tv Studio 1.0 Bloomberg March 5, 2016 10:30am-11:01am EST
♪ emily: he got his start as an improv comedian. performing on one of the most famous stages in chicago. but when comedy could not pay the bills, he dusted off an old skill -- coding. he founded three companies before he moved to silicon valley. then he took a chance on a fast starting startup getting an unusual amount of attention. that startup invented the tweet. once mocked as a way to describe your breakfast in 140 characters, it is now a $30 billion public company. the darling of celebrities and presidents worldwide, yet subject to the whims of wall street. joining me today on "studio
1.0," twitter ceo dick costolo. dick, thank you so much for joining us. twitter has 300 million users. 500 million tweets on the platform every day. some hilarious, some illuminating. dick: mine are hilarious. emily: yours are always hilarious. some inappropriate, but always hilarious. some world changing. how do you deal with that on a daily basis as a ceo? dick: i don't have to read them all. so it does not all affect me personally. emily: but a revolution could happen in any moment. dick: the fascinating thing about the platform is the different way it is used around the world. the surprising moments that surface on the platform you have never thought about or have not even occurred to you. emily: the number of users has quadrupled since you became ceo. it is one of the most highly scrutinized, most mainstream companies in the world. dick: nobody scrutinize -- what
are you talking about? i do not know what you are referring to, we have never been scrutinized. [laughter] emily: did you ever think you would be here when you were growing up in detroit? dick: no, not at all. when i was growing up in detroit, i was very much -- i was kind of -- i really just took life as it happened. most of my family and extended family was in the automobile industry. my dad worked for pontiac. my mom worked for ford. on and on. my dad's dad worked for chrysler. i only applied to university of michigan. i didn't go look at schools. when people say now, what were you going to do if you did not get into michigan, like -- that implies i had some sort of strategy around it all. i didn't. emily: luckily you got in. dick: luckily i got in. my dad did get me a -- when i was, i guess, 14 or 15 one of the early radioshack trs model 80 computers.
i learned to program in basic on that. by the time i went to michigan, i did know i am definitely going to study computer science. but i didn't know what to do beyond that. emily: when you got to university of michigan, you took theater classes on the side. dick: my senior year, i had like eight arts credits i had remaining that i needed to get. i thought, what is the thing i can take that will be the least amount of homework so i can focus on my operating systems class? i figured acting. i will show up and say some lines in a play and that would be great. coincidently, my first semester, senior year, i started doing just stand up at the university student union. by my second term senior year, i was really like, this is, i am having a lot of fun with this. and decided i am not going to take any of the programming jobs i have been offered. i'm going to try to go to chicago and study at second city and get in there -- emily: you worked with steve carell. dick: he was in the first group
i was in. when i first got to chicago, rachel dratch became a friend of mine. horatio sanz. it was a really fun time. emily: why did you stop? dick: unlike some of those people, i didn't get any of the things i auditioned for. i eventually decided i need to go back to figure out how to make money. emily: i imagine people screaming at you in the theater. i wonder if improv is good training for dealing with wall street. [laughter] dick: i will say this. i remember, when you are improvising, people are yelling at the stage and so forth. i did this show. about three minutes into this hour-long show, these delightful, drunk australians started yelling, "you suck. get off." emily: so you went into consulting. dick: the internet took off. this is early 1993. i remember getting the ac.com domain name for anderson consulting. i just went off and started one of the first web design and development shops. sold that.
started working on what ended up being an early group-based blog -- we did not call it blogging. and sold that. and then started an alerts platform. amazingly, we sold that on september 12th, 2000. we had a one-year restriction on the stock in the sale. my birthday is september 10. i had a weird set of days on 9-10-01, being out to dinner and thinking, in two days, the stock lockup expires. we are going to have this financial situation i have never been in before, which will be great for us. of course, the next morning was 9/11. by the time 9/12 rolled around the stock markets were closed. that did not happen. it made a profound impact on me. i went into my birthday thinking everything is great and my life has changed forever and i don't have to work ever again. and then the next day,
everybody's world changed. and i remember just thinking that whole next week, everything you think is possibly true can be changed in an instant. it became unimportant. i really mean it when i say, since then, i have really had an attitude of ok, but who cares? because i know everything can change in an instant. emily: you went on to start feed burner. dick: we did start that. we sold that to google in june of 2007. and that is really where i got -- emily: $100 million. dick: that is where i got reconnected to have ev williams, who i been talking to after he sold blogger to google. we had known each other from way back. emily: a cofounder of twitter. who is still on the board. dick: and member of the board of directors. emily: so how did ev get you to come to twitter? that was what, 2009? dick: yes. 2009. i had left google and was going
to start another company. i got a private message on twitter from ev, who was about to have his first baby. it said i'm going to take a paternity leave for a short period of time. would you be willing to sort of help out here for a bit while i am off? help us out with some operational stuff? i said, sure. i would be happy to. after that conversation started with ev, he said, what if it was more permanent than that? what if you became coo here? i felt like those opportunities don't come along very often. they come along maybe once-in-a-lifetime. i have to go do it. emily: it felt like a rocket ship. dick: it did. it did not have any revenue yet. it didn't have anyone working on any of that at all. i think there were 50 people when i joined. emily: mark zuckerberg described twitter as "a clown car that fell into a gold mine," according to the book "hatching twitter" by nick bilton, which i am sure you have read.
