO Bill Lee. “If you’ve ever wasted time waiting for someone, then you know the problem we are trying to solve.”

Lee says the idea for the app, which is available in iOS and will be in android soon, came to him last year when, as an angel investor, he had around 200 meetings.

“A good 60 to 70 percent of the time I would get an email saying either ‘I’m running late,’ or ‘where are you?’ This was an itch I had every day.”

To make sure he was not the only one experiencing this pain point, Lee–who is an experienced entrepreneur and investor now heading his fifth company–came up with a creative market research strategy.

He studied Twitter, where he quickly determined that the tag #OMW (on my way) was consistently trending high every day.

“People were already sending millions of OMW messages on Twitter and Facebook. So we knew that yes, this is a big problem and we wanted to be the first to clean it up.”

He pulled together a team, raised financing, and built a prototype starting in the summer of 2011. By this past July, Twist was ready to go.

The app is very easy to use. At its core, it lets you see where the person you are trying to meet up with is at in real-time, and an estimate of how long it will be before they will arrive.

This removes a lot of the stress out of those anxious minutes leading up to meetings, when the distraction of worrying about whether you or the other person is going to be late or early can easily raise your blood pressure.

“Twist makes your life easier,” says Lee. “People can recoup their time. For instance, it lets me keep working up until they arrive. The real opportunity here is to take an offline opportunity, meeting in person, and bringing it online.”

The algorithm Twist employs to estimate ETAs takes into account a lot of third-party data about traffic conditions, the weather, bike lanes, public transportation performance, and the like. The app suggests the best route based on these and other factors, and also displays additional data, such as Yelp reviews of the restaurant you’re planning to meet at.

The Twist team of about 17 works out of its office in SoMA.