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The guys behind the guy behind Twitter

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Twitter co-founder Biz Stone talks us through the men – and fictional coyotes – that inspired him

Steven Spielberg

“One of the first ideas we had with Twitter was the 140-character limit. Because constraint inspires creativity; if you constrain people, give them limited resources, they get creative. Take Steven Spielberg – he originally wanted this giant mechanical shark for Jaws, but they didn’t have the budget. So he said, ‘What can I do instead? I’ll shoot from the shark’s point of view.’ And that became this wonderful, simple, iconic solution that was way scarier than even the most realistic-looking fake shark could have been.”

Simon Quellen Field

“This is a guy I worked with at Google, before we set up Twitter. Google was full of these incredibly intelligent, computer science PhD-level types, and they didn’t care what other people thought of them. Simon used to walk around with a fully-trained live parrot on his shoulder. At work, just sitting there with a parrot perched on him. There was another guy who’d juggle at lunch. They say genius comes with a little madness…”

Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams

“One thing I learned from Jack and Evan [Twitter co-founders] early on was that they didn’t communicate enough as CEOs. So, as CEO of [Biz’s new company] Jelly, I over-communicate. I write a weekly email to all employees, investors, advisers, updating them on what we did wrong that week, what we did right, and also ‘so-and-so got engaged’. When you don’t hear from the CEO, you get scared and this fear leads to the assumption that the company is not doing well.”

Wile E Coyote

“My first blog was called Genius Biz, after a rare Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs meets Wile E Coyote. He says, ‘Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Wile E Coyote – genius’, and his business card says ‘Genius’. I thought that was funny. I never went as far getting a ‘Biz Stone – Genius’ card, but I did get ‘Biz Stone – Professional’.

I used to say I could do anything in order to get work. Someone would ask, ‘Do you build websites?’ and I’d say, ‘Of course – I charge a lot, though.’ Then I’d go home and figure out how to build a website.”

Mark Zuckerberg

“If I learned anything from my brief encounter with Mark [when Zuckerberg tried to buy Twitter for $500m in 2008], it’s that focus is a powerful tool. He’s totally focused on making Facebook the best company in the world, and he didn’t have time for my jokes [laughs]. He didn’t have the space in his brain for them. I was making lots of jokes, and they were all dying. Tough crowd.”

Things A Little Bird Told Me by Biz Stone is out now (Pan Macmillan)

(Images: Biz Stone, copyright Esten Hurtle (@esten) for Twitter, Inc.; PA; Rex)

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