The Real History of Twitter: From Odeo to a $5 Billion Giant

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Sep 15, 2023

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The Real History of Twitter: From Odeo to a $5 Billion Giant

In the world of social media, Twitter stands out as a platform that has revolutionized the way we communicate and share information. But how did this microblogging giant come to be? The story of Twitter traces back to a little-known company called Odeo, and the vision of its co-founder, Noah Glass.

Odeo was a platform for podcasting, which had gained some traction by July 2005. However, the company faced a problem - they had built a product, but they never used it themselves. This lack of emotional investment would prove to be a turning point for Odeo and the birth of Twitter.

To foster creativity and innovation, Odeo started holding "hackathons" where employees would spend a whole day working on projects. It was during one of these sessions in February 2006 that Jack Dorsey, along with Noah Glass and Florian Weber, presented an idea that would change the course of Odeo forever.

Their idea was simple yet revolutionary - a system where you could send a text to one number and have it broadcasted out to all of your friends. They called it Twttr. At first, Evan Williams, the co-founder of Odeo, was skeptical of Twitter's potential. However, he saw the passion and potential in Glass and put him in charge of the project. It was truly Glass' team, not Dorsey's.

In August of that year, an earthquake shook San Francisco, and word quickly spread through Twitter. This event became an "ah-ha!" moment for users and company-watchers alike. By the fall, Twitter had thousands of users and was gaining momentum.

However, the journey to success was not without its challenges. Evan Williams, who had previously co-founded Blogger, faced criticism for his handling of Odeo's investors. Some felt that he did not take care of the people who had supported him along the way. Williams, on the other hand, believed that successful businesspeople inevitably make enemies along their path to success.

Months after buying back Odeo from its investors, Williams offered a select few of them a chance to buy into Twitter at a $25 million valuation. This move showed his belief in the potential of the platform. However, it also led to a controversial decision - the firing of Noah Glass, Odeo's founder and Twitter's biggest champion.

The reasons for Glass's dismissal remain a subject of debate. Some claim that it was due to clashing personalities between him and Williams. Glass was described as loud, while Williams was known for his quiet demeanor. Co-founder conflicts are often cited as one of the top reasons for startup failures. It is difficult to ascertain whether this decision was right or wrong, but it certainly had a significant impact on the future of Twitter.

Glass's interest in running Twitter may have played a role in his dismissal as well. He had wanted to split the product off as its own company and become its CEO, even before Williams or Biz Stone fully believed in Twitter's potential. This difference in vision and ambition could have contributed to the tense situation.

As George Orwell famously said, "History is written by the winners." In the case of Twitter, the narrative has often focused on the contributions of Dorsey and Williams. However, it is essential to recognize that Twitter's success was a result of a group effort. Glass, Dorsey, and Williams all played vital roles in shaping the platform.

Looking back, the story of Twitter teaches us valuable lessons about the importance of emotional investment in a startup. Odeo's lack of emotional connection to their product hindered its success, while Twitter thrived due to the passion and dedication of its early team members.

With that in mind, here are three actionable pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:

  • 1. Be emotionally invested in your product or idea. It's not enough to have a good concept or raise venture capital. To truly succeed, you need to be personally connected to what you're building.
  • 2. Foster a culture of innovation and creativity within your company. Hackathons and similar initiatives can spark new ideas and help turn them into reality. Encourage your employees to think outside the box and give them the freedom to explore new possibilities.
  • 3. Handle conflicts and disagreements with care. Co-founder conflicts can have a detrimental impact on a startup. It's crucial to address these issues early on and find resolutions that align with the company's vision and goals.

In conclusion, the real history of Twitter is a story of passion, innovation, and the power of a collective effort. From its humble beginnings at Odeo to becoming a $5 billion giant, Twitter has reshaped the way we connect and share information. By understanding the lessons from its journey, we can glean valuable insights for our own entrepreneurial endeavors.

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