Jack Dorsey: Inventor of Twitter, Leader of Square

The corners of St Louis always had a special meaning for Jack. While the majority of its inhabitants only saw a crossing of streets around a corner, he was able to see beyond that with only eight years.

His parents, Marcia and Tim, had decided to remain in St Louis downtown with its small cafeteria, avoiding the massive migration to residential of years 70 and 80 areas that took place in many cities in the United States. This passion and defense of urban life had an impact very early in Jack. The streets, taxis, ambulances, people, “they represented pure meaning of what is urban life for Jack”: our site, life in the cities. That’s eight years the walls of her small room were decorated with giant posters of rock or sport stars that were full of maps of St. Louis or New York.

Urban life and its representation in maps

Jack le obesionaba the operation of the large American cities; how everything unfolded in full coordination and how, through the representation of the paths traced by taxis, ambulances and other transport services in a map, was able to build a faithful representation of an urban area. What fascinated him to such an extent that the drive from their parents did not have a comic about the latest adventures of Batman or Superman, but a map, another representation of life in the city.

It was in 1984, with 8 years, when Tim Dorsey decided to buy a home Macintosh and an IBM PC Jr. Playing as all we have done with our first computer, Jack learned that allowed him to do that so much longed for: build a digital, interactive map where represent a series of points that move up and down through the streets. In a recent “interview”: https://www.youtube.com/.

“If you look at a map and a junction, it is easy to wonder what’s happening at the crossroads right now, who is going towards the junction, who is moving away, how the intersection has changed with the passage of the years, what has happened in the past and what will happen there in the future. Seeing this made me think, it stimulated my imagination and curiosity. Then I became interested in the world of programming because I wanted to play with the maps. Paper maps were half dead and he could do many things with them in addition to looking at where they began and ended the streets; but the computer that my father had bought allowed me to show a map on the screen and more later learned to program to be able to draw as many maps as you wanted. He drew little dots on the map and knew to give life to those points, to allow that they are such within the limits of the streets. But the points didn’t make sense, were not the faithful representation of anything. Something not real”

In those years Internet was starting to become a reality in the United States, although very few institutions and households had access to the network. However, what do the parents of Jack had was a scanner of frequencies used by police and other public services that allowed him to know at all times a series of data that would have a significant impact on projects that Dorsey would develop years later: where were cars or ambulances, what were doing and where they were heading. “If you think of an ambulance, a police car or a fire truck are always broadcasting where they are, what they do and where they go”, said Jack. These data provide you key information that allowed those points that had programmed his computer had its own life and sense. Had, finally and ultimately a representation almost in real time of what was happening on the streets of St. Louis.

During the years of Institute Jack had become a programmer advanced age who had, focusing on developing small programs for messaging and transport services. “It was selfish,” he said at the time when asked if already in those years it had shared one of these programs with someone. Everything was left in your room and home computers.

Jim McKelvey, owner of a small software company in the St Louis area, went one day for coffee in the small business that the parents of Jack ran. In a conversation with Marcia mentioned that I was desperate trying to find programmers in the area, to which she replied with a simple reply that perhaps changed the future of your child forever: “My son loves computers”. McKelvey gave the opportunity to a child who by then had 15 years to become one of the main programmers of your company, but as a scholar. Such was the importance of Jack inside the company that some new employees came to work with the title of “Assistant to the fellow” at the end of summer. But Jack was still obsessed with maps and programs that he himself had created and discovered that there was a whole industry behind these services in major cities in the United States.

First failure as an entrepreneur

With 18 years he started his first year at the University of Missouri-Rolla, focusing on engineering, mathematics, English, and computer studies. In his second year, he discovered that the largest company in the world in the creation and development of messaging systems was in New York and was called “DMS”: our site. Diving into the web page of the company found its CEO, Greg Kidd, email and He wrote a simple email He said: “you have a security hole on your page. You can fix this as well. Oh, by the way, I know program such systems”

After checking it with their parents and a single conversation with Kidd, Jack decided to move to New York to work on DMS and continue at the same time pursuing his studies at NYU. In 1999-2000 (in the middle of the ‘ dot-com bubble’) and after establishing an important friendly relationship with Kidd, decided to move the company to San Francisco once Jack insist again and again that the future of such services was on the network and on the Internet; few months later born dNet. The company soon fail. Jack, who had not completed their university studies, would later acknowledge that they had not taken the right decisions as to the CEO of the company (“paid close attention to the dot-com crisis”) and in other areas, which led to “dNet”: our site failure and the expulsion of Jack and Kidd of the company , something that would experience years later in “Twitter”: https://twitter.com/. Greg Kidd would end months later buying the company, again, to investors.

