Disclaimers: 1) I own a lot of Twitter stock personally and in my funds. 2) I definitely do not speak on behalf of Twitter. 3) I do not have any inside information about Twitter. 4) I can’t think of a fourth thing to disclaim, but putting this here just in case.
Twitter has held a close place in my heart since Ev signed me up in 2006. It made me feel closer to people who I wasn’t actually near. It brought me more diverse perspectives than any blog reader ever could. I found myself in the center of events, sharing experiences, posing questions, passing along lessons learned, and making unexpected friends.
My initial investment in Twitter was relatively small, but as I grew increasingly confident the company would change the world, I bought more and more stock. At one point I had even exhausted all of my savings purchasing Twitter shares and was technically insolvent. During those years, I walked into the company’s office, often uninvited, and did whatever I could to be helpful. The now CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, sat across the table from me as I helped negotiate Twitter’s first few search monetization deals. I had investors like Jerry Murdock at Insight Ventures gas up their jets to fly to SF and invest at a then-staggering $1 billion valuation. I grabbed the phones of any celebrities or politicians or company heads I knew and installed the Twitter app before they could say no. I pitched in to land big recruits like Adam Bain and Alex Macgillivray. I was obsessed with helping.
Twitter went from just being an investment to a huge part of my identity. My kids can spot a Twitter birdie from a hundred feet away. I have very few t-shirts that don’t sport the company logo. On Twitter, I have shared my wedding, my kids’ births, my proudest and darkest moments. I have shot my mouth off, and (sometimes) apologized for being wrong. I have taken unpopular stances, and revealed my code for living and what drives me. I have raised money for charities, raised money for politicians, and raised money for startups. I have cracked lame jokes and made vulnerable admissions. My wife and I even painted a room in our house the exact shade of the Twitter bird.
Along the way, I cultivated a precious group of Twitter followers. In the early days, my Tweets were pretty goofy. With time, the increasing size of my audience was daunting and I felt a sense of responsibility to add some value to their days. Through the ups and downs of my business and my personal life, I came to rely upon the feedback and support from my followers. Through the years they have kept me honest, focused, optimistic, and never feeling alone.
In parallel, since the earliest days investors and pundits had been asking skeptical questions like “How will Twitter ever make money?” and writing doomsday pieces with dead bird clip art. I spent a couple of years trying to convince them of Twitter’s potential and ultimately decided that rather than waste the energy, fuck it, I would just buy all the stock I could find. It was a seemingly impossible aspiration for a guy living in Truckee with no office and only one employee. Nevertheless, by the time of the IPO, my affiliated funds had accrued the biggest stake in the company.
Throughout this entire time, I never worked at Twitter and I was never on the board. I have been involved with the company as long as the now-CEO, Dick Costolo. We both invested in the earliest outside round and we both served as advisers. In 2009 he joined Twitter full-time as the CEO and I stayed outside.
Consider for a moment having so much of your life, your energy, your attention, your passion, and your net worth tied up in a company where you don’t work. A company where no outsider can attend the weekly all-hands meeting. I am no longer an official adviser to Twitter and I have no more exposure to the product roadmap than any other person who isn’t a Twitter employee.
Yet, I certainly have strong opinions about Twitter. Frankly, who doesn’t? I yearn to know where this company is headed. Having been one of the first 140 users, I have seen multiple eras of the product. I have navigated three CEOs, a couple generations of the board, and continual evolution of the management team. I have listened to 9 years of complaints about what isn’t working and bold claims from all directions about what Twitter is/isn’t and should/shouldn’t be. I have offered countless of my own suggestions about what could be better and what Twitter should do next. (For the record, a bunch of those ideas were dead wrong.)
During all of these years, I haven’t been as candid as I could be in public discussions about Twitter. I have made dozens of television appearances in support of Twitter and thousands of emails and calls with analysts, investors, reporters, potential hires, partners, you name it. I always felt like the birdie was one of my children and I needed to defend it at all costs. I never expressed any frustration or disappointment at missed opportunities or any exasperation at what wasn’t happening. However, a recent Periscope I did with Jim Cramer at CNBC changed my stance on that.
In the hours following the latest earnings call, Cramer and I traded insights as to what we each thought was going wrong and what could be better. It felt good to be both a critic of Twitter and yet reaffirm my steadfast belief in its potential. It was cathartic to say what was on my mind to an audience broader than just a few executives at the company. Most importantly, those messages resonated with the viewers, some of whom were Twitter employees. My Tweet mentions and email inbox were filled with passionate stockholders and Twitter users who cared deeply about what was ahead for the company.
I write all this because I am soon going to post a few things that I personally hope the Twitter team will accomplish. I want to make clear that my feedback comes from a place of loyalty and persistent gratitude. I love Twitter. I use it for hours each day and can’t imagine life without it. I also love the people building Twitter. Many of them are like family to me.
I believe without reservation that Twitter can soon evolve to be used by over 500 million people a month. I believe there is no natural ceiling on the revenue Twitter can generate. I also believe that Twitter’s reach can become more pervasive and its impact on the world more meaningful. I believe Twitter is a great investment and that the stock is cheap.
So stay tuned for a few more of my thoughts about Twitter. In the meantime, thanks for giving me the chance to reflect on a journey that has meant so much to me.
I bleed aqua.