Jack Dorsey Bio
When it comes to the biggest minds and performers in the technical and social media sectors over the last twenty to thirty years, there are a few companies that comes to mind. They include Amazon, Google and Facebook, just to name a few. There are some big names behind each of those firms … names like Zuckerberg and Bezos. However, there is another company and associated name that people should come to know very well and that is Jack Dorsey, the man behind the emergence and current dominance of Twitter. Dorsey is a billionaire who came from much more meager roots in St. Louis, Missouri. He proved his prodigy status very early on and has not stopped since then. In terms of his overall innovations and body of work, he is right up there with Elon Musk in some ways. While Dorsey may not get all of the headlines like Zuckerberg and Musk do, Dorsey’s contributions to the technical and social media spheres are nothing short of phenomenal.
Dorsey was born November 19th, 1976 in Saint Louis, Missouri. He became interested in the computing field as well as communications when he was very young. Indeed, he began programming when he was still being educated at Bishop DeBourg High School. As a fifteen-year-old, he wrote a piece of software that is still used by some taxi cab companies to this very day. Dorsey went to college but he did much the same thing that was previously done by information technology magnates like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs … he dropped out. He started out by going to college at Missouri University of Science and Technology and also did a brief stint at New York University. However, neither lasted. In 2000, Dorsey moved to Oakland, California and started a company that offered the aforementioned taxi dispatch software. The concept of that software was to manage dispatching using instant messaging rather than over the air radio alone and other common methods. He pitched the application to a company called Odeo. The executive of that company, a man named Biz Stone, decided to start a new company called Obvious (Biography, 2016).
The company Odeo become obsolete and Obvious eventually morphed into what is now Twitter. The company and its operations led to the invention of what is now called a “tweet,” a message that is no more than one hundred and forty characters. The very first tweet came less than ten years ago on March 21st, 2006. Dorsey himself was the source of that tweet and the message was “just setting up my twttr.” The company was named after the company’s chief executive officer. Dorsey reinvented himself from a personal standpoint around that time. He had a nose ring and a mop-like haircut in the mid-2000’s and he eschewed both at that point. Not long after the company’s emergence in 2006, Dorsey stepped down as the CEO but remained as the company chairman. The CEO spots was filled by Evan Williams (Biography, 2016).
The onset and emergence of the company was initially hailed by many as a fad and as something that allowed and encouraged people to be superficial and fake. Even late night comedians got in on the criticism with one host, that being Conan O’Brien, doing a bit called the “Twitter tracker” that openly mocked and assailed users of the service and the service itself. In the earlier days of the service, outages were quite common and its reputation suffered a bit as a result. However, as celebrities and other chief executives started to get in on the Twitter action and the punchlines used about Twitter started to fade quite a bit. Indeed, Twitter was heavily used during the 2008 Presidential election and both Barack Obama and John McCain got in on the action (Biography, 2016).
Something that really brought Twitter into its own was the use of Twitter during the 2009 elections in Iran. Thousands and thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets, both online and virtual, to assail the “claimed” victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The government reaction to the chatter was swift as there was a block on text messaging and satellite feeds of foreign news coverage. It got to the point that the United States State Department told Twitter to at least delay its scheduled maintenance so that Twitter users in Iran could continue to talk and converse using its service during the “crucial” events that were going on. Twitter was all too happy to comply with the request as they agreed that the people should have whatever voice could be offered to it (Biography, 2016).
A mere punchline a few years ago, Twitter had more than 105 million users as of 2010 and those users tweeted about 55 million tweets a day. Given the success, Dorsey had moved onto looking at other projects. One company he got involved in was called Foursquare. Like Twitter and Facebook, it was also a social media company. There was another venture called Square that was basically a competitor to companies like PayPal, the brainchild of the prior-mentioned Elon Musk. The idea behind Square involved a tiny device that could plug into a computer or mobile phone and thus allowed people to accept credit cards on the fly (Biography, 2016).
Dorsey became extremely rich when Twitter did its initial public offering (IPO) in November 2013. Of course, Dorsey was the owner of a lot of the shares that were offered. The initial sale price of the shares was $26 per share. However, the number nearly doubled to $45 per share and this made Dorsey a billionaire given the 23.4 million shares that he owned at the time. Discussions started at that point to do much the same thing with Square. In 2015, Dorsey returned in terms of position and efforts to Twitter. He started back with the company as the interim CEO and then the interim title was eventually dropped. However, there was a bit of a turn in that he cut nearly a tenth of the workforce in one fail swoop. The reasons cited for the cuts were to increase efficiencies throughout the company and to refocus on the money-making parts of the company at the same time. This is what he stated in press releases as well as in the filings sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission (Biography, 2016).
