Jack Dorsey On Coming Up With the Idea for Twitter and Developing His New Startup

Just listened to a fireside chat with Jack Dorsey, Inventor, Founder & Chairman, Twitter. A few interesting insights:

Jack Dorsey Twitter Paris LeWeb December 2009

Q:How did you invent Twitter?

A: “It took a long time. I’ve always been fascinated with how cities work, fell in love with maps, obsessing with maps. I taught myself to program maps when I was a teenager and put dots on maps. I eventually got a rich picture of everything that was happening in a city (in this case, Manhattan). But the citizens ( (i.e. my friends) were missing from the map. The idea came out again later in 2006 when I was at Odeo. We created the first version of Twitter in 2 weeks.”

Q: Did you expect twitter to be this big?

A: “No. I knew the concept was big but velocity has been surprising. I’m also surprised at how the users are defining the product. Many features were defined by users: hashtags, retweets, mentions, replies, etc.”

Dorsey then talked about his new company: Square. He mentioned that three concepts emerged from Twitter: immediacy, accessibility, transparency. Starting with the iPhone, the application is called Square. You can take credit card payments without having a merchant credit card account. They built a piece of hardware called square. It’s a swiper that connects into the headphone jack and it transforms the information from the swiped credit card into sounds for the iPhone application. They’re going to give these away for free starting March 2010. Consumers can add their picture on the Square Web site so the merchant can verify your identity. You sign on the iPhone with your finger and you receive an e-mail/sms receipt. You can shake the phone to erase your signature. Jack Dorsey did a demo with Loic Le Meur’s credit card and charged him some money. Asked by Michael Arrington (Techcrunch) how much money he has collected from “demos”? Dorsey answered $650 so far. He added it’s been the best startup to demo and he’s managed to charge money to a few VCs he presented to (which made all entrepreneurs laugh!)

Square Demo LeWeb Paris December 2009

He left us with an inspiring thought: “the hardest thing about any idea is getting started”. Given the success Twitter has attained, I think all aspiring entrepreneurs should “get started”!

Update: Techcrunch has a post on this presentation as well.


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