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Founding Twitter- The Power of Chaos, Luck and Intuition

November 6, 2013

Image: A Party at ODEO  http://www.flickr.com/photos/rayreadyray/49887109/

Nick Bilton’s new book, Hatching Twitter has been brilliantly marketed to coincide with the company’s upcoming IPO and while I can’t claim to have finished reading it, because it only came out yesterday, I have consumed enough of the first few chapters to take out a few observations that might be of interest.

1. Twitter isn’t Your Normal Valley Start-Up

Twitter is a truly unique beast because it doesn’t conform to the Stanford model that most elite valley companies come out of. There’s a certain expected path that many start-up founders take and a MBA from Stanford seems mandatory. There’s something interesting about the company’s early beginnings, with its hackeractivist and anarchist engineering team and the fact, Twitter ended helping people get their voices heard in moments and places where they weren’t supposed to be.

2. Dropping Out of College Isn’t Bad

Bilton makes it clear that most of the founders were college dropouts, who fought, learned and worked their way by a combination of good fortune and perseverance to success.

3. Friendships Matter

It’s also a story of how random connections and friendships can make a key difference because they become the source of energy, inspiration and in Twitter’s case, funding. Obviously, later in the book, these friendships end up getting tested and destroyed!

4. Misfits in a Sinking Ship are Powerful

What’s so interesting about the story is the randomness that lies behind the success and the breakthrough idea. The early part of the story is about how a collection of characters, many of whom just simply wouldn’t want to get hired or wouldn’t get hired by another company, Dorsey included, managed to get something off the ground.

It was the culture of Odeo that made Twitter possible- a misfit company that none of the employees believed in, staffed by misfits who were forced by circumstance to reinvent themselves. Dorsey was recognized to be an amazingly hard worker, but just weeks before working on the initial development of Twitter, he didn’t even know what a text message was. However, he had enough intuition and understanding, as did the rest of the team, of the power of a tool that could communicate events and status on mass.

While everyone likes to strategize and plan and lots of young graduates do textbook consulting analysis to try and find the elusive “white space”, there’s something beautiful about the Twitter story that’s very human.

There’s something amazing about the potential of human beings to create, importantly, in Twitter’s case not as solo authors, but as a team, when there are an interesting set of ingredients; friendship, chaos/urgency, a real culture and some under-appreciated and under-recognized talent.

 

 

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