Noah Glass, the forgotten co-founder of Twitter who came up with the company’s name, stands to make as much money off its IPO as Dorsey’s secretary at Square (i.e. very little), according to Nick Bilton’s new book, “
Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal.”
We already knew Glass’s story was heartbreaking.
After his startup — a podcast platform called Odeo — became threatened by Apple’s launch of iTunes, he and his coworker Jack Dorsey pitched the initial idea of Twitter to Ev Williams. Williams, an Odeo investor who would become a co-founder and CEO of Twitter, gave the idea the go-ahead. Glass became obsessed with the product.
In 2011, he told us that “it was a massive labour of love” and that it took “a ton of effort and a ton of energy” to create the company.
In his book, Bilton describes how Glass came up with Twitter’s name:
Glass became obsessive, flipping through a physical dictionary, almost word by word, looking for the right name. One late afternoon, alone in his apartment, he reached over to his mobile phone and turned it to silent, which caused it to vibrate. He quickly considered the name “Vibrate,” which he nixed, but it led him to the word “twitch.” He dismissed that too, but he continued through the “Tw” section of the dictionary: twist, twit, twitch, twitcher, twitchy . . . and then, there it was. He read the definition aloud. “The light chirping sound made by certain birds.” This is it, he thought. “Agitation or excitement; flutter.” Twitter.
As the idea of Twitter began to grow and take shape, a power struggle emerged between Williams and Glass. Glass felt protective of his idea and became increasingly nervous that Williams wanted him out of the company. (Business Insider previously described how Glass was the “spiritual leader” of the company.) Meanwhile, he was also struggling through a divorce.
As he grew more anxious, Glass confided his fears with his friend and co-founder Jack Dorsey. What he didn’t know was that it was really Dorsey who thought that he should be fired, who had threatened to quit if Glass wasn’t let go, Bilton says.
Sure enough, Glass was ousted from the company in July of 2006 and Dorsey became CEO. Glass ended up with a small amount of cash and stock, he told Business Insider in 2011.
Soon, Bilton writes, Dorsey was erasing Glass from the company’s history when he would give interviews. He would fail to give Glass credit for Twitter’s name. At this point, many think of Dorsey as the face of the company. In the story of Twitter, Glass reads as a casualty of Silicon Valley’s power struggles and politics.
Now that Twitter has announced its IPO, it’s clear that the company will make some people incredibly rich — millionaires, or even billionaires. Dorsey, for example, will make as much as $US500 million. Glass will make next to nothing. Bilton describes a chance meeting between Glass and Williams, and it’s sad, to say the least:
Last month, just days before the I.P.O. news was announced, Noah Glass was walking through the Mission district. Glass, who fell into a depression after his ouster, disappeared from his former friends. Now he lives in an apartment that was built as an earthquake shack that he shares with his girlfriend, his infant daughter and his dog, Ewee. As he was walking toward Dolores Park, with his daughter strapped to his chest and Ewee in tow, he rounded a corner and bumped into his old friend Evan Williams. After a moment of initial shock, the two men, now in their early 40s, chatted amiably, recalling how they had once been next-door neighbours, then extremely close friends, then co-founders, all just a few blocks away. They politely agreed that they should meet up for coffee and went their separate ways.