November 12, 2013

An interview with Jack Dorsey

In addition to being the creator of Twitter that recently became a public company, Jack Dorsey (born in 1976) is the co-founder of Square that allows you to accept card and other payment methods through your smartphone. The interview is from 2010. 

Lessons learned
  • He dropped out of high school only one semester before graduation from the New York University because he wanted to move to the Valley and start a company. This was during the height of the tech bubble and Jack Dorsey had in New York worked with dispatch routing. But he and the chairman and founder of the company he worked for decided to move to the Valley and create a new company within dispatch routing with a more Internet based focus. But the company failed when the bubble crashed.
  • He has been coding since age 14. He was obsessed with maps and he tried to combine maps with programming, so that's why he became interested in dispatch routing. 
  • Jack Dorsey was the one who came up with the idea behind Twitter. He came up with it while working with dispatch routing. Both fields are similar to each other - you follow an ambulance in the same way as you follow someone on Twitter. So in 2000, he wanted a software where he could be anywhere and update what's going on. The first software was based on e-mail, so Jack Dorsey could with a Blackberry phone write that he was somewhere and that message would be sent to his contacts. 
  • But year 2000 was too early for a service like Twitter, so he joined Odeo which was a podcasting company. When Apple released the ability to listen to a podcast through iTunes, Odeo failed. So they needed a new idea. SMS had grown in popularity, so Jack Dorsey suggested that they could build a service similar to his previously failed e-mail service but with SMS. The project had names like Gitter or Twitch, but then they decided that the name had to be Twitter. The first public version was released in 2006.
  • The idea behind Square originates from Jim McKelvey who had known Jack Dorsey since Jack Dorsey was fifteen year sold. He wanted to build an electronic card company. This was in 2008 during the credit crisis when the card industry was failing. But the idea to start a new card company was too ambitious, so they tried to find new ideas within the industry for a couple of weeks. Jack Dorsey also looked at the finance and health care industries for other ideas. One day, Jim McKelvey, who also worked as an artist, couldn't sell one of his creations because he couldn't accept credit card payments. Why couldn't they build a company that solved the problem? 
  • According to Jack Dorsey, the hardest part of founding a new company is to get started. Take the idea and get it out of your head and show someone who can (try to) judge if the idea is good or not. If you don't feel for the idea, then save it for later. "Build a 1000 things and put them on the shelf." Put the idea behind Twitter on a shelf in 2000, and use it in 2006.
  • Don't build what's needed - build what you think should exist. 
  • If they in the 1930s could build the Golden Gate bridge and make it beautiful - so can you with your project. Do the impossible - make it beautiful - and make it stand up!
  • You have to make sure everyone in the team is working in the same direction. If not, then you have to let go of the employee who is working in another direction.
  • Focus on data. How are people using your system? Google Analytics is not always enough, so you might have to build your own analytics system. 

More articles in the same series: Lessons learned from the Foundation interviews