#everything: A Trip to Twitter

It’s Day Two into Startup Catalyst’s whirl-wind tour through Silicon Valley and today’s been one filled with extra excitement for me. We started with a visit to an Equinox data center in San Jose, then made a stop-off at Jon Jon’s, a local favourite of Steve Baxter, but perhaps the most exciting part of the day was the visit we made to Twitter.

Twitter resides in the middle of San Francisco’s Tenderloin, in an unassuming antique building. The only way that you’d know that Twitter was even in the location is purely from the @twitter sign on the corner of the street.

But, as you hit the 7th floor in the elevator, insanely cramped as we had a group of 22, you’re terraformed into the land of the Twitter. Birdnests, trees and hashtags fill the space, with Tweeps (the moniker for a Twitter employee) flying in flocks in and out of their workspaces and meeting rooms. These meeting rooms each are named after species of bird, and have iPads plastered to them to show whether or not the room is currently in use, something that a number of companies in SF seem to do.

Richard Slatter, Product Manager at Twitter Music, was our guide and meeting adjudicator for the visit. We all shuffled into a meeting room right in the heart of the engineering space, and met with a number of Tweeps who joined us and left us at various points.

Eckart Walther

First we met Eckart Walther of Twitter Commerce. Eckart has had a quite notable history in tech startups: he was one of the people of creating RSS (freaking RSS, man!) during a stint at Netscape, he worked at Yahoo as they were acquiring Flickr and when they started Yahoo Answers, and he started CardSpring, a social commerce platform eventually acquired by Twitter.

Sachin Agarwal

We then had Sachin Agarwal arrive in the room, most notable as the former CEO of Posterous, another Twitter acquisition. After working for Apple, Sachin started Posterous, an app for the original iPhone before the iPhone even had an App Store. He shared with us his experiences with Y Combinator (of which Posterous participated in), and why Posterous was a valuable acquisition for Twitter.

Kumi Walker

Kumi Walker walked (heh) into the room and gave us an overview of Fabric, an immense set of app development tools given out by Twitter for the price of nearly entirely free. These services are on-boarded only as you need them – so, if you only needed app crash analytics at first for a brand-new mobile app, just enable the Crashlytics Kit, and you’d be good to go.

Richard Slatter

We then concluded the speakers with Richard Slatter giving a thorough overview into how he managed to go from Brisbane, Australia all the way to Twitter in SF.

Richard’s journey to Twitter started out with a business news aggregator product, which then pivoted to a product sponsored by Aussie startup Wotif, and pivoted once more to a music focus, where it became We Are Hunted. He mentioned that press really made We Are Hunted Internet famous: after TechCrunch picked up a article on the product, it got in excess of 250,000 people to the site in the first three days after launch.

We Are Hunted got acquired by Twitter and morphed into Twitter Music, which after a tumultuous relaunch period, has now gone back to the drawing board on how to best integrate it into the social network.

Conclusion

If you visit twitter.com in a web browser, you can get a good sense of the vibe of the social network: it’s hip, it’s always current, and for better or worse, there are hashtags everywhere. Twitter has done an extraordinary job at keeping this same sensation in its’ San Francisco offices, both in the working environment and the people working there. I have high hopes that one day, if I start up a startup, I want to produce a similar culture that’s shared amongst online, offline and beyond.

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