A service like Twitter didn’t make sense in 2000. It was too soon.

Still in the Bay Area Jack was thinking in those programs that it had designed and that they conform to what messaging operators used and needed. It was in 2000 when he realized that what they had thought was missing a key element: the people. Knew St Louis or New York very well through maps and systems they had designed, but people, missing what really gives meaning to the urban life. Wanting to transfer the concept to something real so that it was used by him and his friends, Jack wrote a script in just 12 hours to pick up a BlackBerry email and sent it to a list of numbers which he himself had created. With its small inception in Pocket, she walked to the Bison Paddock in Golden Gate Park and wrote that some could be considered as the first version of a tweet. He said: “I’m at the Bison Paddock watching the bison”. But the response to the message was non-existent by his friends and Jack realized then that in the year 2000 this type of project had no place. It was too soon.

Years later Jack would admit in interviews that one of the main obstacles to an entrepreneur faces is the Act of starting it. “The most important thing I’ve learned over the years is that as soon as you have an idea you have to pull it out of your head immediately, draw it or write it and teach it to someone. Perhaps also program it to know the interactions that may arise”, he said. “This can cause two reactions: a ‘wow’ or a ‘meh’.” Then you decide if you want to focus in that idea or if it is better to leave it on the shelf, save it for another time”. That was just what Jack did with that primitive version of Twitter that his friends had not understood. It was not the right time to carry it out so it aparcaría it a few years, in particular until February 2006.

Odeo and Twitter, the final assault

The first offices of Odeo, in 2005

With nothing to do in San Francisco, he decided to return to St. Louis to attend some classes at the Missouri Botanical Garden botanical illustration, drawing and illustration was one of his hobbies since childhood. Wrist pain led him to attend the consultation of a massage therapist, where began to be interested in all that was behind this practice, and then decided to pursue a few small studies pprara to obtain the license. In 2006, back in San Francisco and then with piercings in both ears and dreadlocks, he realized that there were too many masseuses in the area, so it was not something that could dedicate himself exclusively. It was then that he wrote the first CV of his career under the simple name of ‘Jack’ and sent him to Odeo, an incubator of ideas of San Francisco that Evan Williams, founder of Blogger had created. Jack wanted to work on a project aimed at consumers and believed that it was the right time to do so.

“Odeo”: our site was working on a directory of podcasts to take advantage of the flip products such as the iPod from Apple had then. Curiously years later Jack would admit that the podcasting market Neer for nothing, that what really liked Odeo were people working in the company, including “Biz Stone”: our site and “Noah Glass”: our site. After a few months in the company, Jack would realize from was not the only one not loved that podcasts but everyone positively valued the work environment. Shortly after joining Odeo Apple announced its own directory of podcasts within iTunes, loading the stroke of a pen the project where Ev, Biz, Jack and company had been months working. The company at that time had won $5 million in funding, money that later Ev would return to investors to maintain total control of the company.

At the time Jack was interested in the world of drawing. So much so that shortly start at Odeo it pointed to some kinds of design and sewing of clothes in the Apparel Arts San Francisco. “I was still doing things Manger with fashion. I had gone to 10 classes where we produced from drawings to the own garment, skirts. I wanted to make jeans, but you have to start with skirts because they are easy. After Twitter began to grow and now I never arrived at pants”came to say.

In February 2006 Ev gathered all those who worked on Odeo and asked that they were going to their houses and think on ideas that could be of interest for the company in the future. At that time SMS started to have more and more importance in the United States, as well as that in 2006 were allowed for the first time the sent messages between different operators in the country. Technology and the limit of characters loved to Jack, and he thought if something similar could be applied to that idea that didn’t make sense in the year 2000. It was then when, while talking to a couple of colleagues in the courtyard near the building where was Odeo, he suggested the following: “And if we do this simple application that allows you to be anywhere, use SMS and send them to a group of people in real time?”. Seeing that their colleagues were interested in the idea Jack built a prototype in few hours and taught it to Ev and Noah, they didn’t show much interest. By then the system created by Jack had no name.

“Inviting co-workers” and “just setting up my twttr”. The first tweets from history.

