Mike Isaac

Recent Posts by Mike Isaac

Dick Costolo Wrote the Twitter Playbook — Two Years Before He Joined the Company

costolo5Looking for some insight into how Twitter CEO Dick Costolo guided his company on the road to going public?

Here’s a freebie.

As it turns out, Costolo, a serial entrepreneur, is also something of a blogger. He has written for years on issues that startups face on the road to becoming (or not becoming) viable businesses.

It’s all over at Burningdoor.com, the Web consultancy firm he started with a handful of colleagues several years ago. And it’s a veritable goldmine of Costolo-isms. It’s well worth poring over the archives if you have the time (and you may, what with the company’s IPO documents being secret for now).

The most interesting thoughts I’ve noted come in Costolo’s January 2008 post — written back in his Google days — entitled “Business Models.” Try reading the piece without imagining Twitter’s trajectory over the past seven years. It’s tough to do.

Case in point — the “three phases”:

I have said before in this blog (or if not here, then certainly in my own mind) that I think all startups should think of the long road in front of them in three phases. [D]uring phase 1, you need to be passionate about the product (or service); during phase 2, you need to be passionate about your customers (*and* the product); during phase 3, you need to be passionate about revenue (*and* customers *and* the product).

Sounds familiar, no? Twitter was purely product-focused in its early days. Then came the company’s media-focused pitch to consumers, supported by entertainment industry courtships at events like the Grammys, the Oscars and the Olympics.

In its third phase, Twitter began focusing on revenue, seen most recently through a spate of advertising-related acquisitions and revenue product updates.

Costolo may have joined Twitter nearly two years after writing this piece, but it’s clear he came into the CEO gig with the mindset he described in it.

And if you consider recent and upcoming changes to Twitter’s products to gain more widespread consumer appeal — not to mention the company’s attempts to stymie user churn while jumpstarting its flagging growth — this last paragraph is particularly telling:

You need to understand what things you are going to do, how you are going to communicate with ALL your customers, etc., in order to maximize the number of new customers that will try your service, and at the same time minimize the number of people who you give a reason to try something else.


Peek further into Costolo’s startup and management musings by taking a dive down the rabbit hole here.

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