Wednesday, April 09, 2014

"Hatching Twitter" by Nick Bilton

Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton was about some compelling people that came up with a pretty revolutionary business. Reading the book reminded me of my thoughts about what I wanted to do with blogging when I began in 2008 and just over 20 of my posts since have included Twitter as a label, with many of them linking to writing (the most memorable to me being this by Clay Travis) about Twitter as a platform for disseminating all types of communication.

Bilton in Hatching Twitter writes a highly entertaining book that I found myself at times wondering how accurate it all was, but the people portrayed (with the possible exception of a seemingly batty CEO Coach) and their actions struck me as quite plausible, especially given the presence of power, prestige, money and strongly held beliefs.

Detailed in the book is how Twitter began in 2005 out of a podcasting startup, Odeo, that was founded by Noah Glass and funded by Ev Williams who made his money by starting and then selling Blogger to Google. With $200K in Odeo, Williams became CEO and around this time, Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone joined the company and then the podcasting website idea basically got killed when Apple said they were going to have Podcasting on iTunes, leading to Dorsey’s idea of building something around a “status update” message similar to what was up on AOL instant messaging. Glass came up with the name Twitter for the venture and was completely enthused about the human connections the idea could foster, but then fired from the company by Williams as the lead investor lost confidence in and disagreed with Glass on many things.
Twitter hit big at the 2007 South by Southwest conference in Austin, TX and when roles and leaders were then established, Dorsey was the first CEO with 20% of the company, Williams as the lead investor 70%, Stone and Jason Goldman around 3% each with the remaining 4% split up among other employees. Not long after this, Williams and Dorsey began to have disagreements and Venture Capital investors Fred Wilson and Bijan Sabet came into the picture and sided with Williams on feelings of unhappiness with the CEO.

In 2008, Dorsey was forced out as CEO, but not from the company and he then accepted any and all press requests that came his way and burnished his reputation and perceived role at Twitter at the same time that he began the payment processing company Square. Additionally, Peter Fenton came in as a Twitter investor and would prove a Dorsey ally as the former CEO began to undermine Williams and, along with the aforementioned unbelievable CEO-coach Bill Campbell, force Williams out as CEO with him being replaced in Summer of 2010 by then COO Dick Costello.

There are lots of salacious details throughout the story from Bilton and it makes for entertaining reading that of course portrays some people in a better light than others, but all seems plausible and makes a fascinating read on the people behind a remarkable communication tool.