Peter Kafka

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Exclusive: Q&A With TweetDeck CEO Iain Dodsworth on His Sale to Twitter

Now it’s a done deal. Twitter has indeed purchased TweetDeck.

The deal closed last night, and Twitter has paid between $40 and $50 million in cash and stock for the startup.

But we knew all that: The Wall Street Journal first reported that Twitter was in talks to buy the company back in April, and the deal has been essentially done for a couple weeks, despite Twitter’s insistence that it was a “rumor.”*

But what happens next? And what happened to the deal TweetDeck had to sell to Bill Gross’ UberMedia, back in February?

TweetDeck CEO Iain Dodsworth explains to me (sort of) via an IM interview we conducted this morning:

Peter Kafka: Hey Iain! You just sold your company to Twitter! What are you going to do now?

Iain Dodsworth: Join Twitter and continue to head up TweetDeck: The products, the team and user base.

OK! So, big picture, what’s the plan for TweetDeck now that it’s a part of Twitter?

Twitter recognises the value in our audience, and how our products are built to serve their needs–this is a different audience than the one that uses the official Twitter services. So our products will stay the same and we’ll continue to develop them, with obviously a more coordinated approach since we’re all one company.

So to beat this into the ground: TweetDeck will continue to exist as a standalone product? There’s been a lot of speculation that Twitter would buy TweetDeck and then shut it down.

Yes, they will continue as standalone products. From a technical standpoint we’ll move towards becoming part of the platform. They won’t be shutting it down, they are in fact investing further in its future.

Over the last couple years you’ve made moves to expand TweetDeck from a Twitter-centric product to one that supports multiple platforms: Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, etc. Will you continue in that vein? Or will this become more of a Twitter service again?

The important point about the multiservice approach is that the reality of it is that TweetDeck usage has been heavily Twitter based with the external services not heavily used, but acting more as a value-add for our users. I can’t see them going away anytime soon.

So I’m reading that as “we’re a Twitter product that also works with other services, for now.” That fair?

Yes.

So when did you decide that it made sense to sell TweetDeck instead of running it as a separate business? What prompted the decision?

We got to the natural point where we started to think about raising more money to continue experimenting, start really focusing on monetisation and then acquisition offers started to appear–and that makes you stop and consider all the options.

Walk us through that. When did the process start?

We’ve been on this particular road for around 6 months, assessing fundraising vs acquisition.

So then what happened with UberMedia? Not very long ago, you had a deal in place to sell to Bill Gross and company. How did you end up selling to Twitter instead?

Not going to comment on those kind of rumours. The important part of this is that TweetDeck as a product and a team just got some serious support and investment for our future as the power user side of Twitter.

Ah Iain! Now that you’ve been purchased by Twitter, you’re talking like them! It wasn’t a rumor! Or a rumour! It’s just something that you don’t want to talk about.

That wasn’t a question.

True!

[Smiley face emoticon]

While we’re at it, I should also note that you’ve already got the requisite Dick Costolo haircut. So that must have made the deal easier. Here, I’ll phrase it as a question: Have you and your new boss compared grooming tips yet?

To be fair the folically challenged nature only served to cement the deal. Good tip for other entrepreneurs–synchronise on acquiring CEO’s hairstyle.

Good to know. One last question for now: You’ve been building a start-up for a couple years, and that’s very hard, very intense work, that’s panned out well for you. Do you think you’ll want to do it again, or was this a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing?

Yes, I think so. No idea when though, I’m not finished with TweetDeck–we just became part of something much more powerful.

———————-

And here’s an interview I conducted with Dodsworth a year ago, when Twitter developers were wondering what was going to happen to Twitter apps that Twitter didn’t own. Now, for at least one of them, we know the answer.

* Dear PR professionals: Can we please find another way to describe something that is true, but which you don’t want to talk about? Because describing something as a “rumor” when it’s not is…untrue. And you guys shouldn’t be in the business of saying untrue things, right?

[Photo credit: TweetDeck engineer Sol Plant]


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