Hatching Twitter | Nick Bilton

Summary of: Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal
By: Nick Bilton


In ‘Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal,’ Nick Bilton takes us on a journey into the story behind one of the world’s most popular social media platforms. The book uncovers the fascinating tale of Twitter’s humble beginnings with college dropout Evan Williams, its tumultuous development, and the power struggles and betrayals that took place among the founding members and its leadership. Get ready to dive into a world of innovation, creativity, and chaos, as we explore the twisting paths that led to the creation of a platform that has shaped the way we communicate in today’s digital age.

How a Nebraska College Dropout Created Twitter

This book chapter explores the entrepreneurial journey of Ev Williams, a college dropout from Nebraska who co-founded the social media platform Twitter. Even from a young age, Ev showed great business acumen, trying out several entrepreneurial ideas. In California’s Bay Area, he co-founded Pyra, where he built a journal-like website to help track employees’ workflows. Ev launched Blogger in 1999 as a public service, which helped invent the idea of a blog and became extremely popular. Despite financial challenges, Blogger continued to grow, enabling Ev to improve his office space and hire programmers. In 2003, Google acquired Pyra and Blogger for millions of dollars, providing the funds for Twitter’s genesis.

The Chaotic Journey of Odeo

Ev’s funding for Noah’s startup idea, Odeo, was characterized by creativity and chaos, especially with Noah’s scattered working style and the hacktivists he hired. Jack and Biz join the team, but the mix of chaos and creativity soon led to Odeo’s office spiraling out of control. Soon, with Noah’s financial problems, Ev takes over as Odeo’s CEO.

Odeo’s Rise and Fall

Ev’s leadership coupled with Apple’s new product release led to Odeo’s failure, but a new networking idea emerged.

Odeo, a startup that aimed to allow users to record and share short audio clips via the internet, was run by Ev, who struggled to lead the company towards its launch. Despite securing $5 million of investments, investors and staff complained about Ev’s inability to manage paperwork and make significant decisions. Ev’s and Noah’s constant disagreements about Odeo’s direction strained their friendship. As a result, Rabble made a bold move and switched on the site during a showdown between Ev and Noah. Nevertheless, in 2006, Apple announced the addition of podcasting to its latest iPod, spelling doom for Odeo.

Following Apple’s announcement, Jack came up with an idea that Noah immediately grasped and could connect people. The idea came from LiveJournal, where users could post a short status message about their current activities. Jack’s idea was to create a status update feature using texts: users would send in updates and share them with their network. Ev doubted Noah’s leadership, leaving Biz and Jack to work on the text message status update idea without involving him.

In conclusion, Ev’s leadership issues, coupled with Apple’s new product release, led to Odeo’s failure. Nevertheless, from this failure, the text message status update idea emerged, which cured loneliness and connected people.

The Birth of Twitter

Despite struggles in his personal life, Noah becomes obsessed with developing the concept of a status idea, eventually coming up with the name Twitter. With the help of Jack, Ev, and Biz, they refine the application to include a stream of updates and time stamps for each tweet. However, Noah’s excitement leads to him drunkenly revealing the concept before it’s officially launched. This is considered the final straw, leading to Noah’s firing from the company he started. Nevertheless, Twitter launched in March 2006 and became the social media giant we know today.

Twitter’s Explosive Growth

Twitter began as an idea for sharing news during an earthquake but took off after gaining publicity at SXSW in 2007. Twitter’s popularity reached new heights with the concept of flocking, and the addition of the 140 character Tweet limit and usernames. A struggle for leadership arose between co-founders Jack and Ev, resulting in the formalization of the company’s ownership structure. The success of Twitter can be seen in its tremendous value, with one percent worth $320 million in 2013.

Twitter’s Journey to Success

In 2007, Yahoo offered to buy Twitter for $12 million, but the founders rejected it, expecting $100 million instead. As Twitter grew and gained popularity amongst celebrities, politicians, and news sites, scaling issues arose due to the initial architecture built during their two-week experiment at Odeo. The frequent crashes led to media reports about Twitter’s overwhelming popularity, attracting even more users. In 2008, Twitter raised $18 million, including a $4 million investment from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. However, CEO Jack Dorsey’s leadership and decision-making skills were questioned, leading to his dismissal by Twitter’s co-founder, Ev Williams, who took over as CEO. Dorsey was made a silent chairman on the board, which would later have significant consequences. Despite the challenges, Twitter’s journey to success teaches us that perseverance and adaptability are key factors in scaling a business.

Twitter’s Founder Controversy

Jack Dorsey’s dispute over Twitter’s invention leads to revenge and allies.

The book describes Jack Dorsey’s obsession with being recognized as the founder of Twitter, leading him to lie and manipulate people. After being ousted as CEO, he continued to claim credit for the platform’s creation and gain media attention by exaggerating his role in the decision-making. Even though he no longer had any real power within Twitter, he maintained his email address and a non-voting seat on the board to keep up appearances.

Dorsey’s story was so convincing that even the press referred to him as the Twitter founder during interviews. He used this fame to plot revenge against the company’s new CEO, Ev Williams, who had taken over his job. Dorsey found allies in people like Peter Fenton, who invested in Twitter based on his version of events, and engineering VP Mike Abbot, whom he encouraged to complain about Williams’ leadership.

However, Williams eventually confronted Dorsey and explained that Twitter was not the work of a single individual, but Dorsey’s lies had already gained momentum, making it too late to stop them. This controversy emphasizes the importance of transparency and honesty, even in cases where people are obsessed with being recognized for their contributions.

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