April 19, 2014

Startup Myths: Twitter

Have you ever started a company? The who, why, what and where often become muddled the farther you get from the start. Over the course of a startup there are usually several course corrections. Each time a team makes a correction they often alter the ‘history’ of the startup to fit their new course. First of all, there is very little reason to go back through dirty laundry. What happened in the past can stay in the past, but partners, employees, reporters and investors all like to hear ‘a’ story about how you got started. There may be ten different stories before (if you are lucky) you finally make it to where ever you end up. It is very likely you can’t even remember how you got started or what crazy path it took to get there.

I began using Twitter four years ago (a pretty late start among my peers) and I even used Odeo (we built a company to leverage Odeo’s space). Nicholas Carlson wrote an interesting story about Twitter’s REAL history titled, “REVEALED: The Real History of Twitter” where he described how the official history of Twitter differed greatly from the actual history of Twitter. He also wrote a second piece titled, “Exclusive: An Interview With Twitter’s Forgotten Founder, Noah Glass“.

I don’t think Ev, Biz or Jack tried to exclude Noah from the history of the company, but from their perspective he really wasn’t part of THEIR history of the company. Over time as they told the story of the founding of Twitter over and over the narrative didn’t need to mention that early on Noah and Florian helped build parts of the company. Their names weren’t relevant – to anyone other than Noah and Florian. I guess that is just how it goes. History is written by those who remain – I like to think of them as ‘Startup Myths’.

Nicholas Carlson did some great reporting and after reading the articles Evan Williams tweeted:

“It’s true that @Noah never got enough credit for his early role at Twitter. Also, he came up with the name, which was brilliant.”

Ev didn’t respond to requests to be interviewed, but his Tweet was a perfect response. In the end he gave Noah the credit he deserved with just two sentences. The Twitter Startup Myth will be forever changed. Congrats Nicholas and Noah!

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