what was it like for you getting into that car? [laughter] dick: just because mark zuckerberg described it that way doesn't mean that is what it is. emily: how would you describe it? if not in that way? dick: i would describe it as this remarkable, simple idea that became the broadcast platform for the world. i think the great insight that we had was instead of having these ads or stuff that is off to the side of what everyone is doing, let's make the monetization engine and the business engine part of what everyone is already doing. that turned out to be something that, frankly lots of other companies, including facebook, have taken from us and used to great success. you like the way i spun that around? maybe they are the copier. [laughter] emily: the drama of twitter's early days is well documented. we do not want to go into that.
i do want to ask you one question. dick: the clown car. emily: ev williams stepped out in 2010. you became ceo. as nick describes it, ev was told he was fired and you were the new ceo. and then ev said you would not be a good ceo and then you were fired. what actually happened? dick: [laughs] i am not going to go into all the details, palace intrigue stuff. i will say there's a lot that has been written about it. some of it you read and think, like, that is interesting. i don't remember that person even being in the same city we were in at that time. it is what it is. here we are. ev and jack and i work well together now. jack and ev are still on the board. those two run successful companies in their own right. the beauty of this for both of them is that it is hard for anyone in the world to look at those two and say, well, they
got lucky. emily: how often do you talk to them? dick: pretty regularly. jack and i, we have dinner every tuesday night at zuni cafe. emily: good chicken. dick: good chicken. come for the good chicken, stay for -- emily: they are going to love this. dick: i am basically walking around doing ads for zuni cafe. ev and i talk regularly, too. in fact, ev and i are trying to figure out when we can get dinner next week. emily: do you feel like you have their support? dick: i think so. the short answer is yes. jack thinks about the product, he will have these product insights that come at twitter from a different angle. and then ev always has this really firm grounding in the user. the user, the user, the user. that has gotten him where he is today, which is running his third successful company.
emily: tales of great founders and ceo's are so often boiled down into legend. dick: here's the problem -- you have not asked me your question, but i will comment on it anyway. emily: what is the myth and reality of dick costolo? dick: the problem is just that -- people create this mythology about people. the reality is, everybody has one or two superpowers. and then lots of remarkable flaws. emily: what is your superpower? dick: i think i am very present in the company. anybody in the company will feel like they can talk to me. there is no, "yeah, that is crazy, but do not tell dick that, he will throw a brick at the wall." we really do a good job of getting at the truth. emily: people ask, where is twitter going? what is it going to be when it grows up? nobody said that about facebook.
dick: the challenge we have is the distance between awareness of twitter and engagement on twitter. that causes people say, i don't get why i would use it, so i do not get what it is for. i deeply feel that the platform is the very best way to connect in real-time with what is happening in your world. emily: twitter is the very best way to connect your world. dick: right. it is live, in the moment, this amazing thing i am watching right now, live broadcasting, live video, are going to be the future of the platform. i really think that is the future of the platform. emily: they used to be more concerned about how twitter was going to make money. now it is pretty good at making money. dick: in 2009, 2010, 2011, yeah, it is an amazing platform, but there is no way you will ever make money. but that is not a concern. i think we did a really good job
proving that wrong. emily: now the concern is about user growth and product innovation. what are you doing to improve the core user experience? dick: for example, when you come to the platform now, and sign up for an account, you no longer have to find 80, 90 accounts to get a great twitter experience. we deliver you what we call an instant timeline of 70, 80, 90 accounts that we think are super high value based on where you are, the things you have said you are interested in. we make it that simple, when you come to the platform, you see those right away without logging in. emily: there are companies that do messaging only or video only. what makes you think that twitter can be all of these things in one? dick: this happens to me all the time on twitter. i will see something that has been publicly broadcast and we want to have a private conversation. we already know it, it's always cases. one thing i am excited about, super extraordinarily excited
about, it is so easy. it will open up all these remarkable avenues for people to feel like they are teleporting into a moment across the world. the longform possibilities are limitless. the shortform possibilities are limitless. i mean, think about ferguson, or occupy central, or the plane in the hudson as now being a live broadcast. i think the next several years ahead of us with that kind of capability is going to be extraordinary, super fun, and develop all sorts of new mediums for performers, for shows, for content. i really do think it will change the entire media landscape. emily: by some measures, one measure, monthly active users, instagram is bigger than twitter. why should wall street believe this is not a plateau? dick: for the simple reason that we all inside the company believe in the future of twitter. that the world will be a better place when everybody is on twitter. emily: five product heads in the years you have been ceo.
