I read Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton this week on the recommendation of a colleague and wow, what a great read!
The book is fast flowing and is a lot like a Harlen Coben novel. It seems like fiction, and considering how successful Twitter has become – I was left hoping it really was fiction (how could all of this be true??); but no, this is the behind the scenes true story about how Twitter started and the characters involved in its formation and rise to greatness.
It starts with Evan Williams selling Blogger to Google and then initially funding and then running Odeo (a podcasting platform) with Noah Glass. As Odeo received additional rounds of funding, they grew the engineering team and along the way picked up Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey. They all became close friends.
When Apple released podcasting into iTunes, it killed their business plan and their vision in more or less a single day. The investors decided to sell the company and the technology and while a suitable home was being found, Evan and Noah started to brainstorm new ideas to help save the company.
Twitter was born over a period of a few weeks (and a lot of booze) based on a status updating idea originally proposed by Jack Dorsey (a contentious issue in itself). The story follows the evolution from text, to internet, to revolutionary product.
But the facts around how Twitter is developed as a business and technically is really just the backdrop. The real story is in the relationship between the four co-founders of Twitter. And it is pretty shocking. Part greek tragedy, part Shakespearean play.
Noah chases Evan to help form Odeo. They hire Biz and Jack. They form Twitter. Jack persuades Evan to push out Noah. Twitter starts to change the world. Noah pushes out Jack. Fame and fortune follows, Jack plots his revenge. Evan hires Dick Costolo. Jack see’s his chance and is behind the Coup d’état and pushes out Evan. Then he pushes out Biz.
None of them come out well in this book. The investors including Fred Wilson are heartless and money-grabbing. The well-known Silicon Valley CEO coach Bill Campbell is two-faced and plays a significant part in the boardroom back-stabbing. Jack Dorsey is the story’s antagonist — narcissistic and a little bit evil. In fact, I think that the author goes too far with the portrayal of Jack Dorsey as it almost makes you question the bias – unless he really is the egotistic jerk he is portrayed to be.
The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the ending. It tries a tad too hard to turn this story into a parable and it felt out of sync with the rest of the book in my view.
Overall, I highly recommend that you read it – you won’t be disappointed. It really is a gripping and shocking story of betrayal. But perhaps most of all, I found it an inspiration. This is a story that clearly demonstrates that incompetence and immaturity is not an obstacle to success — providing that you have a great idea.
And so be inspired because if these guys can do it, you can too.