A week later, during a meeting with the other colleagues, Jack mentioned the idea again. EV and Noah agreed to think during one week week in the idea and the following meeting reached an agreement to focus exclusively on it, giving Jack and the rest of workers two weeks to build a more robust and functional system. Jack then left the room and persuaded Biz Stone to you ordered the part of design and Florien so help with the programming of the prototype. For 10 days he published the first tweet written by a human, which simply said “inviting co-workers” and that sent 17 people who worked with him then. “Twitter was walking”: our site. A few days later Jack would send “a new tweet”: our site, this time for all the users of the service, saying: “just setting up my twttr”. On July 15, 2006 the service opened to everyone.

‘Tweets’ and ‘followers’

Then on Odeo they were considering several names to what they had created. Jack said in recent interviews that the two first names that they thought were twitch and jitter, since they were looking for names that represent or evocasen a physical sensation. “When you get an sms or call, your phone twitches”. But the name did not convince them. So was Noah Glass took the Oxford Dictionary and in the word twitch, began to descend until you find one that we now all know, twitter. The definition was perfect: “a short burst of information, plots from birds inconsequential.” The service was already created at that time to be used from mobile phones and SMS. Then in the United States were very much in use short codes, of 5 characters, which facilitated sending SMS without having to dial a certain number. They thought about removing vowels from twitter, twttr, but discovered that the little word was already being used by another service in the United States. Twitter was the final name after paying $7,000 dollars for the domain.

By then Jack Dorsey had been appointed CEO of the company by Ev Williams, at age 29. Years later the own Jack remembered that then “you had removed the nose piercing, after our first round of funding”; $5 million they received from Union Square Ventures. The first time investors, users and founders saw how useful Twitter could result was during the frequent earthquakes of suffers from San Francisco, becoming a perfect medium to convey such facts or news.

Another key decision that should take Jack Dorsey and company referred to the concept of fans or followers. Other services such as Facebook had opted for a model based on the idea of mutual friends: a user could only observe the profile of another if this allowed it. On Twitter, they believed that a model so not conformed to what they were looking for, so it opted for a system of followers. Asked for the reason why opted for this term Jack said months ago that “they chose ‘a supporter’ because they wanted it to be something concerning a physical manifestation. If you think of Twitter as a tarpaulin blank, you write these messages at the tarpaulin, and people can come and watch during the time you want to what you write. And when not interested more simply can be. It is a very simple concept”

In the following two years Twitter did not grow. They began using the ‘early adopters’ were gradually be adding to it more and more people around the world – in 2008 were published 100 million tweets per semester and celebrities began to use a service that today is considered basic in the industry of online marketing and communication.

Dorsey, expelled from their own home

But things took a unexpected turn on 28 March 2008, when Jack Dorsey Twitter CEO Ev Williams replaced and this split, in part, of the company. Already it wouldn’t work every day for the company, although he would remain Chairman of the Board of Directors. Looking back Jack remembered that “suddenly I became the head of all my colleagues, in a damaged culture, with the low morale”. However Ev Williams believed that “the company grew much faster than we all expected. A year and a half after I started had managed $20 billion in financing and the servers did not let to fail (the famous fail whales). “Wasn’t that the boat was sinking, if not a way of saying to Jack ‘good job’ but we have to think of building a still larger organization”.

October 16, 2008: Jack Dorsey is fired as CEO of Twitter

Much has been written about those “dark years of Twitter”: hour site, where the movements and internal changes were constant. Some blamed Jack for what happened – by its limited capacity of leadership or his limitations apparent when it comes to growing a large company – while others focus on Ev or Biz, but the truth is that reality only the actors themselves know it. Jack that came to recognize more afternoon that had hurt him much, that it was like “If you get a punch in the stomach”. “Fred Wilson”: our site, Union Square Ventures and until recently the members of the Board of Directors of Twitter, “he remembered”: our site “Ev and Jack are a bit like John and Paul. They made good music together for a time, but later the two became ambitious and were not well”.

Internal changes in Twitter did not stop when Jack fails to play an active role within the company. In October 2010 Dick Costolo replaced Williams as CEO, and a few months later, in March 2011 Jack returned home as executive chairman and to focus on product development.

The rest is more or less history. A story filled with successes and controversies. With already 500 million active users and a very important role today in many countries of the world. A history and a Jack Dorsey who lived one of its most negative stages in the company with the purchase of Instagram from Facebook; the own Dorsey was one of the first investors in Instagram and tried to buy the mobile app at the same time as Mark Zuckerberg because he believed that you fit perfectly with the philosophy and operation of Twitter. However, “wasn’t able to”: our site. Zuckerberg and Facebook took away you that could have been the jewel in the Crown and in the following months Twitter seemed to lose a little North copying features such as filters for photos, giving symptoms of weakness and lack of innovation.

