'Fireside Chat' with Evan Williams, CEO of Twitter by Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times

'Fireside Chat' with Evan Williams, CEO of Twitter by Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times

I attended an event at Kicklabs tonight hosted by Girls In Tech, which was an interview of Twitter CEO Evan Williams by Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times.

Twitter has 300 people and is adding 25 to 30 people per month.  Evan says that he now "doesn't know all the people in the company anymore" as Twitter has grown.  When asked about his experience as an entrepreneur, Evan said when he started Odeo, he was "too anxious" to be an entrepreneur but the business passion didn't come from within.

Interestingly, there was no Twitter hash tag defined for the event, and and only one audience question was asked via Twitter.  Claire, the interviewer, really grilled Evan on Twitter's hiring practices & approach towards women at the company, and in tech in general.  So, a question for the comments - do you think he responded appropriately?  Should he have to be fielding those types of questions in an interview setting like the one last night?  Evan mentioned that Twitter hires women when it can, but Twitter won't hire someone "just because she's a woman."  Is that the right approach or the wrong approach?  Should there be a quota for women in tech?

In the video below, Evan comments on:

  • The emphasis on hiring women at Twitter (he says 25% to 30% of the Twitter workforce is female)
  • Michael Arrington's post about the dearth of women in tech
  • Twitter's business model: Promoted tweets are the main initiative for generating revenue on Twitter.
  • Promoted tweets may be inserted into people's regular tweets based on "what you're interested in, where you are, and what you write about"
  • about "Early bird tweets" , which were an experiment, and while still going on, although it's a "side project" now.
  • how "90 million tweets were written today"
  • whether or not Twitter could become a public company.  "Seems like there's a chance," Evan said
  • Whether he can remain CEO as the company grows
  • Twitter's main challenge currently, which is "to give you the best tweets.  We want to think of more ways for you to opt in"
  • Twitter just added a corporate marketing person
  • What it's like to manage a rapidly growing business (50% of the workforce has been at Twitter for less than 9 months)  Evan says the main reason "big corporations suck" is because people don't trust each other.
  • Twitter's attitude towards its role in the Iran elections, and how Twitter doesn't do anything to impede tweets unless illegal or impersonation
  • How they decided on the 140 character limit, and how SMS was a "total hack" by the characters.  Fun fact:  At first, Twitter was 160 characters, minus your user name, minus 2 characters.
  • What it was like to get married and become a father while balancing being an entrepreneur
  • How Twitter tries to offer a balanced work environment, with yoga, pilates, gym memberships and food
  • An upcoming focus on location & events
  • Bill Gates' usage of Twitter & Facebook (and specifically the frustrations Gates had with Facebook)
  • Thoughts on the new iPhone & iPad applications, and the changing attitude about the importance of mobile, and why Android is not in Evan's top 10 list of priorities
  • How Twitter "imports" employees from outside Silicon Valley and outside the US