Jack Dorsey: Twitter’s chief comes of age

Jack Dorsey has had a turbulent ride of late, but his strategy of thinking big and biding his time seems to be paying off.

When a tech billionaire announces a philanthropic project, they usually get “a tsunami of vitriol on Twitter”, says the Financial Times. Since the coronavirus outbreak, the Twitterati have been quick to ridicule donations by Amazon’s boss, Jeff Bezos, and Facebook’s chief, Mark Zuckerberg, as paltry. But they cannot say the same of Twitter’s founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, who has stumped up $1bn (or 28% of his fortune) for relief efforts. And when Dorsey turned on Twitter’s “most famous user” – placing hazard-warnings on Donald Trump’s most misleading and inflammatory tweets in the wake of George Floyd’s death – he gained a new set of enemies, but many admirers too. Supporters claim his leadership shows that “tech bros can grow up”.

Two jobs Jack

Dorsey’s career in Silicon Valley has often been “turbulent”, says Business Insider. Having co-founded Twitter with Evan Williams and Biz Stone in 2006, he was booted out as CEO two years later – eventually returning to head the firm in 2015 after setting up the payments group Square. Recently his tenure has been challenged by a backlash from investors. Having floated in 2013, Twitter failed to turn a profit at all until 2018 and its income ($390m last year) is still dwarfed by Facebook’s. Last year, activist investor Elliott Management began agitating for Dorsey’s removal, claiming that “two jobs Jack” had spread himself too thinly. Given Elliott’s fearsome reputation, the Valley promptly put Dorsey on “deathwatch”, says Wired. Following a showdown in March, he gained a reprieve, but his survival still depends on meeting some tough targets. 

Born into a close-knit St. Louis family in 1976, Dorsey was described by his mother as a “quiet and self-sufficient” child who developed a deep interest in how things worked at an early age. As a boy, Jack spent hours tuned in to his parents’ old police scanner, charting the movements of ambulances and police vehicles. By the time he was 14, he had programmed an imaginary city on the family computer, but he’s always had an interest in how all types of colonies, including natural ones such as those of ants, work. 

Dorsey’s law

Dorsey studied computer science and mathematics at New York University, but dropped out to move to California, says the FT. He first had the idea for Twitter in 2000, but realised that as “no one else had a mobile email device”, the idea was ahead of its time. After toying with the idea of switching careers, he joined an ailing early podcasting firm, Odeo, and presented his idea at a “hackathon”. By 2006, when Dorsey sent out his first Tweet, Twitter’s moment had come, says CNN. “Growth exploded as actors, activists and politicians all started using the platform.” Early put-downs about Twitter’s triviality were soon put to rest during the Arab Spring, when “users saw revolutions unfold in real time”.

Twitter’s ban on political advertising and its stand against Trump is seen as being driven by principle, says City AM. But it might yet prove “a savvy business move” if the platform “starts looking the less swampier home for [commercial] advertising spending”. Another case, perhaps, of abiding by Dorsey’s law of waiting “for your Big Idea’s time to come”.

Recommended

The UK jobs market is booming – but wages are struggling to keep up with prices
UK Economy

The UK jobs market is booming – but wages are struggling to keep up with prices

Britain’s jobs market is booming, with wages rising and plenty of of vacancies. But inflation is rising faster than wages can keep up. John Stepek loo…
18 Jan 2022
A sophisticated trio of scintillating whites
Wine

A sophisticated trio of scintillating whites

An Australian sauvignon blanc that is as sophisticated and refreshing as any Loire superstar’s creation, plus a chardonnay and shiraz, too.
18 Jan 2022
Made money in cryptocurrencies? Don’t forget to pay your taxes – in sterling
Bitcoin & crypto

Made money in cryptocurrencies? Don’t forget to pay your taxes – in sterling

Speculating on cryptocurrencies is akin to gambling in all but one respect, says Merryn Somerset Webb: you must pay tax on any gains, and you must pay…
18 Jan 2022
HubSpot: a tech stock set to tumble
Trading

HubSpot: a tech stock set to tumble

US tech stocks have had a fantastic couple of years. But this year is unlikely to be so bullish for high-fliers that can’t turn big profits.
18 Jan 2022

Most Popular

Five unexpected events that could shock the markets in 2022
Stockmarkets

Five unexpected events that could shock the markets in 2022

Forget Covid-19 – it’s the unexpected twists that will rattle markets in 2022, says Matthew Lynn. Here are five possibilities
31 Dec 2021
Which investment trusts performed the best in 2021?
Investment trusts

Which investment trusts performed the best in 2021?

Shivani Khandekar runs through the top ten investment trusts of 2021 – and the worst performing trusts – and looks ahead to 2022.
7 Jan 2022
Interest rates might rise faster than expected – what does that mean for your money?
Global Economy

Interest rates might rise faster than expected – what does that mean for your money?

The idea that the US Federal Reserve could raise interest rates much earlier than anticipated has upset the markets. John Stepek explains why, and wha…
6 Jan 2022