But with the short term secured, where is headed Twitter in the next few months or years? in “a recent interview with Kevin Rose”:our site, Dorsey claimed that the future of the service is to “build more relevant search filters for each user in real-time”, in such a way that any user can quickly see what interests you: immediate and useful information. These words were pronounced in December 2010 and few months later Twitter announced the “Discover”tab: our site, showing the future of the company.

Many lend hands to head right now thinking that the natural direction of Twitter should not be that which goes against the principles of the community, but Jack is convinced that the future of Twitter and similar web services is to show relevant information in real time. “Twitter was never a micro blogging service. The most amazing Twitter is that you can ask 100 different people what Twitter and probably receive 100 different, or even 1,000 responses. And nothing happens, it’s OK, because the world is different for each person. It’s like having the world in your Pocket”

The democratization of payments: Square

If one reads or watches interviews with Jack Dorsey will realize that there is a sentence that repeats over and over again when talking about ideas or projects that has evolved with the passage of time: exploit the opportunities. “One of the most important things you learn as an entrepreneur is not depend on luck, if not learn to recognize opportunities when they arise”, says. Twitter was one of those opportunities in 2006 with the rise of SMS, and in 2008, in the midst of a severe global financial crisis, he realized that they were given another opportunity. “Any depression or recession is a great time to innovate, start a project, create a company, do anything”.

So it was that in 2008 Jim McKelvey, who had been the first head of Jack when he was 15 years old, got in touch again with his pupil. “Jack, I want to talk to you, I want to build a company that is dedicated to assemble electric cars,” said McKelvey. The automotive industry, such as the financial, not through their best moments and Jack liked the idea: “do not give these large manufacturers of automobiles to successful entrepreneurs why?, why not give Ford Steve Jobs, GM to Larry Ellison?”, recalls Jack.

A few days later and after numerous conversations they realized that was not the right time to enter the world of automobiles. However the two knew that they wanted to work with each other and talked for months every week. Jack was interested more and more in the world of finance and medicine. In one of those calls weekly McKelvey, who was also devoted to sell pieces of glass that he himself built, told him that he had lost a sale of $2,000 per power not charge directly to the person who was interested in the part. “Why Jim not could accept a payment if someone was interested in the product that it sold?, why?”, asks Jack in the above interview with Charlie Rose. At that time the two realized that his hands were not a phone, if not a personal computer with sufficient capacity to carry out such transactions.

They focused on finding a solution with the tools at the disposal, although they would need some device (hardware) to read any credit or debit card and thus be able to complete a sale. Jack would write code for servers that accept transactions while Jim would be responsible for everything related to hardware, also hiring a programmer so that you develop an app for the iPhone. Little took to have a prototype that would work, including some card readers made of wood which McKelvey had been able to design.

But before teaching him what had created potential investors had to find a name for the new project. The first that occurred to them was shell (seashell), for being one of the first to be currency for thousands of years, but they finally opted for squirrel (squirrel). It is a brand already registered had to opt for another similar word, “Square”:https://squareup.com/.

With the passing of the months Square has become one of the leading companies in mobile payments around the world that “has been cloned for multiple startups in Europe and North America”: http://www.xataka.com/xataka/la-revolucion-con-el-pago-movil-esta-sucediendo-al-cobrar. Available currently in the United States, Canada and Japan, Square is formed by a number of characteristics that make up a unique offering of mobile payments:

  • Charges mobile using the reader
  • “Square Wallet”: our site, which allows any user to pay in certain shops (Starbucks included) without using money or take out the Mobile Pocket
  • Square Register
  • Square Stand
  • Square Market

With 10,000 million processed, more than 200 employees and 341 million dollars of venture capital funds Square trying to revolutionize the world of mobile payments and the relationship between consumers and local businesses. “Importantly a transaction often is not the exchange of money, is the relationship between customers and entrepreneurs. Between the person ordering coffee and serving it. There is where we believe that it is the future and we are walking in that direction.” Hearing those words from anyone else might seem crazy or an enormous dare.

However if something shows the entrepreneurial career of Jack Dorsey is that several of its concerns have been given fruit, not without problems, sooner or later. Twitter, the company he founded in the bowels of Odeo is billed $ 582 million this year (according to “eMarketer estimates”: our site and many speak of possible exit to bag in 2014. “I like to think that I am a person who makes complex tasks simple, which reduces the level of complexity of things. With Twitter I think we succeeded and our challenge is to do it now with Square”. The new Dorsey race career has already begun.