Jack Dorsey Was A Terrible CEO, Forced Out Another Co-Founder, And Other Revelations From Twitter’s Early Days


The New York Times has published an excerpt from Nick Bilton’s upcoming Twitter book, “Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship and Betrayal.” Surprise, surprise, Jack Dorsey ends up looking like a huge douchebag.

Dorsey has previously said that being forced out of Twitter “was like being punched in the stomach,” but as it turns out, there is a little-known co-founder who got punched twice as hard: Noah Glass.

Glass co-founded Odeo with Ev Williams, and would often ride bikes, go to concerts and drink — a lot — with Dorsey, who in 2005 was a 30-year-old college dropout with very few accomplishments but quite a few dreams.

One early morning in February 2006, Dorsey and Glass were wasted after a night of Red Bulls and vodkas, and Dorsey announced that he planned on quitting his role as Odeo engineer to become a fashion designer. After a bit of coaxing, Dorsey admitted that one tech idea that got him excited was a Web site that allowed people to update their status.

Glass was not impressed, but soon began to conceive the larger vision of creating an ongoing social conversation; after a few hours of brainstorming, the two had a pitch. The rest gets messy:

  • Noah Glass was really lonely, and is the originator of the name “Twitter:” When Dorsey pitched the idea, Glass was in the middle of a painful divorce, and envisioned the service as a way to avoid loneliness. He pored through a dictionary for hours looking for the right name, and landed upon Twitter after he thought of “twitch” when his phone vibrated.
  • Ev Williams is not exactly decisive: When deciding to devote his energies to Twitter, Williams e-mailed the Odeo executives and noted, “We could have a lot more discussion, and I may change my mind, but I think I just need to make a call at this point, and my gut is pulling me to Twitter.”
  • Dorsey and Williams both wanted Glass gone: Glass’ divorce was confounding his judgment, although when Glass told Dorsey he was being forced out, Dorsey drank late into the night with his old friend and placed the blame entirely on Williams.
  • Dorsey was a terrible CEO: In Twitter’s early days, during a potential acquisition meeting with Yahoo, Dorsey was blamed for giving a sullen, unimpressive explanation of his Twitter vision. Yahoo gave a low offer, then claimed it was building a better competitor. Dorsey would also routinely leave the office around 6 p.m. for “drawing classes, hot yoga sessions and a course at a local fashion school.”
  • Dorsey is terrible with finances: He would keep some company expenses on his computer, adding the numbers wrong, and insisted on an expensive text-message marketing campaign that cost hundreds of thousands dollars a month.
  • “The greatest product Jack Dorsey ever made was Jack Dorsey:” After being forced out of the CEO position and into a powerless “silent chairman” role, Dorsey proceeded to make up his own creation myth. He almost never mentions Noah Glass’ contribution when talking with journalists, and has told various media outlets that he founded Twitter because of his obsession with maps, that he had first conceived the idea when he was 8 years old, and that he had originally announced the Twitter concept on a playground in San Francisco.
  • Evan Williams was not shy about his nepotism: Despite advice from executive coaches and venture capitalists, he loaded up the company with family and friends: his sister was in charge of Twitter’s kitchens, his wife Sara designed the company’s offices, and he took in many old friends from Google, including current CEO Dick Costolo.
  • Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures talks bluntly: And can be kind of mean. After Dick Costolo replaced Ev Williams as Twitter CEO, Wilson told Williams that he thought Williams had been a terrible CEO, and that, “I never considered you a founder. Jack founded Twitter.”