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Startup Tips from Jack Dorsey: Don’t Pull a Twitter


Twitter is often hailed as an exalted success story whose footsteps should be followed by young startups. While Twitter is certainly a successful break-out company that managed to shoehorn an innovative social communication into our already busy lives, there are plenty of things Twitter has done wrong that startups should do their best to avoid lest history repeat itself. Co-founder Jack Dorsey fielded questions during a brief discussion at DEMO in Santa Clara, California Tuesday and explained Twitter’s early missteps and how to avoid them.

“Sorry for all of the pain,” Dorsey said jokingly Tuesday.

The “pain” he refers to is the frustration users of Twitter encounter when the service has one of its all-too-frequent, fail-whale-inducing outages. While Twitter’s back-end infrastructure has attracted much ire for its instability, Dorsey says the biggest mistake the company made was “flying blind” without proper analytics.

“We had no instrumentation about data and analytics,” he said. “We didn’t take the time to build those […] and once we did, we discovered holes, which we fixed.”

If there is a Dorsey-founded company which startup should follow, it may be Square – Dorsey’s foray into mobile credit card scanning. With Square, Dorsey has learned from Twitter’s early mistakes that led to its current reputation of instability.

“Square needs to be known for its availability, its trustworthiness and its minimalism,” he said. “Everything is logged so we remember, everything is measure and everything is well tested […] It allows us to be more comfortable without being stressed with the downtime.”

Square originally intended a far faster roll-out of its service, but manufacturing delays and complications with the financial industry have led the company to take a cautious pace. Dorsey doesn’t believe that success as a startup depends on being hasty to beat the competition. Instead, he offers that “being able to cohesively move together as a unit, to build one product that everyone has equal participation in” is far more effective.

Image courtesy of The DEMO Conference on Flickr.

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