Who Is Jack Dorsey?
Jack Dorsey became involved in web development as a college student, founding the Twitter social networking site in 2006. Since that time, Dorsey has served as CEO, chairman of the board, and executive chairman of Twitter. He also launched the successful online payment platform Square in 2010.
Dorsey was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on November 19, 1976. Growing up in St. Louis, Dorsey became interested in computers and communications at an early age and began programming while still a student at Bishop DuBourg High School. He was fascinated by the technological challenge of coordinating taxi drivers, delivery vans and other fleets of vehicles that needed to remain in constant, real-time communication with one another. When he was 15, Dorsey wrote dispatch software that remained in use by taxicab companies for decades afterward.
Creation of Twitter
After a brief stint at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, Dorsey transferred to New York University. In the tradition of computer science entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, he dropped out of college before receiving his degree. Instead, Dorsey moved to Oakland, California, and in 2000 he started a company offering his dispatch software through the internet. Shortly after starting his company, Dorsey came up with the idea for a site that would combine the broad reach of dispatch software with the ease of instant messaging.
Dorsey approached a now-defunct Silicon Valley company called Odeo to pitch the concept. "He came to us with this idea: 'What if you could share your status with all your friends really easily, so they know what you're doing?'" said Biz Stone, a former Odeo executive. Dorsey, Stone and Odeo co-founder Evan Williams started a new company, called Obvious, which later evolved into Twitter. Within two weeks, Dorsey had built a simple site where users could instantly post short messages of 140 characters or less, known in Twitter parlance as "tweets."
On March 21, 2006, Jack Dorsey posted the world's first tweet: "just setting up my twttr." Dorsey was named the company's chief executive officer. He removed his nose ring in an attempt to look the part of a mature Silicon Valley executive, though he kept his boyish, mop-like haircut and abstract, forearm-length tattoo whose shape represented, among other things, the human clavicle bone. Co-founder Evan Williams replaced Dorsey as Twitter's CEO in October 2008, with Dorsey staying on as company chairman.
Twitter was initially derided by some as a tool for the shallow and self-centered to broadcast the minutiae of their lives to the universe. Late-night comedy host Conan O'Brien even featured a segment called "Twitter Tracker" that mocked users of the service. In its early days, the site also suffered from frequent service outages. But as celebrities and CEOs alike began tweeting, Twitter was no longer the brunt of so many jokes. Suddenly the head of the "microblogging" movement, Twitter became a powerful platform for U.S. Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain in 2008, as a method for updating their supporters while on the campaign trail.
Twitter vaulted to international prominence after the June 2009 presidential elections in Iran, when thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets to protest the claimed victory of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. When the government blocked text messaging and satellite feeds of foreign news coverage, Iranian Twitter users flooded the site with live updates. A U.S. State Department official even emailed Dorsey to request that Twitter delay its scheduled maintenance so that protestors could keep tweeting. "It appears Twitter is playing an important role at a crucial time in Iran. Could you keep it going?" said a State Department spokesman, describing the call. Twitter complied.
In 2010, Twitter had more than 105 million users who together tweeted some 55 million times a day. Dorsey, however, had set his sights on other projects. He became an investor in the social networking company Foursquare and launched a new venture, Square, which allows people to receive credit card payments through a tiny device plugged in to their mobile phone or computer.
Square filed for an IPO in October 2015, and became a publicly traded company the following month.
In November 2013, Dorsey saw his personal fortune grow tremendously thanks to Twitter's initial public offering. The company's stock had a starting share price of $26, but the price quickly rose to $45 during its first day of trading. Within hours, the value of Dorsey's approximately 23.4 million shares made him a billionaire.
In 2015, Dorsey returned to Twitter. He first served as an interim CEO and then became its CEO. Shortly afterward, he announced that the company would be cutting about eight percent of its workforce. This move was "part of an overall plan to organize around the company's top product priorities and drive efficiencies throughout the company," according a securities filing by Twitter reported in the Los Angeles Times.
Political Influencer and President Trump
After Twitter played an outsize role in driving the conversation around the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Dorsey appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee in September 2018 to discuss the platform's methods for countering fake accounts and address accusations of political favoritism.
"We believe strongly in being impartial, and we strive to enforce our rules impartially," the CEO said in his prepared testimony. "In fact, from a simple business perspective and to serve the public conversation, Twitter is incentivized to keep all voices on the platform."
Not everyone was convinced of Twitter's impartiality, with President Donald Trump, a well-known devotee of the platform, summoning Dorsey to the White House the following spring to discuss concerns about his followers being removed.
The Twitter-Trump feud magnified in May 2020 when the site added fact-checking links to two posts in which he claimed that mail-in voting would lead to widespread fraud. The president responded by threatening to "strongly regulate" or shut down social media platforms.
Gradually expanding his philanthropic efforts, Dorsey contributed to the #TeamTrees climate change initiative in October 2019 by funding the planting of 150,000 trees.
In April 2020, Dorsey announced that he was donating $1 billion worth of equity in Square to support coronavirus relief efforts around the world.
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