About a month ago, I was let go from Twitter. Everyone has their own view of what happened and why and I’d rather not add to the speculation. What I’ll talk about is my experience there, what I’ve been doing, and what I am working on.
When you’re working for a global brand, it can be pretty amusing (and frustrating) to hear what people think goes on inside the walls of Twitter. I remember how some people I talk to couldn’t understand how Twitter could have >100 employees (now I believe over 600) to run a service that was essentially 140 characters. Then the next person I talked to would be shocked at how Twitter could run a real-time search engine, a top web destination, multiple mobile clients, and a rich developer platform with so few people.
For me, during my first week at Twitter, what was most striking was just how much was going on and how much thinking had been done—and not just in terms of product. Every element, from the brand, to the artful videos, to how to decide if an account is spam, to the legal policy on subpoenas, to how the culture should evolve, was considered deeply. This sort of careful attention isn’t always obvious. When everything seems to be going smoothly, that’s when the most work and thought has been done.
One rarely has the opportunity to work on a world-changing service that gives every individual a voice. Everyday, I found myself thinking, “this job is amazing! I can’t believe I get to work on this!” Coordinating the redesign of twitter.com was possibly the most challenging project I’d ever worked on. But what was most rewarding, and what I will miss most, was the environment and the people. Smart people are hard to find. Smart people who are humble, supportive, positive, funny, and genuinely interesting are nearly impossible to find but Twitter was full of them. Over the past few weeks, a few more of these key smart people are taking their leave. The company and the culture is evolving quickly and it will be interesting to observe, now from the outside, where they go from here.
What I’ve Been Doing
“A market like this only happens once a decade; Everybody owes it to themselves to see what’s out there and do what they want.”—@efeng
— Kevin Cheng (@k) July 28, 2011
The response since my departure has been overwhelming, touching, and flattering. I feel incredibly lucky to have so much support and so much interest.
As it turns out, being unemployed in the current market can mean being even busier than when you’re employed. Over the last few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time talking. I’ve kept an open mind to who I meet: reconnecting with old friends, getting advice from peers, meeting new companies, visiting larger companies, meeting investors, brainstorming with friends, helping out startups. You might say I’ve exceeded my quota for 50 coffee meetings this month alone.
What I’m Doing Next
“The best time to start a company is always two years ago, and the next best time is now. So now it is.” — Caterina Fake, co-founder Flickr, Hunch
When I interviewed at Twitter, I distinctly remember the interview I had with Ev. We were talking about corporate culture and I mentioned that I’d been thinking a lot about it. I kept a personal wiki of notes for when I started my own company.
“I’d like to see that,” Ev said. I was a bit nervous, given that it’s a very rough internal notebook, but I pulled it up on the phone and we had a great discussion around it. (Side note: take the time to list what kind of company you want to work at and show it to your next interviewer. It’s a great calibration tool.)
Ev then asked, “so you want to eventually start a company?”
I responded hesitantly at first, “well, yeah, I think…that is if…um…” then thought about it and knew the answer was clear, “yes.”
On the same day that Twitter and I parted ways, I knew what I wanted to do next. I don’t yet know what it is, what problems it will solve, what platform it runs on, whether it will get funded, whether it will last more than a week, or what it will be called. But I’ve run out of excuses; It’s time to start something. Get in touch if you want to help or have ideas. Stay tuned.