The following is an interview with Evan Williams, the founder of Twitter, as published in the New York Times. Read it carefully and see if you notice anything interesting.
By EVAN WILLIAMS
Published: March 7, 2009
I GREW up on a farm in Nebraska, where we grew mostly corn and soybeans. During the summers I was responsible for making sure the crops were irrigated.
After high school, I enrolled at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, but I stayed only a year and a half. I felt college was a waste of time; I wanted to start working. I moved to Florida, where I did some freelance copywriting. After that I moved to Texas and stayed with my older sister while I figured out what to do next. In 1994, I returned to Nebraska and started my first company with my dad.
We didn’t know anything about the Internet, but I thought it was going to be a big deal. We produced CD-ROMs and a video on how to use the Internet, and we did some Web hosting. I recruited some friends and we tossed around some ideas, but none of us knew how to write software and we didn’t have much money. We watched what entrepreneurs in California were doing and tried to play along.
We figured out how to create Web sites, but I didn’t want to work on other people’s projects. I had no business running a company at that time because I hadn’t worked at a real company. I didn’t know how to deal with people, I lacked focus, and I had no discipline. I’d start new projects without finishing old ones, and I didn’t keep track of money. I lost a lot of it, including what my father had invested, and I ended up owing the I.R.S. because I hadn’t paid payroll taxes. I made a lot of employees mad.
In 1997, I moved to California and worked at what is now O’Reilly Media. By 1998, I had acquired enough technical skills to do freelance Web development. In 1999, I started Pyra Labs with a friend, Meg Hourihan, to develop project management programs. Then we started a side project called Blogger, a Web publishing tool. In 2003, we sold that company to Google. I worked for Google for two years.
Several years ago I started Odeo, a podcasting company, with Noah Glass, another friend. I ran that company for 18 months. We started Twitter as a side project within Odeo during that time.
I didn’t like the direction Odeo was going. For one thing, Apple made a lot of what we worked on obsolete when it introduced podcasts into iTunes. I bought Odeo back from the investors and moved the assets to another company of mine, Obvious, a Web product development lab now on hiatus. In 2007, I sold Odeo and spun off Twitter into a separate company.
I appointed Jack Dorsey, who was engineer at Odeo, as C.E.O. of Twitter. In October 2008 it became apparent that Twitter required a day-to-day approach from a single leader. I took over as C.E.O., and Jack became chairman and assumed a more strategic position. He had worked in the courier and dispatch field, which is where he got the idea for Twitter — a social network for sending short messages to friends over cellphones and the Internet.
When people ask me when Twitter will make money, I tell them, “In due time.” They forget that we’re only 30 employees who have just gotten started. Right now, anything we would do to make money would take our time away from acquiring more users. We have patient investors.
My life has been a series of well-orchestrated accidents; I’ve always suffered from hallucinogenic optimism. I was broke for more than 10 years. I remember staying up all night one night at my first company and looking in couch cushions the next morning for some change to buy coffee. I’ve been able to pay my father back, which is nice, and my mother doesn’t worry about me as much since I got married a year and a half ago.
My wife, Sara, a designer, keeps me balanced. We’re building a modern house that we hope will be done by 2010. The design is a challenge — that’s why she’s in charge.
As told to Patricia R. Olsen.
Did you notice? How many sentences in the entire article were longer than 140 characters? If you don’t think this was intentional, read any other article in the Times and perform the same count. (Copy and paste each sentence into Twitter for easy counting.)
Evan Williams is living the Twitter story everyday, even in a NYT interview.
Are you living your story?