Jack Patrick Dorsey’s most favourite quote is “the best thinking time is just walking”. On Wednesday, he made sure he would get a lot of “thinking time” by walking out of the board of Twitter, the micro-blogging platform he co-founded in 2006 with Ev Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass. Dorsey’s departure means the social media giant will be founder-less as all the other three left Twitter much earlier. There was no surprise in Wednesday’s development as the departure was planned. Twitter had initially announced in November last year that Dorsey would exit the board when his term expired at the company’s 2022 shareholders’ meeting. The meeting took place on Wednesday.
Dorsey, who twice served as Twitter CEO, most recently till November 2021, had handed over the baton to Indian-origin Parag Agrawal, who was then the CTO of the company. But unlike his successor, who has graduated from Atomic Energy Central School with a bachelor’s degree, Dorsey was a college dropout — not once but twice. Before gravitating to tech, he was a certified masseur and dabbled in fashion design.
The 45-year-old hasn’t done too badly for himself and is known to give back. In April 2020, he promised to give away $1 billion — then 28% of his net worth — to Covid-19 relief, girls’ education, health and universal basic income, via gifts of his stock in Block (formerly called Square), a payments company he co-founded with Jim McKelvey in 2009. He took it public in 2015. In 2016, Dorsey gave nearly one-third of his Twitter shares to employees.
He has been unpredictable as well. Days after saying that he will never rejoin Twitter amidst reports of the $44 billion takeover by Elon Musk, he became a strong advocate for Musk, and his interest in Twitter, several times calling him the best option to ‘save’ the company. Dorsey has most recently garnered headlines for his ardent support of Bitcoin, and recent tweets suggest that he will continue to support the cryptocurrency.
Just like many other Silicon Valley tech tycoons, Dorsey, who discontinued his studies in New York State University to start his own company, forayed into the world of tech with a taxi dispatching software, in 1980. Much later, his start-up started offering the dispatch software through the Internet. Soon after, the idea of Twitter crossed his mind.
Dorsey has mired himself in several controversies over time. In May 2020, he locked horns with former US President Donald Trump after Twitter started attaching fact-check warnings to President’s tweets. In 2019, he faced a severe backlash in India over a picture of his with a placard reading “Smash Brahminical patriarchy”. He was summoned by MPs, while several accused him of hate-mongering.
In July 2020, the social media platform was hit by a widespread hack that targetted several high-profile accounts and offered bitcoin deals. Following the hack, Twitter shares tumbled 3.3%, wiping out more than $1 billion from its market cap.
Dorsey quite delightfully broke unspoken rules about the way a CEO is supposed to behave. Weirdness abounds in corporate suites, but seldom is it displayed so brazenly. There was his diet. His beard. His nose ring. And his obsessions: denim, perambulating, and crypto.
One could argue endlessly about whether someone else could have done a better job for Twitter. But one can never dispute that. After all, Twitter was run by someone who was its very soul. He exulted in its timeliness and verve, and embraced its messiness. He playfully taunted his critics, who kept pestering him for an edit function. One thing will never change. Dorsey said it himself, in a tweet mysteriously posted this weekend, which now makes perfect sense. “I love Twitter,” he wrote.Fittingly, many of the thousands of replies to that tweet voiced complaints about the service. Dorsey probably loved that, too.
(Compiled from Bloomberg & Reuters)