Twitter Creator Nearly Joined Facebook In 2008, Reveals New Book


Twitter launched to the world in July 2006, and according to a new book, its creator Jack Dorsey almost joined Facebook during a time of incredible growth.

Nick Bilton, author of Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal, shared the story today on The New York Times.

In 2007, interest in social networks from venture capitalists was growing. Myspace was still in its prime, and Facebook was catching on.

Evan Williams, a Twitter Co-Founder, had managed to help raise $5 million, but noticed a problem: Dorsey, then CEO, was inexperienced in such a role.

His [Jack’s] hacker personality had helped him thrive as an engineer, but it undermined him as he tried to lead programmers who had been his peers at Odeo. Often, Dorsey’s inexperience showed. During a meeting with Bradley Horowitz, an executive at Yahoo, about a possible acquisition of the site, Dorsey sat silently until the end. Then he gave an unimpressive explanation of his vision for Twitter. Yahoo made a lowball offer and said that it was building a better competitor.

It seems that Dorsey was more of the creative type, and at the time, major downtime issues were not being properly addressed.

Dorsey often tried to act as if he were in control, posturing that his actions were all part of a bigger plan, but employees saw him frequently pacing in frustration around South Park. He also habitually left around 6 p.m. for drawing classes, hot yoga sessions and a course at a local fashion school. (He wanted to learn to make an A-line skirt and, eventually, jeans.) His social life, once virtually nonexistent, was becoming a distraction as venture capitalists wooed him at San Francisco Giants baseball games and parties throughout the city.

Eventually, Williams felt he had to address the problem head on.

One summer afternoon, Williams asked Dorsey to meet him in the upper-floor conference room that the Twitter gang referred to as Odeo Heights. They opened the door to the small room, pulled back the chairs across from each other and sat, hands clasped as they had dozens of times before. “You can either be a dressmaker or the C.E.O. of Twitter,” Williams said to Dorsey. “But you can’t be both.”

Dorsey was clearly not pleased with the conversation, and they grew distant over the coming months.

Causing confusion, investors would receive separate calls from both Williams and Dorsey, and some were concerned over decisions Dorsey had made.

He pushed people to use Twitter over text message, which produced a monthly bill for the company approaching six figures. Dorsey had also been managing expenses on his laptop and doing the math incorrectly. Beyond that, it became clear that there was no backup of some key components. If the site went down, significant data could be lost. Williams and Dorsey started meeting for weekly dinners to discuss the problems, but one night Dorsey became defensive. “Do you want to be C.E.O.?” he said abruptly. Williams tried to evade the question, but eventually replied: “Yes, I want to be C.E.O. I have experience running a company, and that’s what Twitter needs right now.”

As Dorsey thought about taking his talent elsewhere, the Twitter Board gave him three months to fix serious issues plaguing the social network.

However, his position as CEO was quickly coming to an end.

Before the three months were up, Dorsey recalled, Sabet and Wilson took him to a breakfast at the Clift hotel and told him that they were replacing him as C.E.O. with Williams. Dorsey sat before a bowl of uneaten yogurt and granola as he was offered stock, a $200,000 severance and a face-saving role as the company’s “silent” chairman. No one in the industry had to know that he was fired.

With no voting rights, Dorsey had little say, and would either have to accept or go elsewhere.

A day later, he gave Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg a call.

To Dorsey’s surprise, Zuckerberg asked if there was a way to prevent the firing, perhaps in order to save the deal. Dorsey assured him that there wasn’t, and Zuckerberg switched his plan from trying to buy Twitter to trying to hire Dorsey. So Dorsey met with Chris Cox, who ran Facebook’s product division, at a Philz Coffee in San Francisco. The discussions soon became more serious. But they didn’t have a specific role in mind. Zuckerberg wanted Dorsey to simply join Facebook in an unspecified capacity, and they would worry about a position later.

Dorsey strongly considered Facebook’s offer, but was concerned over the lack of a clear job title.

Eventually, ego put aside, Dorsey decided to remain with Twitter and as they say, the rest is history.

Mike Stenger

Lover of technology, Mike often makes jokes that nobody laughs at.


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