why is it hard to find a product head for twitter -- or the right product head? dick: it is important for me to be thinking about whether this is the right team for the company right now. i tell my managers all the time that your job is to improve your team, not defend your team. one of the reasons i am so proud of and so excited about the team we have right now is because i truly believe it is the best possible team for this company at this moment. i believe we have done everything necessary and made all the hard choices we needed to put the team together. emily: how long will this team last? dick: i don't know. you can't ever say to yourself this is the exact team for the next n days or months or years. you have to be evaluating things constantly. what you cannot do is leave the pitcher in too long. i think you always have the be evaluating whether this is the right team for this moment.
emily: we mentioned the guys in the front row at the improv comedy shows saying, you suck. dick: heckling you. not just "you suck" -- "you suck, get off." keeping in mind that was three minutes into a one-hour show. it didn't get better, by the way. emily: in one of the most high profile and scrutinized jobs in the world, some people say -- dick: you suck, get off. emily: exactly. [laughter] dick: i say i have heard that before, it was in an australian accent, though. emily: how do you deal with that? how does your team deal with that? and how do you, as a person, deal with that, when people say you should be fired? dick: i got invited to something a couple of years ago. my daughter said, you should go. i said, i don't think i will because i got invited because of
what i am, not who i am. i got invited because i'm the ceo of twitter. not because i am dick costolo. i have always tried to make sure i have never paid too much attention to the ceo of the year stuff because the worst ceo of the year stuff is right around the corner. i therefore do not get worked up or, frankly, care too much when people say those things. in fact, i have had to make myself care a little bit about them only after i started realizing, oh, it could affect recruiting if people start thinking, i want to go to twitter but what if dick is not there tomorrow and everything changes? i have to make myself pay attention to that and talk to people to bring into the copy about it and say look, that is just not the case. emily: how does not being a founder affect your ability to lead? dick: jack dorsey can sit here and you can ask him, what were you thinking about when you first invented twitter? you cannot ask me that same question, because my answer is i did not invent twitter. you can be a non-founder ceo and
have real, thoughtful opinions and even certainty about where something needs to be taken that is helpful to the company. i can tell you when jack saw vine and loved it and knew it was right right away, and brought it to me, we were both, "we have to do this." i felt the same way when jess on my corporate development team came to me and talked about periscope. right away was, we have to make that part of the company. i tell you, my daughter, at the end of 2014 text me, she said dad, i have bad news and good news. there is an article that says, you are one of the worst five ceo's of 2014. ok, what is a good news? you are number five. the good news is you are number five. i view that as a lesson i have taught them, hopefully, about how not to get carried away one way or another about these things. emily: i hope you will tell me about beekeeping. [laughs]
dick: the cool thing about the bees. i will tell you, i particularly spend most of my time watching them. the whole way the hive works and what is going on. the crazy stuff that happens as the seasons change. the way they build and everything is fascinating. i love just watching them and hanging out and watching them. emily: and you bring honey to the office, i hear. dick: to some people. there is not an infinite supply. some people get it, and some people don't. emily: so what is next for dick costolo? dick: i am doing what i am doing. like i told you, like when i grew up in detroit, i was very much a -- i'm taking life as it comes to me. i am a big, big proponent of living in the moment and not getting too caught up in the past and not thinking too much about where i'm going to be two years from now. i just think that is not a good way to live. sometimes, like in the case of ev -- you know, like saying will
you come and do this -- making a decision to do that, i think that is a good and fun way to live. i try to teach my kids to think about it the same way. emily: a good way to be as the ceo of twitter -- live in the moment. dick: the way we raise our kids and education in the u.s. and etc., you are constantly like, we have to do this to get into that school. i have to get this a. i have this score to get x. you are being trained to meet and exceed expectations. then you go out in the world and there are not any expectations, there is just life. so trying to teach my kids life is not always about meeting and exceeding expectations. it is about being present for yourselves and your friends. i think that those end up being great people. emily: dick costolo, thank you so much for joining us. it is great to have you. dick: thanks for having me. fist bump. ♪
francine: coming up on "bloomberg best," the stories that shaped the week. indictments shocked the business world. market watchers parse the latest u.s. jobs report. >> this report under the headline is actually disappointing. francine: the debate over digital privacy intensifies. >> it really is about how do we access evidence everywhere? ted: there is not a middle ground but i know of that requires apple to go to work for the government. francine: plus, exclusive insight from alan greenspan and ray dalia on the u.s.