As for some other details that might be good or interesting to know about Dorsey, he had a speech impediment as a child and this led to his idea for Twitter. His speech impediment as a child in Saint Louis was embarrassing for him as a child and it led to him staying home a lot of the time. While home, he poured his efforts into technology and his computer work. One of his main hobbies beyond that was to listen to police scanners. He would fixate on the fact that police officers and dispatchers would use short bursts and blips of information rather than prolonged broadcasts. As the Chief Executive Officer of Twitter, he eventually translated that mindset into “disciplined execution” and an overall simplification of the Twitter service. In addition to his interest and adventures in taxi service dispatch software, he also had great loves for punk rock and he worked for a time as a massage therapist. He even engaged in a bit of hacking. In 1998, he became a bit of a “white hat hacker” and hacked into the Dispatch Management Service computers’ software. He was eventually able to compromise the software author’s account. That man, Greg Kidd, received an email from his own account saying that he had a glaring security hole but that it could be fixed. That email was originated by Mr. Dorsey (Dwilson, 2015).
Even with his adventures in software and hacking, Dorsey kept his other interests alive. He would relish his love of punk rock by doing to concerts and he would also run a fantasy football league. Rather than being just a conventional fantasy manager, he would keep a robust database of the players and he even inputted the statistics using the local newspaper as his source. As noted before, he did become a massage therapist and was even licensed to do so. He worked in that field during his mid-20’s. Like many high-end executives and stalwarts in the business field, he is on the board or is otherwise involved with several other companies. One of those companies is Disney as he is on their board of directors (Dwilson, 2015).
To flesh out some details mentioned earlier, Twitter did not teach prominence without some blowback and setbacks. Indeed, while the late night comedians and tech sector would pile on, even many in the tech sector itself suggested or belted out that such an idea would never work. For example, it took $7,000 for Dorsey and the prior-mentioned Biz Stone to even buy the domain. Beyond that, noted blog and review site TechCrunch looked at the service and called it a “group send SMS application.” They also asserted that it would “NEVER catch on.” Of course, they ended up being incorrect and then some (Dwilson, 2015).
Things went well enough with Biz Stone and Evan Williams between 2006 and 2008 but then the proverbial fur began to fly. Dorsey left in 2008 but it was not entirely on his own terms as Evan Williams basically forced him out of his position. Dorsey was incredulous at the board of directors and the co-founders, not to mention himself. New York Magazine asserted that he was forced out due to his quirkiness. He would leave every day no later than six in the evening so as to do yoga classes and to go to fashion school. From 2008 to 2011, Dorsey had no day-to-day involvement in the firm. This return to Twitter only happened after Evan Williams left in favor of a man by the name of Costolo. While he was gone from Twitter, he reinvented himself yet again and got some life coaching to help him learn from his mistakes. When he returned to the company, he was much more focused and had learned from his mistakes in his estimation.
Even with his temporary departure from the company, he made every effort to be wholly invested when he came back. There are apparently some changes in the work with the Twitter service which include a potential “long form” mode that allows for posts that are more than 140 characters long, which is still the norm for Twitter. However, the company started to sputter and its stock price sagged. This led to many executives taking their leave for one reason or another but Dorsey remained behind. One major concern regarding Twitter and Dorsey was a purported and alleged lack of vision for the future. Even as Twitter is stumbling a bit, he continues to also be the Chief Executive Officer of the aforementioned Square and the other upper management at Twitter has stated that they are fine with his dual CEO roles. Further, Square was seeking an IPO of its own fairly recently (Dwilson, 2015).
Dorsey has made an active and conscious decision to remain unmarried and he considers his companies to be his “children.” Even so, he has maintained an on and off relationship with a woman by the name of Kate Greer through at least 2014. He also used to be associated with a British model by the name of Lily Cole. He has never married her (or anyone else) and has no children at all. He states that he is currently under no inclination to choose running just Twitter or just Square because that would be tantamount to choosing one real child over another and he would never do that. His children are doing him well as he is currently a billionaire and he has been since 2012. He reveres his prior work with Twitter and Square in many ways. For example, he had a diagram and summary of the Twitter GUI and system on a piece of notebook paper and that notebook page survives to this very day (Dwilson, 2015).
It remains to be seen what depth and breadth the social media sphere will go to as the years come along. However, it is clear that Facebook and Twitter are the top of the stack when it comes to performance and outcomes thus far. Much like Elon Musk (PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon, IMDb) it would seem likely that Dorsey will continue to branch out and come up with more ideas and companies to baby and foster. Such would be keeping with his pattern thus far.
Biography. (2016). Jack Dorsey Biography. Biography.com. Retrieved 22 February 2016, from http://www.biography.com/people/jack-dorsey-578280
Dwilson, S. (2015). Jack Dorsey: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know. Heavy.com. Retrieved 22 February 2016, from http://heavy.com/tech/2015/09/jack-dorsey-twitter-ceo-founder-interim-square-status-girlfriend-kate-greer-wife-children-biz-stone-net-worth/
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